Being a parent is a truly rewarding experience.
But as many parents can attest, the job of being a parent is a huge one. In fact, many call it the most important job of their life.
It takes a lot of time, effort, love, patience, and planning. And all of that happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
It’s hard enough for a couple to take on the role of parenthood, but when a couple splits up it can cause a lot of stress and trauma.
That’s why it’s so important that, when a relationship ends, the parents work together for the good of the child or children.
One of the vital decisions you can make during this time is who will act as the main custodial parent.
What’s involved in taking on this role? Is one parent better suited to it than another?
Why a Custodial Parent Must be Chosen and Who Should Make That Decision
When a couple with children splits up, they need to decide who will be the main custodial parent.
Granted, parents can have joint custody, and in these cases they will make joint decisions for their kids.
However, there are times when one parent is the sole caretaker of the child.
In these cases, the custodial parent will receive physical custody of the child. Typically, both parents have legal custody of the child, but only one has the majority of physical custody and is thereby referred to as the custodial parent.
The non-custodial parent will – in many cases – have partial custody. This means that they have the right to see the child regularly. What this often means is that they get to care for and spend time with their child on weekends and holidays.
Of course, the parents can make adjustments to this type of schedule, as long as they’re fair and in the best interests of the child.
Who makes the decision regarding which parent should serve as the custodial parent?
In some cases, it is the parents themselves.
If they can come to a mutually beneficial agreement and the court finds that this agreement is good for the children, that’s all there is to it.
But a lot of times, a couple that is in the process of a divorce or breakup has a hard time coming to agreements as important as this.
Child custody can swiftly turn into a bitter battle between them.
That is when the court has to intervene.
A judge will determine who should be the custodial parent and custody should be split.
They decide how much time will be spent with each parent and the amount of child support that will be paid by the non-custodial parent.
The Many Important Responsibilities of Parents in a Custodial Position
Whether you and your ex decide that you will be the custodial parent, or the court decides it, the fact of the matter is that you have a lot of responsibility on your plate.
But don’t worry – you started this process as a parent, so you’re already doing most of the work already.
Your Most Important Job: Taking Care of Every Day Tasks
What you’ll probably be most aware of at first is taking on the full load of day-to-day tasks.
This includes cleaning the house, making the meals, and getting kids off to school on time.
Perhaps you’ve been doing all of this already, but not everyone has. It will take some scheduling and adjustments to be able to fit it all in, but you’ll soon get used to your new routine.
The most important thing to remember at this time is that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.
You might find that asking for occasional help from friends and family members is just the ticket. They might be able to pick up the kids from school every once in a while, or they might be able to stop by and help with some of the chores around the house.
Some parents have found that investing in certain services has been a game-changer. Some of these services include:
- Housecleaning services
- Meal-Kit delivery services
- Financial services (tax preparation, bookkeeping, etc.).
If you can afford to invest – go for it. Doing so will give you more time to spend one-on-one with your kids and will help reduce your stress overall.
You won’t be Solely Responsible for Major Decisions
A lot of people get the idea of a custodial parent and sole legal custody confused.
If you are the custodial parent, this basically means that you spend more one-on-one time with your children. They’re likely living under your roof the majority of the time, thereby making you responsible for the majority of their every day needs.
Being the custodial parent doesn’t give you the right to make major decisions about/for your child without the input/consent of your ex.
If you have sole legal custody of the child, you are solely responsible for making decisions about their:
But if you have joint legal custody, even if you are legally named as the custodial parent, you have to make those decisions with your ex.
How to Decide Which Parent Should Take on the Primary Custodial Role
When it comes to determining which parent should take on the role of the custodial parent, there are a number of factors to take into consideration.
The most important one is which environment the child is going to feel the most stable and secure within.
Sometimes, a parent’s job doesn’t allow them to spend as much time as they would like with their child.
If one of the parents travels frequently for work, works odd hours, or does a lot of overtime, it might be best for the child to live with the parent who has a schedule that’s more conducive to the child’s needs.
The child needs someone who will prepare healthy meals for them, help them cleanup, assist them with their homework, and ensure they’re living a healthy life.
What if you’re not the ones deciding who should take on this role?
In cases where the court decides who gets custody, they will take into consideration the desires of each parent.
Ultimately, though, their top priority is the wellbeing of the child.
In order to make the right decision, the judge or family law attorney will look at the following factors:
What the Child Wants
At a certain age – usually around 10-13 years of age – the judge will take into consideration who the child wants to live with. Of course, the age of the child isn’t the only thing they’ll look at – they also consider the maturity level of the child before considering their input.
The Relationship the Child Has with Each Parent
Parent-child relationships differ. Some parents have great relationships with their children, while others need some work. Tearing a child away from a parent they have a special bond with can be emotionally damaging.
Adjustments the Child Might Have to Make
The fact that their parents are breaking up is a big enough change. Add moving to a new home/town, changing schools, and not being near their friends or family can add a lot of stress. The judge wants to reduce this as much as possible.
The Ability of Each Parent to Thoroughly Provide for the Child’s Needs
As much as a parent may love their child, that doesn’t always mean they’re able to provide what the child needs. The judge will take into account the parent’s finances, as well as the emotional support they can provide.
Setting Your Differences Aside for the Good of the Children
When a relationship is terminated – for whatever reason – it can cause a lot of stress for the couple.
They’re starting a new path in this world on their own, and that can be incredibly daunting.
Besides that, there’s the hurt, confusion, and anger that each person experiences as they grieve the end of their partnership.
Not to be forgotten, though, are the children.
As difficult as a breakup is for the parents – it can be 10 times harder for the children.
Kids often feel as if they had some role in the breakup, that if they had been better-behaved that their parents wouldn’t have split. Or, if they were more talented or interesting, mom or dad wouldn’t be leaving.
On top of that, starting a new life without both parents at home can feel unsafe, leaving them confused, insecure, and sad.
There’s a lot going on emotionally within a family when a breakup occurs. It’s best to do what we can to avoid adding fuel to the fire.
When it comes to custodial matters – from child support to choosing a custodial parent – it’s always important to keep the children in mind.
It can be easy to let personal differences and hurt feelings get in the way of making decisions peacefully. But in the end, the ones that will be wounded the most will be the children.
Always remember to keep your kids’ happiness and wellbeing in mind when dealing with your ex. Doing so will contribute to your kids’ sense of security, reduce their stress, and help them view you with even more love and respect.