When I was going through my divorce, I had the feeling that most divorced couples were still doing the traditional custody arrangement, where Mom has the kids during the week, and Dad gets them one night a week and every other weekend. Especially in the case where Mom was a stay-at-home mom. But that was back in 2008. Things have certainly changed over the years. More and more parents are choosing 5050 custody these days.
I have to be honest, I have mixed feelings about the 5050 custody split. It’s not because I think the kids should be with Mom more. That’s not it at all. I just think it puts a lot of pressure on kids going back and forth from house to house. It’s a lot, both from a practical and an emotional standpoint.
My point is that if you are considering 5050 custody, the reasons for doing it that way should be carefully thought out. In other words, don’t try for 5050 custody because you feel guilty not having your kids during the week, even though you travel for work and they will be with your mother or a sitter a lot. Does that make sense? Try to think about what is best for the kids. I know it’s hard, and that you truly have to think in a selfless way, but you’ll be so glad you did.
Every divorce case is unique, and different custody arrangements work for different couples depending on a few factors that include:
1. How much each parent works outside the home, the location of their job and what they do.
2. How much custody each parent wants and feels like they can handle.
3. The age of the kids.
4. The relationships of the kids with each parent.
5. The circumstances of the divorce.
6. Where each parent lives.
7. The personalities of each kid and under which custody arrangement they will thrive the most.
8. If one of the parents is living with a new partner.
There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to custody arrangements. 5050 custody can be great or awful, and the traditional every other weekend custody arrangement can be great or awful. That’s why choosing the right plan, FOR THE RIGHT REASONS is so crucial.
Here are the right reasons for choosing a custody arrangement:
1. What’s best for the kids.
2. What the parents really want and think they can handle.
3. What the kids want.
Here are the wrong reasons for choosing a certain custody arrangement:
1. Child support will be less if I have the kids more. (or child support will be more if I have the kids more)
2. Anger/wanting to hurt the spouse by taking the kids.
3. Jealously of a new relationship/not wanting the kids to be around the new spouse.
4. Not wanting the kids to be around the new spouse (for legitimate reasons).
5. Feeling guilty because you feel like you should see your kids more than every other weekend.
6. Caring what others will think if you don’t have your kids 50/50.
7. Being scared to have the kids too much or not enough.
8. Because your family or friend or attorney suggests a custody arrangement they think is right for you.
Here is an email I recently received from a reader struggling with this situation:
My soon-to-be-ex & I have two boys ages 14 & 10. We are 8-months into our separation. We met with a mediator two weeks ago, agreed to parenting time, child support, etc. and now – only weeks away from signing on the dotted line – he changes his mind about our parenting time agreement, which of course alters the child support plan to his benefit.
After months of anticipating having my boys during the school week & every other weekend (about an 80/20 split), my STBE decided he wasn’t ok with that, and wanted 50/50 custody time – the whole “5 you, 5 me, 2 you, 2 me” fiasco that I 100% disagree with. I think mid-week kid-swapping is a roadblock to their school success. What are the positives and negatives of 5050 custody versus a traditional arrangement? And-how in the hell do you make the tears and guilt stop?! I keep thinking, “I’d rather be back in my loveless marriage and faking it than living in this personal hell!!! It’s too late for that, but I still think about it.
My thoughts on this situation are as follows. I think mediation is a great way to get divorced, but no one should settle for something they don’t feel comfortable with just to get the divorce over with. Trust me, I’ve been here.
If this woman doesn’t feel good about the 5050 custody, she needs to let her attorney know, and maybe even try talking with her ex husband. She should definitely not give into it. Maybe she could ask her husband if the reason is for the reduced child support. “Just be completely honest,” she could say. She could offer to let him pay less child support even though she has 80/20. That is an option if she can handle it financially, and that is actually where mediation could work.
Mediation is a process that promotes conversations and creative solutions in which both parties walk away feeling good about. Mediation fosters healthy coparenting and attention to the children. I am a huge fan of mediation, especially in deciding custody.
To put myself in the husband’s shoes, maybe it isn’t about the money. Maybe he is panicking, because who wouldn’t panic if they were only going to see their kids all of a sudden once every other weekend?? I get it! So I understand both sides of this.
To address her school concern, if both parents are willing to co-parent(meaning communicate frequently with each other about structure and rules with the kids and being on the same page) then I don’t see a problem. In other words, if the TV is off at Mom’s house every day after school until 7pm, then it needs to be that way at Dad’s. If Dad requires an hour of reading every night before bed, Mom needs to do that, too.
Lastly, let me address this: “I’d rather be back in my loveless marriage and faking it than living in this personal hell!!! It’s too late for that, but I still think about it.”
No!!!!!!!!! Please don’t panic. Your gut told you divorce was right. You would not have gone through with it if you didn’t know deep down it was the right decision. Don’t let the stress of the divorce process cloud your judgment. You will agree on divorce terms at some point and you will sign a decree, and then life will start to get better and better. But I will stress again, do not agree to a custody agreement you don’t feel comfortable with. I don’t like to promote litigation, but if it has to come to that to do what you feel is best for your children, then that’s what it will be.
In closing, whatever custody arrangement a couple chooses to go with—5050 or a more traditional arrangement, remember that it can always be modified—nothing is set in stone forever. That means, you can go back to court at any time to modify child custody arrangements.
Also, as kids get older and things change, the custody schedule you put in place usually gets thrown into a drawer because what ends up happening is, the kids get older and they have their own plans, so they don’t really care or want to stay with either of you! Who they are staying with becomes about their plans and schedules and what they’ve got going on and what is the most convenient for everyone. In other words, I have found that custody arrangements are much less rigid as time goes by.
But for now, both parents should be completely honest about what they really want and need when it comes to parenting time. And lastly, parenting time is precious, so whatever time you do spend, make the most of it!
Like this article? Check out, “12 Things I Wish I Would Have Known When I was Newly Separated”
Actually, barring major dysfunction in the relationships, 50/50 or close to it is shown to be better for the kids. The “old school” approach where the mom gets primary custody and dad is only available every other weekend is not good for anyone – kids benefit from seeing both of their parents as much as possible. As a mother who shares 50/50 with my ex, I agree that it’s hard to be away from my kids – but I know having that time with their dad is essential. My fiancé also had 50/50 joint custody with his ex and multiple friends do as well. It’s a good trend.
I’m in the final stages of divorce myself. My Ex and I have been physically separated for over 2 years. When we first separated, the kids primarily lived with me at my house, but their dad was around daily to care for them before and after school. The arrangement worked for about a year, but in all reality, I was a single parent with kids living in my house every single night. It was too much. This past year we have created our own non-traditional working arrangement that our kids (13 and 11) feel very comfortable with. They stay with their dad on Monday, Tuesday and Friday each week and with me the rest. I travel for work frequently so they just stay with dad when I travel. He works the occasional Friday night and I take the kids no questions asked when his work is involved. We each help with school car pools when the kids stay at the others’ house and will ride together to ball games and parent teach conferences. In the end, our kids’ number 1 concern when we were discussing divorce was that they wouldn’t see one of us for a week at a time. They get to see us each daily, which is truly the best thing for our kids. I wouldn’t change it for a moment, no matter how hard it was to get to this place or how hard it can be to see my ex daily. 80/20 is not something either of us ever considered. Our kids need us both in their lives equally.
Certainly a topic that brings out the worst in parents. Let’s go back to a central consideration: “What’s best for the child(ren)?” Physical or emotional abuse is bad for children. A dysfunctional or unstable home situation is bad for children. Obviously, an infant would be a special circumstance. Barring the presence of any of those, why do we hold onto the notion that “every-other-weekend-parenting” is somehow the best for the children? Here’s why: Money, Control, and/or Revenge. All very selfish, but inherently adult, motives.
My childrens’ mother fought hard for sole custody. It took a court-appointed advocate to highlight that she was not so much more superior as a parent, or I so much inferior, that the best interests of our children were served by spending most of their time with her – in fact recommending not only shared custody, but 50/50 shared custody. Her motives became clear midway through the divorce: An affair out-of-state (which failed before the divorce was final), and money (she spent more time jockeying for a larger payout than she did for custody).
We switch on Fridays after school. I think it works pretty well, and the kids seem to transition much more smoothly than their friends who switch on Mondays or other days during the week. She hates it because it’s 50/50, but I find it far easier to give up a day here or there when she has family in town than I was during the separation when I let myself be talked into her having sole custody and I only had four days a month with the kids to begin with and wasn’t going to give any of them up. She won’t say so to me, but I’ve heard from mutual friends that she kind of likes having every other week off. Good for her. Being on equal footing regarding the kids, I think we’re more respectful of each other as well, and THAT is good for them.
We’ll be in for a challenge should my job move me or she find a relationship that moves her. While I would never voluntarily sacrifice time with our children for a job, should that be a decision I were forced into, I would find it morally reprehensible that a my situation or decision could put into play a custody change where her time as a parent would be curtailed. If you change your circumstances, you shouldn’t expect the other parent to pay for it.
50/50 isn’t for everyone, but I think it IS good for the kids more often than it isn’t, minus abuse or dysfunction. If you’re capable of viewing children as little people and not as possessions, I would even recommend it.
First of all, my comments are made under the assumption that there are no major “red flags” against either parent (physical abuse, addiction, criminal activity, etc.). Given that, in a contested custody situation, 50/50 is the ONLY solution. You may have every reason in the world why the children will do better with you, but all of that will be undone if the parent who loses equal residential time feels jaded, bitter, angry, etc. We’re doing everything we can to move towards a society of equality with regard to wage gap, sexual identity, gender identity, ethnic equality, etc. You simply cannot (ethically) play the I’m a better parent card unless there are major red flags against your ex, and that does NOT include their faithfulness of your former spouse. If you say your ex can’t be trusted 50% of the time, then they also can’t be trusted 30 or 20% of the time either. Like it or not, 50/50 is the only answer unless both of you agree to (willingly) an imbalanced residential schedule. I’m one of the few Dads who “won” his custody trial (there are no winners in a custody trial). I filed for divorce asking for 50/50, she asked for 80/20 based on nothing other than my gender (as a Dad) being restrictive. She lost the trial, and we spent $150K in legal fees as a result of her stubbornness. It’s so impossibly difficult during separation to work together, but I implore you all to do so. “Sticking it” to your former spouse and then expecting THEM to take the high road and co-parent ethically is ludicrous. No parent should have to *ask* the other for permission to see their children half the time. We shouldn’t need courts to rule on that.
This is a horrible article. It is promoting the minimization of fathers in children’s lives. Every piece research out there supports shared parenting-the author is saying that it’s acceptable that a father only sees his child(ren) after divorce one night a week and every other weekend. How is that go for a child? How does that build a good relationship with a father?
I share 50/50 since my kids were 3 and 5. 5 years later we have an every other week arrangement. While I am in full agreement to the children having meaningful relationships with both parents my ex refuses to coparent with me or even speak to me at all about anything to do with our kids. I have tried many avenues to correct this behavior but to no avail. He is now living with his fiance who the kids very much dislike and tells the kids that they are now a family. The family court does not recognize this as emotional abuse and because my children are still very young they don’t have a say. I am sorry I ever agreed to 50/50 and in this case it is not best for the kids. While I wish for my kids that we could have an amicable relationship I have no choice in this and it affects us all negatively. 50/50 is not always best.
Terrible outdated unbalanced view. 50/50 is best if both parents are well… parents.