Joint Custody Story

This joint custody story shows that focusing on the benefit of the children does have a positive outcome. The following text has been put to paper by Helen, the mother of Lisa:

“My ex husband and I talk about our 18 year old daughter regularly. Last week he called me, as he does frequently, to talk about Lisa. This time he did not talk about her. Instead he thanked me. He thanked me for all the years that we kept on working together to raise Lisa in a positive and constructive way.

He told me about one of his friends who is going through a messy divorce. Apparently the couple is fighting over everything. They put their children in the middle. They blame each other in front of their children and they try to communicate through them. Clearly, this destructive process is hurting those children emotionally.

My ex husband is very pleased with me that we managed to put everything in the best interest of our daughter. When we divorced, our divorce mediator suggested to participate in a parenting class. It was for the benefit of our child, she said. So we did. We did not expect very much of it, we gave it a try. It was good. The few sessions we attended were just enough to shift our mindset from fighting each other to collaborating to achieving our mutual goal: to guarantee Lisa a happy childhood with two loving parents.

We learned that we should not put our daughter in the middle of our disagreements and disputes. We worked on supporting each other in our part time parenting activities. We were keen on not to blame each other. Instead we worked out practical solutions when problems came up. I remember that a few years ago, my ex was late to pick up our daughter for the weekly home switch frequently.

Instead of blaming him about not keeping his promises, we worked out a solution for this problem together. His problem was that the ending of his working day had become more irregular because of a promotion. So we rescheduled the exchange to the early morning. That worked fine for the three of us.”

After having described what they did and how, Helen expresses her thoughts and feelings that result from her joint custody story. She is very concerned about the negative impact of divorced couples that fight over the children, as she learned from more than one negative joint custody story.

“A divorce is difficult enough for every member of the family. Why are there still so many parents that put themselves in the first place? Why do they use their children as soldiers in their battles? Why do they set up a child against his other parent? Every child has the right to have 2 loving parents. Also if their parents are divorced.

When a couple decides to divorce because they do not love each other any more, does it mean that the love for the children has disappeared too? I can understand that divorced parents are emotionally hurt by their ex partner, that they feel betrayed. That they are angry and that they want a revenge. But I do not understand that they involve their children in their fight.

From all those negative examples I have seen around, I do realise now after the kind phone call of my ex husband, that I am fortunate that we managed to do all in the best interest of our daughter. She comes on the first place. Always.

Lisa has been raised by two loving parents. Her parents do not live together, but under those circumstances she has had a happy childhood. I know, because we have talked about it a million times. She once asked my why we divorced, because in her eyes my ex and I get along with each other pretty good. She has seen several examples of ugly divorces in families of friends of her. She appreciates what we did for her.

I motivate everybody going through a divorce to put the interests of their children on the very top of their priority list. Far above their own interests. If you truly believe in that, your ex partner will follow your example sooner or later. Your children deserve it.”

Summarizing this joint custody story, the parents took some simple but effective measures:

  • they took in mind the lessons learned from the effect on children of dirty divorces
  • they were open to help from outside by participating in a parenting class shortly
  • they set aside their martial frustrations
  • they stopped blaming each other
  • they were flexible towards the parenting arrangements
  • their daughter Lisa was at the top of their priority list

The measures taken in this joint custody story resulted in a positive collaboration benefiting both Lisa and themselves.

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