The divorce process can be extremely stressful and difficult for a husband and wife. It is a sensitive and personal process that is unique to each party involved. It can often be more stressful and difficult when children are involved, especially when both parents try to take into consideration the best interests of the children, as they should rightfully do.
Parents love their children. Even when personal disagreements between parents lead to divorce, parents often recognize the need for a child or children to spend time with each parent. There is a general impression that a child’s best interests are met when the child, or children, are able to spend an equal amount of time with both parents after the divorce. While there is certainly some legitimacy to the general assumption that a 50/50 custody arrangement may be best for the child or children, there are exceptions to this. There are a number of situations in which a 50/50 custody arrangement may not actually be in the best interests of the child or children, and recognizing these types of situations is crucial when planning custody arrangements and scheduling custodial time and/or visitation. In fact, Florida law governing custody arrangements recognizes that each family is unique, and as such any related custody arrangements must be best suited to the unique characteristics of the family.
Even when a 50/50 custody arrangement seems to be the easiest compromise for the parents, it may not be the best arrangement for the child. Sometimes, decisions involving custody can mean that one parent may have to sacrifice his or her specific wishes to spend a certain amount of time with the child or children in order to create an arrangement that works best for all parties. Doing so is no easy task. We invite you to consider some of the following situations and circumstances in which 50/50 custody arrangements may not be ideal for the child or children in question, and consequently may not be ideal for parents either. We provide them as examples that will help you start to think about whether or not a 50/50 custody arrangement is right for your child, or children, and you.
Work and Other Demands
Regardless of the custody arrangement parents eventually agree on, they must remain conscious of the fact that their job and other life events will take time away from the time they have with their children. It is virtually impossible for any parent to be able to be with their children for 100% of the time in which they have custody within their custody arrangement. If you have your child on Fridays, there will likely be a Friday at some point during a given year where you cannot be with your child and the other parent will need to fill in. No matter how hard you try to schedule conflicts around your custody arrangement, it will not always be possible.
This is especially true if you have an extremely demanding job, or possibly one that requires periodic or extensive travel. In these situations, a parent often has little control over their work schedule. During the marriage, it may not be obvious how often one parent or another fills in during the other parent’s absence. However, it may become very clear during a 50/50 custody arrangement that ends up fluctuating constantly do to a demanding career. Additionally, when one parent has been engaged in a demanding career throughout the child’s life thus far, it can be extremely disruptive to a child to take time away from the parent that may have been acting as the primary caregiver during the marriage.
While you may believe you have successfully compromised on a 50/50 custody arrangement, the arrangement can often end up being one that constantly fluctuates and ultimately fails to provide the structure and support essential for a child to develop. If parents find themselves constantly altering the custody arrangement, it can be disruptive to any children involved if there is a lack of continuity from week to week or month to month. In a situation where one or both parents find themselves with a great deal of work-related obligations, a 50/50 arrangement may not be ideal.
Longer Distance Between Residences
If the distance between parental residences after a marriage has ended is quite long, a 50/50 custody arrangement can be extremely difficult on children because of increased travel time. It can be especially different if one parent lives a great deal further than many of the surroundings that a child has grown used to, like a school. In these situations, it may be best to consider an arrangement other than 50/50 custody because you may end up devoting a great deal of your time with your child to traveling, which may not be the most ideal way to continue building your relationship. It also adds more expense to the custody arrangement for both parents if they are trying to maintain a 50/50 custody plan that involves lengthy travel.
Children with Special Needs
In cases where a child or children have special needs, one parent may be able to handle these needs better over a longer period of time. Certain special needs or developmental disabilities in children may actually require a structured environment without a great deal of fluctuation, which is difficult to provide in a 50/50 custody arrangement. In other cases, either because of adaptations made to a marital home in which one of the parents will remain or because of background training and experience, one parent may be better equipped to address the special needs of their child or children. This does not diminish the important role of the other parent, but it does recognize that a 50/50 custody arrangement may not be in the best interest of a child or children with special needs.
Child Support Consequences
A 50/50 custody arrangement can ultimately impact what, if any, amount is owed in child support to a primary caregiver. Ideally, both parents will continue to care for their child equally. However, for any number of reasons mentioned above as well as other considerations not listed, one parent may bear the burden of financial care for a child more than the other. In a situation that entails a 50/50 custody arrangement, there may be less legal recourse for this parent to recoup the other parent’s share of certain financial obligations, like medical bills or clothing.
Ultimate Child Custody Goal
The ultimate goal of a custody arrangement should not be whether or not you are able to spend more time with your child than your former spouse. Instead, it should be on continuing to develop a meaningful, quality relationship with your child. In custody arrangements, the amount of time spent with a child does not always mean you are building this type of relationship. As the old saying goes, you should focus more on quality than quantity – and custody arrangements are no different. Sacrificing a 50/50 arrangement does not mean your role in your child’s life will be diminished, nor does it underestimate the value of your relationship with your child. It does demonstrate that you recognize that not all situations can be made ideal, and in order to provide the most stable environment for a child, a parent may need to sacrifice certain things – like equally shared custody.
If you are considering divorce, you should enlist the help of a family law attorney that has experience in divorces. This is especially true if you are worried about potential custody arrangements. Contact Scott. J. Stadler today to schedule a free consultation and gain more perspective on what potential custody arrangement options might mean for you.