Alternative Parenting Arrangements during Divorce

Parents who opt for an amicable divorce over a contested litigated battle will often research alternative parenting and custody arrangements to help their children transition and process the divorce better. Gone are the days of a mother having sole physical custody, and the father only seeing his kids every other weekend. Our society is shifting to one that places a high value on the benefits of co-parenting, and non-traditional custody agreements and parenting plans reflect that.

In a recent Nightline segment, San Francisco couple Clark and Valerie Tate discuss the end of their marriage, but their lack of interest in divorce. Instead, they sought out another form of separation that not only kept their marriage intact, but did not disrupt their family unit. The couple, along with their 10 year old son, Jonah, participated in an intimate uncoupling ceremony, where they symbolically (but not legally) terminated their marriage. They agree that each are able to pursue other romantic endeavors while living under the same roof with their son. While the arrangement seems unorthodox, Clark and Valerie strongly believe that it is in Jonah’s best interest to be raised in a two parent household. By bearing witness to his parent’s friendly and successful (albeit uncommon) relationship, Jonah is learning important life skills like communication, patience, adaptability, and how to forge awarding relationships in the future.

Not all alternative parenting methods involve living under the same roof while legally married but emotionally and mentally divorced. For instance, divorced parents may decide to reside in the same duplex or apartment building, or next door to each other, to better their co-parenting efforts. A plan such as this will also allow the children to foster relationships with both parents equally, as it becomes easier for the kids to visit with the non-residential parent, and yields many opportunities for family get together or outings. This kind of arrangement will help ex-spouses avoid awkward exchanges with the other person’s new partner because they will not be living under the same roof. Additionally, parents can more easily keep finances and property separate than if they were residing together.

Unfortunately, not all divorced couples can live in the same area, or even in the same state or country for that matter. Traditional custody and visitation arrangements will simply not work in these situations due to the physical distance between one parent and the children. Drafting an agreement may take some expert negotiating on a divorce attorney’s part, but putting in the extra effort ensures that the children’s best interest has been taken into consideration before a settlement is reached. In this particular type of situation, one parent may have sole physical custody, and both parents would share legal custody. A stipulation of this settlement would allow the non-custodial parent to have visitation with the children on rotating holidays and school vacations that are longer than a week in duration. Simply put, the parent who resides outside of the state or country would forfeit their right to joint physical custody, in lieu of extended visitation time throughout the year. Virtual visitation between the parents and children can occur regardless of the time of year.

Due to certain circumstances surrounding a couple’s relationship and subsequent divorce, co-parenting or raising children together is not possible. Due to Orders of Protection, general disdain for their ex-spouse, or a previous history of abuse, two parents cannot be in each other’s presence. Children are intuitive and will sense any tension or animosity between their parents. This can lead to anxiety and coping issues, which can result in therapy if such actions are allowed to go on long enough. To avoid this downward spiral, law attorneys and judges will often advocate for a neutral third party to assist in the drop-off and pick-up of the children for visitation purposes. Divorcing couples can also elect to have exchanges in public areas, such as shopping centers or police stations.

Alternative child custody and visitation arrangements are growing in popularity, and are often developed to benefit the children adjust to the idea of divorce. For more information on New York matrimonial and family law, contact Brian D. Perskin & Associates, P.C. for a free and confidential consultation. With over 50 years of combined experience, Brian and his team of competent attorneys are well versed in all areas of divorce, including custody, support, equitable distribution, and more. Do not hesitate, call today!

photo credit: via Womens Health Magazine & Thinkstock

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