If you are the primary caretaker of babies or preschoolers and you are getting a divorce, the thought of joint custody may scare you. You may have put your educational and career opportunities on hold to be a full-time homemaker. You may worry if this arrangement would affect the child support (and alimony) you could expect to get if you had sole custody. Your fears are legitimate but they may be outweighed by the benefits of co-parenting (sharing responsibility for child-raising).
1. You can still receive child support and alimony
While child support may differ in various states, generally speaking you may be able to rest easy. The person making the higher income would still be obligated to make child support payments to the parent that has a smaller or non-existent income. This may be determined by a sliding scale and would be based on the time spent with each parent, so it may be somewhat less than you would receive with full custody.
The court will look at your situation and may order alimony for a period of time, so that you won't be left destitute.
2. You can continue to share the burden of parenting
By agreeing to joint custody, your ex may end up spending more time with the children and doing more caretaking than ever before. This will help them to bond to the children more completely, and this may be a blessing to you later. Your ex may even have a better appreciation for what you have been doing, if they are now responsible to share the duties.
Single parenting is a very hard road, as many who have traveled it can attest. If your ex wants joint parenting, and you agree to it, they will probably more amenable and less angry about other things. As they develop a deeper relationship with your children, you can work together to have a set of consistent rules for living in both new households. If you can both be consistent, this will reassure the children that no matter what, both of you can be people they can depend on. They will feel more secure.
Sooner or later, your children will be teenagers. They will need guidance from both parents, if possible. If they develop a rebellious streak, they will be less able to manipulate or try to intimidate you if your ex is backing you up.
3. You can more easily build a new life for yourself
While the children are at their other home, you would have time to take additional training or go back to school if you need or want to. Eventually you will probably have to return to the workplace anyway, if you are not currently working. The sooner you get started on that, the more benefits you will accrue for now and later. If you are working, you may now be able to take on responsibilities that you had to pass up on before.
Also, there is the small (not really!) matter of having a social life. You may think that making your children your world is enough, but the fact is that someday they are going to grow up and leave home. Of course, they will love to have you in their lives, but they will also appreciate a parent that is not clingy and has their own interests and friends. Time goes by faster than you realize, so it would be good for you to start now. You may even want to find a new romantic interest eventually, after the dust settles down.
Joint parenting does take cooperation and effort by both parties to make it work. It may or may not fit your family's situation and needs but it definitely wouldn't hurt to be open to the possibility. For more information on arranging co-parenting, consult with your attorney (like those at Aaron Law Offices PLLC).