Managing Child Custody in the Best Interests of the Child
Child Custody in the Best Interests of the Child
Catherine G. Braun
know what THEY say! When you consult with three specialists or experts about the
same concern, you are likely to get three different opinions. How are you to
make the best decision without a consensus? The trick is not to look for the
single correct way to resolve any issue. The secret to a successful resolution
is in the process toward a well-defined goal. As a parent considering child
custody, is your goal to establish that you are the best parent to assume sole
responsibility for your child, or is your goal to what is in the best interests
of your child? If you think the answer is one and the same to both questions,
would your child agree? If you were this child, how would you feel about your
parents fighting over you? Wouldn’t you want both of them to win? If one of
your parents were physically or psychologically abusive to you or your other
parent, how would you feel protected and still have a say in your parents’
decisions about your life?
you contemplate the answers, please keep this well-researched fact in mind –
the positive outcome of emotional and developmental challenges of childhood is
dependent on the active participation and engagement of both parents. Simply
stated, your child wants both of you as involved parents. Asking your child to
take sides and choose one parent over the other, is not only unfair, it creates
confusion and suffering. Barring physical and emotional abuse, children need to
be “loyal and true” to both parents. They need the approval, acceptance, and
attention from both parents. They need to know they can express their love for
both of you, freely without parental resentment and competition getting in the
that children of all ages internalize a certain degree of blame for the
unhappiness of their parents, you can reassure your children that you and your
spouse are getting a divorce from each other, not from them. They will believe
and trust both of you, when they experience your collaborative co-parenting. You
and your spouse can put your emotions aside and manage conflicting needs, while
keeping those of the children in the forefront. Here are some of the things that
you can do.
establish a team of consultants who are willing and able to work together toward
a successful resolution, based on the best interests of your child. Marriage and
family counselors, divorce and relationship coaches, mediators, attorneys and
financial planners can be members of this team and advocate for your child’s
best interests. Remember, your child is not fully empowered by law to do
anything that is best for him or herself.
the leader of your team of experts, you need to become an educated consumer in
the emotional and developmental welfare of your children and be able to discuss
this with your team of experts. This process will empower you to raise your
awareness and objectivity and become a parent on a mission. Should you choose to
accept it, the short-term decisions about your child’s welfare must be
considered in the context of long-term consequences for your child.
healthy relationships can be challenging, especially during divorce. Parents
need a deeper understanding of what that really, really means. I have come to
the conclusion that if you are to make good decisions about your child’s
welfare, you will have to have great respect for your child and the limitations
of childhood. You will also need to be able to manage your own emotions
productively. If you are feeling loss of control about your divorce (most people
are) and the pending child custody, think how helpless your child might feel.
Here is an example.
couple of years ago, a child began a website to give children of divorce a place
to interact. The site became more than a place of expression and sharing, when
the founder of the site went on a hunger strike at 13 years of age. His efforts
to get his parents and the courts to listen to his wishes failed.
He had not seen his dad for 3 years, and his goal was to make everyone
aware that “kids are humans, not property,” and that children deserve to be
heard. He wanted everyone to know that what is good for parents is not
automatically good for kids. He wanted all to know that the rights of children
should also be supported by allowing access to both parents, and by giving
children a voice in the legal proceedings that affect their access to either
of control in the lives of families is the number one negative effect of
divorce, and children lose even more control than their parents. Children are
not always able to express their wants and needs, either because they are too
young, or because the stress they must endure is beyond their ability to cope.
When all is said and done, in most cases, children want both their parents in
their lives, actively engaged in all aspects of parenting. Parents should focus
on creating a lifestyle that creates maximum participation in the lives of their
children, regardless of how they feel about each other.
child custody sometimes has to be settled in court. You must educate yourself on
how the system works. An attorney, as part of your team of experts, can help you
to keep your child’s best interests top priority, but you want to make sure
that the case is not built on winning at all costs (unless your chil