Q: My husband and I separated three months ago. We have two children, five and seven years old. My husband wants to have joint custody of the children with equal time between our two houses: one week with him and one week with me.
I am not sure that all of that back and forth is good for the kids, but I have neither the time nor the money to get involved in a huge custody battle. Do we have other options?
A: You have all kinds of options, as do your children.
The truth is that children from divorced homes have adjusted to a wide variety of custodial agreements.
Many children struggle with the initial shock of finding out that Mom and Dad are separating. However, they draw from that well of childhood resilience and adjust to their new families.
Some of the arrangements parents make for their children might be awkward, moving the kids around from house to house or even from community to community, but they can work if Mom and Dad buy into the arrangements.
The problem for most children is not the custody agreement but the degree of animosity between their parents.
They might have a tough time successfully adjusting to the divorce if Mom and Dad do not get along and make their mutual antagonism an issue for the children.
You don’t mention what led to your divorce, but that is your problem, not your children’s. Marital separation is often bathed in hurt and anger. Those are powerful feelings, and if they hang around to any great extent, the chances are pretty good that they will spill over to the well-being of the children.
Children can become so concerned about what is happening to Mom and Dad that they are unable to look after themselves, make friends or keep up with their school work.
Their developmental tasks are frustrated, leaving them with their own reservoirs of hurt and disappointments.
Hard as it may be, your task is to come to terms with your feelings about your separation without in-volving the children in the emotional aftermath.
Talk to a counsellor, keep in touch with your good friends, try to enjoy your time at work and make your home a palace of love and devotion.
If you do that, and if your husband does the same at his house, the two of you might be able to endorse a custody agreement that will serve the best interests of the children while respecting your relationships with them.