Life is full of endings and new beginnings, and sometimes this means changing the family unit to an arrangement that is more functional and peaceful for everyone. If you and your partner have children, then there needs to be a discussion of custody when you end the relationship. Regardless of what terms you are on, it will be a complex discussion and you want to be considering all questions and options so that both of you are represented fairly and the outcome equates to an ideal living arrangement for your child or children. Follow these discussion points to keep your conversation on track.
You cannot expect to reach a legal and equitable outcome without the right family law advice, so this needs to be a central point of discussion with your ex-partner. Your custody lawyer will direct you both through the legal system and will make you aware of the paperwork and compliance that is required to gain custody of your child or children. It is recommended that you and your ex-partner both have your own representation and when the proceedings begin you should follow your lawyer’s instruction in how often you contact one another and what nature that contact is. This will foster a clean and legal ruling.
The needs of your children
Ultimately both parties should be striving toward the right outcome for the children, and what this looks like will vary with each family and how young the children in question are. This discussion might uncover which of you is looking to seek sole custody, where both parents will live and how these decisions will impact the child’s daily life. You might also wish to discuss holiday periods and any extra-curricular that need to be accommodated so that this transition is a seamless one with no conflict seen by the child.
The legalities surrounding divorce will vary in each country, but there will be a separation period that is required before the divorce is finalised. From there, custody procedures can be as quick or long as you are motivated, and it’s possible that one of you might want to come to a legal arrangement before the other party. When discussing custody with your partner, you want to communicate your ideal timeline so that there are no surprises on either end and you can each anticipate the next steps. You also want to ensure that you are both going to be able to appear in court when the time comes and not be otherwise engaged.
Agreeing on legal representation and the projected timeline is one thing, but see if you can understand what your partner is expecting when it comes to the custody agreement. Will they be seeking sole custody, shared custody or another arrangement that you are not aware of yet. Articulating these expectations might set you both up for better transparency down the line, and it could also facilitate a discussion about alternatives options and ways of working with one another in the interest of the child.
If you are having trouble communicating effectively with your ex-partner or you anticipate it will be a struggle, you might want to explore mediation. Mediation is a fantastic way to speak honestly and have someone directing the conversation and intervening if necessary. Often we have fiery exchanges and come away from that encounter having gained nothing at all, but mediation will keep you accountable to a goal and will provide a third-party authority.
Custody, and the milestones before and after, can be very complex on the whole family unit. Talking with your ex-partner the right way will save a drawn-out custody battle, and will instead result in a fair outcome for both of you with no disruption caused to the children.