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How to finalize custody arrangements out of court

As you prepare for divorce, you'll have questions about how to best care for your children now and in the future. Since you'll no longer be married, co-parenting concerns are sure to come to light.

It's your hope that you can finalize child custody arrangements out of court, as this allows you to avoid the stress, time and financial impact of ligation.

Do your children have questions about custody and visitation?

When you first decide to divorce, you do a good job keeping an open line of communication with your children. You make it clear to them that both their parents are available to answer their questions and provide as much support as necessary.

But then something happens. Your divorce is in the past, and you assume that all is well with your children. This is a mistake.

These things can escalate a child custody fight with your ex

You don't want to argue with your ex-spouse, especially when it comes to matters regarding your children. However, there are times when you feel that you have no choice but to stand up for yourself.

Even if you find yourself in the middle of an argument, there are steps you can take to defuse the situation. You need to understand what can escalate a child custody fight. Here are a few examples:

  • Raising your voice: Even if your ex raises their voice, keep your calm in an attempt to maintain the peace. If both of you begin to scream, you'll find yourself in a full-blown argument.
  • Talking about the past: You may have a serious issue with something they did in the past, but that doesn't mean you should bring it up. Stick to the here and now.
  • Putting your children in the middle: Don't make it a habit to bring your children into an argument with your ex. This only complicates the situation and improves the likelihood of an even bigger argument. Further, doing this can hurt your children's well-being.

Divorce, child custody and questions to expect from your children

Once divorce is on the table and you're sure that you'll follow through, it's time to let your children know what's happening. This is a difficult conversation, as they'll have questions and concerns about the future.

One of the best ways to ease the tension is to sit down as a family to discuss the divorce process and what comes next.

Visitation and communication: Don�t make these mistakes

Your divorce is in the past, and you're ready to turn your full attention to building a better life for you and your children in the future. While you may be committed to this, it doesn't necessarily mean your ex is on the same page.

There is no guaranteed way to avoid arguments with your ex, but a clear line of communication can work in your favor. Here are several communication-related mistakes that are easy to make in regard to visitation:

  • A refusal to communicate: No matter what your ex has done to you, refusing to communicate will only complicate matters. Rather than do this, find a communication method that works for the two of you. Options include phone calls, text messaging, email and face-to-face conversation.
  • Putting your children in the middle: For example, you may get the urge to use your children to relay messages to your ex, but doing so will only increase tension. You need to have adult conversations without putting your children in the middle.
  • Turning every disagreement into a blowout fight: It's easy for a minor disagreement to set you off, but don't let it show. If every disagreement turns into a major fight, it'll harm your ability to communicate in the future.

Should you fight for sole custody of your children?

At some point during the divorce process, probably early on, you'll begin to learn more about who will have custody of your children in the future.

You'll come across a variety of phrases, with joint custody and sole custody among the most important.

Child custody considerations: Know what to expect

One of the biggest challenges of divorce is deciding who will have custody of your children in the future. While the court is sure to consider the well-being of your children above all else, there are things you can do to get what you want.

Here are some of the many factors family law courts consider when determining who will get custody after divorce:

  • The types of custody arrangements: There is more than one type of custody arrangement, so understanding the details of each one is important. For example, you may be interested in seeking sole physical and joint legal custody.
  • The past: For example, if you've been solely responsible for raising your children up until the point of your divorce, it'll work in your favor as the court will realize that you have the experience necessary to maintain a stable environment.
  • The wishes of your children: This doesn't always come into play, but if your children are old enough to convey their wishes the court may take it into consideration. For instance, if your 15-year-old says they want to live with one parent rather than the other, and they can back it up with reasons why, the court will strongly consider this.

Visitation and showing respect for your ex-spouse

It's difficult enough to create a visitation schedule with your ex-spouse. When it finally comes time to put your plan into action, it's possible that a few challenges could stand in your way.

It's essential that you always do what's best for your children, but at the same time, you must also show respect to your ex-spouse. Here are four ways of doing so:

  • Be on time: It doesn't matter if you're dropping off or picking up your children, arrive a few minutes early. Making your ex wait is disrespectful.
  • Keep an open line of communication: For example, if someone else will be picking up or dropping off your children, such as a babysitter or your new spouse, let your ex know about it well in advance.
  • Talk about the visit, when necessary: Just the same as your ex, you have the right to know how the visit went. You don't want to pry, but it's a good idea to show that you're interested in the well-being of your children.
  • Remain flexible: Even with a visitation agreement in place, you should remain flexible as you never know what the future will bring. As your children age, it may be necessary to adjust your agreement.

Make your child comfortable in your home post-divorce

With the divorce process in the past, you can finally look toward the future. If you're living in a new home, it's your responsibility to help your child become acclimated. This holds true if you're the custodial or noncustodial parent.

Here are some steps you can take to make your child comfortable in your home after divorce:

  • Make them a part of the process: For example, let your child pick out their bedroom. Not only does this get them excited about the home, but it will also comfort them during this difficult transition.
  • Don't compete: Resist the urge to "one up" your ex. It's okay if they have a bigger house, more toys or better technology. You can only control your relationship with your child, so focus your time and energy on this. Competing is a battle with yourself that you can't win.
  • Ask them what they want to do: Your child may feel uncomfortable in the early days of living in or visiting a new home. You can ease the tension by asking them what they want to do. Maybe they want to have a movie night. Or maybe they want to make dinner with you. Get your child involved early on, as it helps them acclimate to the home.

Options for modifying a child custody agreement

There is more than one way to modify a child custody agreement, so if you find yourself in this position, it's critical to take the necessary steps at the appropriate time.

Here are the three options for you to consider:

  • Modification by agreement: With this, you and your ex-spouse are able to work together to create an agreement that suits the both of you. While it requires court approval, it's often the most efficient way to modify your agreement.
  • Modification by hearing: If you're unable to reach an agreement with your ex, the court that issued your original order will step in.
  • Mediation: If you can't work together outside of court to reach an agreement, you're likely to be sent to mediation. This gives you and your ex the opportunity to work with a mediator to find an acceptable resolution. While a mediator doesn't have the legal power of a judge, this person can help move the process along.
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