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Don’t Be Fooled: 5 Ways Child Custody Stinks


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It’s good to look at the positive in life, but sometimes you have to admit that a situation just plain stinks before you can deal with it. Custody and visitation has a lot of those situations. You can try to pretend that everything is okay, but at some point, you have to accept that there are some really hard things to handle and you aren’t a bad parent if you struggle with them. So, let’s take off the rose-colored glasses and look at 5 things every divorcing parent agrees are awful.

1. You have no control over what happens when your children are with your ex. When your children are at your ex’s house you have no say in what goes on. You aren’t there to make sure that homework is done or that medication is taken correctly. Nor will you be there if your child gets hurt, has a stressful day, or needs help.
It’s very stressful to not know what’s going on with your child. You worry when your child is at your ex’s house—especially at the beginning of your custody situation. You have to trust that the other parent will take care of anything that happens and you just have to accept that something may happen to your child and you won’t be the first to know or respond.

2. You and your ex don’t parent the same. You and your child’s other parent will not have the same rules, routines, or parenting styles. And, there is a good chance that you won’t like some of the things the other parent does.
For example, you may like your children to eat healthy meals with vegetables and fruits. The other parent may feed your child a lot of junk food and treats. You may like your children to go to bed early and the other parent lets them stay up really late. You may not think your child is ready for a cell phone, but the other parent buys them one. The list goes on and on.
You may even have to deal with the consequences of the other parent’s choices. I know someone whose child came home from a visit and vomited purple liquid all over the table and floor because the other parent had let the child drink juice all day. Of course, the child waited until after the visit to throw up.

3. You miss important milestones and events in your children’s lives. This is a heartbreaker. If your child lives with the other parent and visits you on weekends you miss a lot of your child’s life. You don’t get to hear the daily news of school and friends and you aren’t part of the daily routine. If your children are young, you may miss out on the first day or school or the first time they ride a bike.
Even if your children live with you and visit the parent, you miss out on the time when they are with the other parent. This can be hard. You may be sad when your children visit the other parent and you’ll miss them when they aren’t home.
All parents have times when their children aren’t with them, like when your children go to school or play at a friend’s house. The hard thing with custody is that they are with the other parent when they would be with you.

4. You don’t get to spend holidays with your children. Most custody schedules split holiday time between parents. You may get half of a holiday or get the holiday every other year. You may not get to do the traditions that you’ve had every year and your children may miss out on seeing extended family. The holidays can be a sad time to not have with your children.

5. You still have to communicate with and cooperate with your ex. Even though you’re divorced, having children with your ex means that your ex is still in your life. You have to figure out how to communicate with each other and put the needs of your children first.
Almost every divorcing parent feels the pain of at least one of these situations. It’s useful to be honest about how you feel so that you can deal with your custody situation in a healthy way. Fortunately, the hard times seem to lessen with time and soon you’ll be able to find see the positives in things. Until that happens, remember that struggling with these doesn’t make you a bad parent, you aren’t the only one dealing with this, and all you can do is keep trying to be the best parent you can be for your children.

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