What is the Difference between Joint Custody and Sole Custody

The term custody refers to how parents make decisions for their children. Joint Custody means that the major decisions are made by the parents together. Sole custody means that one parent makes the major decisions. If the other parent has sole custody, you have a legal right to access information about your children from caregivers, health care professionals and educators but you don't have the ability to give them instructions regarding your child. If you share joint custody, both parents need to make decisions together and instruct caregivers, health care professionals, educators and anyone else involved in your child's care together.

A common mistake is thinking that Joint Custody means the children are with both parents about an equal amount of time. The term used to describe an equal time sharing of the children is "Shared Custody". "Joint versus Sole Custody" is not about how much time the children spend with each parent but rather how decisions are made. 

Day-to-day decisions related to the care of your child are made by the parent in whose care the child is at the time. Only "major" decisions are governed by the "joint or sole" designation. For example, major decisions related to health care, spiritual upbringing, education are made together. Of course, deciding which decisions are "major" can sometimes be a source of conflict. 

If you are unable to make a decision together, you can try working with a mediator to resolve the issue or you can go to court. A third option is to hire an Parenting Coach to help you work out a resolution. A Parenting Coach can work with you to resolve the issue without going to Court. Unlike a mediator who must remain neutral, a Parenting Coach can offer advice as to how best resolve the issue for the sake of your children. 

The Courts of Ontario tend to assume it is in the best interests of the children that both parents are involved in decision-making but if there is clear evidence that joint custody would result in the children being in the middle of constant arguing and fighting they will order sole custody. 

When you need help determining custody issues, please contact us for a consultation. We are here to help. 

 

Children and Divorce - How You Can Help Your Child Adjust

A child of divorce writes on how to help your child during divorce. What better source? Thanks to Melissa Farrell a freelance writer who lives in Kansas for her insights.

Speaking as a child of divorce, every situation is different. My parents were high school sweethearts and were together for over 10  years before they decided to call it quits. And when they finally divorced, they tried their best to make sure it didn't affect me negatively. I was too young to really remember anything, at four years old, but I do remember they were always nice to one another around me.

So how can you help your child adjust to divorce?

Explain the Situation

If at all possible, both of you should sit down and explain in the simplest, most straightforward way why you decided to get divorced. Explain that it is in no way the child's fault, but that you don't work together any more. A possible conversation could be "Mommy and daddy fight all the time, which isn't good for anyone. We've decided to live in different houses and not be married any more." Calmly answer any and all questions your child might have and reiterate the fact that it was not his or her fault and you both still love your child.

Throw Around the Idea of Therapy

Sometimes children feel more comfortable expressing their feelings to a third party, someone who will listen to them and not judge. Find someone who can help them express their feelings and work through their struggles. It may be your pastor, a family coach or someone else who is trained to work with children of divorce. 

Don't Let Your Child Be the 'Middle Man'

Although parents know it's not healthy to put the child in the middle, sometimes they just can't seem to help themselves — they roll their eyes or sigh when they talk about their ex, they make negative remarks about the other person in the kids' presence, they ask the children to relay messages to the other parent. DON'T be like those people.

Allow Substantial Time At Both Houses

As a kid, I lived with my mom during the school year and visited my dad once a week and stayed with him every other weekend. During the summer months, I lived with my dad and saw my mom once a week and every other weekend. Every situation is different, but making sure you allow equal time between the both of you is important. Split school breaks and holidays. If it's not your weekend but there's a fun event going on you think your child would love, talk it over and switch weekends. Communication is key.

Avoid Fighting

Children remember when parents fight, argue and yell at one another and it mentally effects them. Although seeing parents fight helps the child understand why the parents can't stay together any more, it is hard on them when they're surrounded by it all day long.

 

Thanks to them I have a  healthy outlook on relationships and marriage and I never saw divorce as this horrible monster. But there are many out there who have the opposite feeling, especially in children who are old enough to understand the situation. Divorce is not easy on anyone and children often feel anger and resentment towards their parents unless you commit to helping your child through your divorce like my parents. 

 

Four Steps to Take with Your Child After Divorce

divorced couple with babyHelping your children adjust after your divorce is essential. Heather Smith offers excellent advice on what you should do to help you child after the dust settles.

 

Here is Heather's blog: 

 

 4 Steps to Take with Your Child After Divorce

You have sat your child down and given the dreaded speech that you never thought you would have to make. Mom and Dad are getting a divorce are some of the most difficult words a child will hear from their parents mouth. There are a few things that will help you and your child during this time; here are 4 things to consider doing:

Get them a counselor: Once you have shared the unfortunate news with your child it is important that no matter their age, you get them a counselor to speak with. Weekly sessions are best for them. It gives them one day a week to discuss and work out their thoughts and feelings. Children have a difficulty opening up to parents and need that third party when it comes to dealing with the divorce. It is a life change for them as well and you need to provide them with help.

Keep quiet: No matter what you do, keep your thoughts to yourself. Do not speak negatively about your former spouse in front of the child. Keep your arguments and frustrations away from the child. Do not share details of the divorce. It is so important to keep that out of the child’s life. Children already feel a sense of responsibility of the parents’ divorce and hearing things like this will only push them further into that belief. As hard as it can be to keep your feelings in, just do it.

Remain positive Make the transition easier on them by remaining positive. Most likely parental rights and visit have been established and now come the difficult part for child, spending time in two different homes. When you drop off and pick up, be sure you remain positive. Be interested in their time at the others house and respond with a smile. You want this to be easy and comfortable for the child.

Get them involved and active: If you child isn’t already part of a sports team or involved in a hobby, be sure that you start them in something. There are all sorts of emotions for your child during this time and having a sport or hobby is a great for them to express it without doing harm to themselves or others when they act out. Sports teams are great because they require practices and game days. They are exercising and socializing with peers their age and can act like a child that they are. Hobbies like painting, learning a musical instrument will stimulate the child’s need to share their emotions. Try a few things out and allow your child to make the decision on what makes them the happiest.

Your divorce is what you make it. It may be a difficult and stressful time for you, but remember you aren’t the only one feeling that pain. Remain positive, get your child involved, find them a counselor and always keep your negative thoughts to yourself. Don’t allow your child to feel like it’s their fault, because it is never the child’s fault.

Author Bio

Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to nanny service by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.

Kids in Divorce. What Do They Need?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a link to a fantastic set of articles about children and divorce. It includes the following:

  • What children of divorce need
  • Age level reactions to loss
  • 10 Commandments of Divorce
  • Steps for Recreating a Strong Single Parent Family
  • Four Types of Parental Relationships Post-Divorce
  • Plus more..... 

It was put together by Rainbows which is a non-profit organization committed to helping children and teems grieve and grow after loss. Go to www.Rainbows.ca

Rainbows offers peer support for children of all ages who are grieving a loss. Since 1983, it has served over 2.5 million kids working through schools, faith communities, agencies and other organizations. There are 7 age-specific programs that really help kids express their feelings, learn and grow through their parents' divorce. It is an amazing program. 

I recently met the founder of Rainbows, Suzy Yehl Marta, at the Annual General Meeting of Rainbows Canada. She is an amazing person and Rainbows is a great organization. I am so proud to be on the Board of Directors for Canada. 

If you have children and you are going through a divorce, let Rainbows help them get through it. Learn more at www.Rainbows.ca

Parental Planner: A New Communications Journal for Separated Parents


The Parental Planner is a new way for separated parents to communicate with one another. It is a essentially a communications journal that is passed between parents at the time of exchanging the children.

The advantage to using a communications journal is that it avoids face-to-face confrontations. You can also ensure all the pertinent information is exchanged. It also serves as a record of communications between parents. It helps parents who are separated to try to maintain some consistency in their parenting between homes. I also like that it has plastic folders in it so that documents such as health insurance cards can go back and forth easily. 

It is best to keep it available so that you can jot information into whenever the need arises. 

Although it not intended to be shared with the children, it should be written in such a way that if your children do stumble upon it, you will be proud of what you have written in it. So don't criticize the other parent. Always be respectful of one another in your communications. 

Don't forget to also share positive events in the children's lives such a milestones and achievements. 

If you are angry at the other parent, put the journal down! Let your steam off some other way and then, when cooler heads prevail, you can write in the journal. 

The Parental Planner is simple and yet comprehensive. 

Learn more about it at www.ParentalPlanner.com

And it's Canadian! 

 

Co-parenting Rules and Breathing

 Mark A Nacol - Lawyer HelpParenting is not easy. Parenting when separated is even more difficult. 

Mark A. Nacol, a Texas family law lawyer, in his blog Nacol Law Firm Blog does an excellent job describing the rules for effective co-parenting. 

Mark's list of rules may seem to be "common sense" but when you are the parent trying to work with someone who either has rejected you as a spouse, or whom you have rejected, it is very difficult.  Emotions and egos get in the way. 

A key to responding to the other parent in an effective manner is to take a few minutes, even overnight, to consider your response. Too often knee-jerk immediate responses can cause more problems than they solve. This is especially true when you have first separated. The emotions are so raw that co-parenting is very difficult.

My advice: read Mark's rules and then take a deep breath. Consider your response carefully. Sleep on it. Co-parenting gets easier in time. Be patient. Soon Mark's "rules" will become "common sense". Until then...follow the rules and breaaaattthhhhhh...

Custody: Sole, Parallel, Shared, Split - What Does It Mean?

Are you confused by the different types of custody? You are not alone.  Most people find the terms confusing. 

Many people think joint custody means the children spend equal time with both parents. Actually it means that the parents make decisions together. It has nothing to do with the amount of time the children spend with each parent. Day-to-day decisions are made by the parent in whose care the children are at the time. Major decisions such as those affecting the children's health, recreational activities, religious training and education are made together. For example, the parents do not discuss daily homework assignments but they should discuss whether to change the children's school. 

Effective co-parents discuss problems with the children's education, milestones, upcoming assignments and events. The degree of communication is up to you.

Sole custody means that one parent makes the major decisions. Of course, consultation with the other parent is usually wise as it keeps both parents feeling involved but if the parents cannot speak to each other respectfully, it may be limited. The other parent has a right to information about the children from all educators, health care providers and others involved in the children's lives.

Parallel custody is another type of decision making. In parallel custody the decision making is divided between the parents. For example, one parent may make the health care and educational decisions whereas the other parent may make the recreational activity and religious decisions. The purpose of parallel custody is to minimize the need for the parents to communicate but to keep both highly involved in the parenting. In reality, I'm not sure if it works. Sounds awkward or artificial somehow.

Shared custody is not about the decision making process but rather is based on the children's schedule: the children are with each parent about equal time. This can have implications on the amount of child support paid. To learn more about the impact on child support read this article.

Are you confused yet? One more term to go.

In split custody arrangements each parent has at least one child in their primary care and they usually have access to the other children who reside primarily with the other parent. Often the arrangement is that the children are together on weekends alternating between their parents' homes but they live separately during the week with one or more with each parent.

These legal terms are important but what is more important is that you and your ex find a way to parent peacefully, keeping the best interests of the children paramount.

Keeping Healthy Boundaries While Co-Parenting

Co-parenting after divorce is not easy. It's like walking a tight rope at first. 

You want to be cooperative and communicate well but on the other hand how close is too close with your ex spouse?

Karen Buscemi wrote a great blog in the Huffington Post about keeping boundaries with your ex spouse. Karen says there are five things you should not do:

1. Don't give your spouse that sexy look.

2. Don't hug your ex spouse.

3. Don't give your spouse too much attention at social events.

4. Don't stay too chummy with your ex spouse's family.

5. Don't use your ex spouse's friends.

There are two sides of the coin. I fully agree with Karen but would add the following:

1. Don't give your ex spouse that dirty look like you are disgusted by them. How would you feel if you saw one of your parents give the other parent that kind of look?

2. Don't push your ex spouse away. If you need a hand, ask for help. If your ex needs a hand, help out. Treat your ex like a good neighbour.

3. Don't pretend that your ex spouse does not even exist when at social events. Occasional eye contact is polite. Maybe you could even say "hi" .  It wouldn't kill you.

4. You don't have to be enemies with your ex spouse's family. You can still be friends. There are a lifetime of events you will share so reach out and try to break the ice. It is awkward but worth some effort to make things comfortable for everyone, especially your children.

5. Your friends can be your ex spouse's friends. It isn't fair to ask them to keep secrets so remember that what you say or do may get back to your ex spouse. If you have something to hide, be careful. But, hey, who has something to hide?

Striking the right balance is a real challenge. Working with a Family Coach or Divorce Coach (both are therapists with special training to help clients move through the emotional stages of divorce) really helps. 

Walking on a tight rope is challenging at first. You might fall from time to time. Your spouse might fall too. Be patient. Put in supports to catch you when you fall such as a Family Coach. Raising kids is like being in a circus. Co-parenting is just another act! You can do it... one step at a time! 

Deciding Whether to Vaccinate for H1N1

We are experiencing a pandemic of H1N1 influenza worldwide. As a result, governments around the world are asking everyone H1N1 vaccineto become vaccinated. Kysa Crusco of New Hampshire has recently done an excellent blog about this issue from an American perspective.

Parents everywhere are wondering  "should I vaccinate my child?"  My own opinion is that the benefits to yourself and society far outweigh the risks. I believe you should bare the long lines and get it done.

I recommend you read more about the issue. The Simcoe County Health Unit has an excellent website with information about clinics in the Barrie area and other information about the issue. I especially like the fact sheet. The Government of Canada also has a great website with information about H1N1 too.

I believe that all of us should become vaccinated, not only to protect ourselves from illness but to minimize the spread of the virus to other people, some of whom might die from it. I feel it is my obligation to the Canadian society to be immunized even though the likelihood of a serious bout of flu is minimal. In fact, I believe so strongly about this issue, I have given my staff up to five hours off work with pay so that they can get their H1N1 vaccination shot, should they choose to do so.

That's my opinion but vaccination is voluntary. You have to decide for yourself and your children whether to get vaccinated.

If you are separated or divorced, you should consult with your ex spouse before making this type of decision. That is, if your ex has any involvement in the children's lives and you can discuss issues without a battle.

I always remind my clients ACBD: "Always Consult Before Deciding".

If you share joint custody with your ex, you have an obligation to make all major decisions affecting your children together. This includes major medical decisions.

Whether to vaccinate your child is a "major decision" requiring you to discuss it  and decide with your co-parent, if you share joint custody. 

I suggest you call or email your ex and offer these links so your ex can become informed too. Avoid it becoming a power struggle. Stick to the facts and the best interests of your children.

Even if you don't share joint custody, it is a good idea to consult with your ex before proceeding so that your ex spouse feels involved. Your children benefit from having two involved parents and participation in decision-making helps make a parent feel involved.

If you believe that consulting with your ex will lead to a battle and you have sole custody, you can make the decision alone. It is important to minimize conflict, for your children's sake, so avoid the conversation.

Now... go wash your hands and try to stay healthy!