How Best to Split Custody of a Child: What’s Fair and Right?

When you are going through a divorce, one of the most difficult things you have to deal with is trying to figure out child custody with someone you are most likely not getting along with. In this situation, it is important that both you and your ex-partner put your feelings aside and simply decide what is the best parenting arrangement for your child. If you are unsure how to proceed, and don’t know what the fair and correct decisions are, then this article should help you to understand things more clearly. 

What Is Child Custody?

Child custody is a legal term used to describe which parent receives guardianship of the child/ren after the parents go through a divorce. It is a complicated and stressful process, especially when the parents did not split amiably, as they will have differing opinions about what is best for the child. According to Australian family law, children have a right to a meaningful relationship with both of their parents, and they also have a right to be protected from harm. If they are in a dangerous situation, then the right to be protected from harm comes before having a relationship with the parents.

The court will always make decisions about child custody based on what is in the best interest of the child – not what the parents think is right. When your child is under the age of 18, then both parents have equal shared parental responsibility, unless the court decides it is best to stop one parent from having parental responsibility for the safety of the child. It is important to note that ‘equal shared parental responsibility’ is not the same as equal time with the child. There is no rule that says a child has to spend half the time with one parent and half with the other. Normally, it is the parents who decide themselves what is the right amount of time for the child to spend between them. 

Things to Consider When Deciding on Parenting Arrangements:

During the process of a divorce, it is always a relief when you can avoid going to court for something – and if you can decide on parenting arrangements between yourselves, then you don’t have to go to court. A parenting arrangement can be a verbal agreement, a written parenting plan, or an agreement that has formal consent orders. The first two options are obviously what you would choose if you want to avoid visiting court. Sometimes, if you want to figure out a dispute around parenting arrangements, you can go to a community support service to seek advice. 

There are some important factors that you should consider when you are figuring out your parenting arrangements, such as:

  • How old your child is, as this will affect the logistics of your arrangements
  • Making sure your plan follows a regular routine, but incorporates flexibility
  • Who is in the best situation to provide everyday care
  • Whether it is practical for the child to spend equal time with each parent
  • How to ensure the child can still experience and enjoy their culture
  • Make sure you plan for special occasions, so that you can give plenty of notice
  • How the child will spend time with other significant people in their lives
  • Any specific needs the child has, such as medical requirements
  • Their accomodation and transport needs
  • How the child feels about the situation
  • The child’s safety

The Benefits of Co-Parenting:

Co-parenting can be immensely frustrating, as you have to regularly interact with an ex-partner who you may not be very friendly with – but it is important that you make it work so that your child has a stable lifestyle. Also, if your child sees you work through things for the sake of their happiness, they will realise that your love for them is more important than the issues that ended the marriage. 

The benefits for children whose parents are successfully co-parenting:

  • They feel safe: because they have a stable, happy lifestyle, your child will feel secure and looked after – this leads to higher self-confidence.
  • Consistency: by working together and coming up with the same rules, rewards and punishments, your child will know what to expect.
  • Set a good example: if you and your ex-partner get along well and solve problems together, then your child will have a good example for their future relationships.
  • Mental health: if their parents are always fighting, it won’t be good for your child’s mental health. So by getting along amiably, you are protecting them and ensuring their continued wellbeing.

Talk to an Expert Child Custody Lawyer

If you are having trouble negotiating the terms of your parenting agreement with your ex-partner, then perhaps it is time to talk to a professional child custody lawyer. Of course, if you need to go to court, it will be essential to enlist the help of an experienced child custody lawyer, but they can also provide guidance when you are working things out yourselves as well. Their advice may solve any problems you are having and make it possible to avoid court.

It is important to note that this article is not meant to replace the advice of a qualified legal professional. We always recommend that you talk to child custody lawyers to figure out any of the topics discussed.