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5 Custody Mistakes that Hurt Your Child


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A successful custody situation requires long term effort from both parents. It takes commitment and determination to figure out the day to day details of how to make your custody agreement and schedule work. Small actions can have a large impact on whether your custody and visitation runs smoothly or if there is constant fighting, stress and frustration.

Don’t sabotage your custody situation by committing any of these mistakes:

1. Talking negatively about the other parent. Be careful what you say about the other parent in front of and to your children. Remember, when you talk about the other parent, you’re talking about someone your children love very much. If the other parent forgets something or doesn’t follow the agreement, don’t go on an angry tirade, call them names, or place blame. Instead, use factual language to explain the actions of the other parent and strive to be civil and courteous.

2. Using your child as a messenger. It isn’t your child’s responsibility to help you and the other parent communicate. Using your child to pass messages between parents can make your child feel awkward and uncomfortable. It can also cause a lot of stress for your child because they have to remember everything to say. Figure out a system of how you will communicate with the other parent that doesn’t involve your child.

3. Using your child to spy on the other parent. It may be tempting to ask your child questions about the other parent, but you shouldn’t pry into the other parent’s life through your child. Your child will naturally bring things up about the other parent and it’s fine to discuss things that your child wants. But, don’t bombard your child with questions about the other parent (especially because doing this often leads to talking negatively about the other parent).

4. Involving child support with visitation. Child support and visitation are two separate issues. You can’t stop paying child support if the other parent denies you visitation and you can’t deny visitation if the other parent is behind on child support payments. Withholding support or visitation may seem like an easy way to get the other parent to do what you want, but this doesn’t benefit your child. Even if the other parent is not living up to the agreement, you still have to make your decisions in the best interest of your child.

5. Not adjusting your agreement as your child grows older. A custody agreement and schedule that works for a toddler may not work for a school age child or teenager. As your child grows, make changes to your agreement and schedule so it helps both parents meet your child’s current needs.

A good custody situation benefits your child. Avoiding these five things can help you work toward that goal and allows you to focus on being the best parent you can be to your child.

Ben Coltrin co-founded Custody X Change, which helps divorced parents create custody agreements and schedules.