Traditionally, child custody was given primarily to one parent – usually the mother – and the other parent would have some form of visitation. This often consisted of every other weekend, Wednesday evenings, a portion of the summer and alternating holidays.
As time has progressed, courts have begun to accept that it is important for children to have meaningful access to both parents. This often helps provide greater stability for children and allows them to be able to cope better with divorce or their parents’ separation. Some states have accepted this concept so much that they have passed laws that there is a presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of the children. Joint custody may be awarded in which both physical and legal custody are ordered in a joint manner so that the care, responsibility and decision-making is shared between the parents. There are exceptions to this rule, such as when abuse is present. When joint custody or liberal visitation is involved, the parents may be able to agree to a creative housing option that works for them.
One way that parents may try to prevent the disruption of their child’s life is by minimizing the amount of time that the children have to transition between two homes. Often in joint custody situations, a child may live at one house for a week or month and then go to the other house. Nesting puts the burden on the parents so that they take turns living with the children and are the ones shuffling back and forth.
The benefit of this particular arrangement is that the child does not have to feel dislodged every time that it is one of the parent’s turns. However, there are drawbacks. Three different living situations may need to be involved: the child’s primary home and separate living quarters for the parents to go to when the other parent is with the child. This is often more expensive. It can also be difficult for parents who do not get along to share a space where an ex just left. It may also be difficult on work schedules and maintaining other responsibilities when shuffling around so much.
In other cases, the parents may agree to maintain the family unit even if they are divorced or separated. This may mean that the parents both live in the house, but they may live in separate bedrooms and enter into a more roommate-like relationship. The benefit of this arrangement is that the parents are both available to raise the children and to maximize their time with them. The parents also save money by not having to support multiple households.
However, there are some disadvantages. For example, if the parents decide to date others, the situation can be awkward and confusing for the adults and children alike. The parents may not get along and there may continue to be tension in the home.
In other situations, the parents may not reside together but one or both parents may share a home with others. Some communities have house-sharing programs available for single moms so that compatible mothers can link together to share a home and raise children together. The benefit of this type of program is that the parents can reduce living expenses by sharing them. They can also have another adult in the residence to help after divorce or the death of a partner. Parents can contribute their resources so that they do not struggle as single parents. However, the parents must take great strides to ensure that they are actually compatible with the other parents and work out a system that works for them.
A parenting plan may address housing situations and other decisions related to how the children will be raised. They may also provide detailed schedules about when each parent will have time with the child and what that parent’s role and responsibilities will be. A parenting plan can provide specific details about the parents’ agreement regarding their children’s upbringing. The parenting plan may remain flexible so that it can change over time and adapt to the child’s needs as he or she gets older. The parenting plan may specify whether there are alternating weeks between the parents’ time, if the children switch every two weeks or if there is another arrangement that will dictate how the time is divided.
Individuals who would like more information about child custody and their housing options may decide to contact a family law lawyer. He or she can explain the person’s rights, what the existing laws are in the jurisdiction and what has worked in other cases.