Child Custody: How to Co-Parent in Cooperation Instead of Conflict

by LegalFix
Posted: November 30, 2021
Child custody

Child custody—also known as legal custody, conservatorship, or allocation of parenting time and responsibilities—refers to the legal possession, rights, and responsibilities for a minor child by the child’s birth or adoptive parents—including the right to make health care, religious, cultural, and education decisions about the child's upbringing.

During separation and after divorce a child’s natural parents often share custody of the child (shared custody or joint custody)—unless one or both natural or adoptive parents are deemed to be unfit or pose a risk to the health, safety, and well-being of the child (the child’s best interests).  If one of the parents is deemed unfit, the other parent may be awarded sole custody of the child.

In some cases, a parent who is not allowed to have custody of a child may be given visitation rights—sometimes under the supervision of another adult (supervised visitation).

Child custody laws are usually located in a state’s statutes governing family and domestic matters and may be referred to as the Family Code or the Domestic Relations Code.

Common Issues in Child Custody Disputes

Most parents can agree to the terms of custody of their children without a judge’s ruling or order. And some states have a standard possession order parents can agree to. But sometimes issues like where the child will live or go to school or how to accommodate one or both parents’ work schedules can make reaching an agreement on custody difficult.

If parents do reach an initial agreement on child custody, issues may still arise during the often emotional and complicated co-parenting relationship that often extends over the course of many years (generally until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school). Some of the common issues that arise in child custody disputes include:

Virtual Visitation Issues

When one or both parents have virtual visitation rights that include talking to the child by phone or video chat, problems escalate quickly if the parent with physical custody of the child refuses to take the other parent’s calls or make the child available to speak with the other parent.

Parent Relocation Issues

Another common issue that leads to child custody disputes arises when the custodial parent wants to move—often out-of-state or at least a few counties away—to take a new job or live with a new partner or spouse. Such relocations generally require the court’s permission and are based on what the court determines to be in the best interest of the child.

Withholding of Important Information

Unfortunately, sometimes one or both parents (often the custodial parent) will withhold important information from the other parent about the child’s medical or educational needs and experiences, for example. And not surprisingly, the other parent often feels excluded from the decision-making and child upbringing processes, leading to court filings, hearings, time away from work, and attorney fees for both parties.

Child Upbringing Issues

Similarly, other decisions about the child’s upbringing can lead to child custody disputes that are brought to court for resolution. These include a broad range of issues such as the presence of a parent’s dating or romantic partner (especially for overnight visits), vaccinations and other health care choices, participation in extracurricular activities, curfews, friends and dating, clothing choices, hairstyle choices, and attending religious services.

Visitation Disruptions or Interferences

Visitation disruptions or interferences are another common source of child custody disputes and often arise when a parent fails to drop off the child at the agreed or court-ordered time or place. And sometimes when the parent who is obligated to pay child support fails to timely make the payments, the other parent will disrupt or interfere with visitation, leading to court filings, hearings, time away from work, and attorney fees for both parties.

Solution: Make a Resolution

Parenting is sometimes difficult and complicated, and the reasons a child’s parents were not able to maintain their relationship may make remote co-parenting especially difficult. But it’s always a good time to resolve to cooperate with your ex as much as reasonably possible—and remind yourself that you are doing it not for your ex, but for the health, safety, and well-being of your child.