10 Ways to Make a Shared Custody Work


With a huge grain of salt, I say that single parenting cannot be a job that is even remotely easy. In fact, parenting with a spouse is enough work as it is, and handling children without any assistance has to be one of the most difficult jobs in the world. I’m not a single parent, so I don’t have any experience with this. In fact, my husband is one of the most helpful people in the world, and I often say he’s a much better parent than I. But with four small children, I understand how stressful and overwhelming parenting can be at times. I have an hour alone with the kids in the morning after my husband leaves for work before I leave to take the two oldest to school and an hour with all four after school before he comes home; and they’re really, really, really stressful hours. I’m not a single parent, but I have an insane amount of respect for those who are. And those who are also co-parenting despite their failed relationship are doing something right. It’s not an easy job to parent in general, but to do it by yourself while also sharing custody of your kids with someone else who has different rules and requirements must be a challenge.

If you need help with your child custody case, make sure to contact a professional child custody lawyer for legal help and assistance. A child custody lawyer can help negotiate an initial child custody agreement or adjust existing custody situations should any changes arise that need to be addressed. 

With that said, we’ve come up with a few pieces of advice that might make your shared custody a bit simpler and more relaxing.

Remember One Thing

You and your child’s other parent might not want to be together at this point in your lives, but just because he or she didn’t work out as a partner does not make him or her a bad parent. In fact, your ex might be an amazing parent, and you cannot get in the way of that by acting as if he or she can’t parent because they couldn’t be a good spouse.

Keep it to Yourself

You might wish your ex would move to Timbuktu and never talk to you again because he’s a philandering moron who can’t do anything right, but you never EVER say that to your children. You keep that to yourself. My parents are married, I’m married, and I don’t know what it’s like personally. But I can tell you that when I hear someone speak ill of their child’s other parent in front of them, I cringe a little. The expression on that child’s face is resigned and hurt, and it’s awful. I can’t imagine ever wanting to poison a child against their parent. They’re smart; they can form their own opinions.


The best way to share custody of a child is through communication. You might not want to speak, but you share a child – literally. You must speak. And you must do it in a civil manner. You have to communicate about all things parent-related and child-related and you have to be on the same page with these things.

Don’t Ask Personal Questions

Your kids are no personal spies sent to dad’s house on the weekends to come home and report to you whether or not he’s surviving, dating or getting by without you. They are not at dad’s to come home and report to you what he says about you; they are there to visit with their father. You can ask them if they had a nice weekend, what they did and if they had fun – but you may not ask personal questions about their father or his new life.

Create Boundaries

For example, if you begin dating, what are you both comfortable with? If one of you is not comfortable with the kids meeting new partners until it’s serious, make it known. You have to be on the same page as far as boundaries go or else you will never be able to share custody in a calm and simple manner. Consulting with a custody attorney can also help clarify and formalize these boundaries if needed.

Create Similar Rules

This is important. Your kids should have a very nice routine, and that means similar rules in both houses. Don’t go into the “I’m going to be the better parent” deal and let the rules go so that your kids like being with you better. You’re only hurting the kids; not one another. Create rules that resemble one another’s and stick to them.


If your child gets a bad grade, you need to co-parent. If your child is caught doing something illegal, you need to co-parent. You need to show your kids that you are their parents first and foremost and that you will always be a team when it comes to them. Talk through the issues with your ex and come up with a game plan. This is going to make parenting much easier and much less stressful.

Be Realistic

You have no idea what might happen in the future. I have a friend whose mother and father are wonderful friends – even with their new families – and have been vacationing and spending time together with their kids since they divorced 30 years ago. They’re great friends, but it took a long time. If you want this, good. If not, find. But you have to have realistic expectations when it comes to co-parenting and creating a relationship with one another after the demise of your relationship. One day, maybe, you can be friends. But be realistic.

Pick Your Battles

If your ex lets the kids stay up until 9 instead of sending them to bed at their 8:30 bedtime, is it really worth fighting for? Or would you rather save that anger for the time he lets them stay up until 7 am on a school night? Pick your battles. There will be plenty of them, but there is no need to make things worse over things that don’t actually matter overly much.

Remember that it’s Not about You

Your joint custody agreement is not about you. It’s not about how you feel about one another. It’s not about anything but your kids. No one cares if you hate one another. Your ex didn’t take the kids to Disney World last weekend to get back at you, he just wanted to spend time with them. He didn’t get them a new video game to make you mad, he probably did it because he feels guilty he can’t be with them every day. It’s not about you. Remember that and this agreement will work much more successfully.

Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images


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