How to Handle a Custody Disagreement

One of the most difficult things to deal with during the process of a divorce is what happens with the children involved. When couples choose to go their separate ways, it can be impossible to come up with a child custody agreement that satisfies everybody. This process is painful enough for you, and is even more so for your kids.

But, as hard as it is, there are things you can do to alleviate at least some of the pain and not make things worse than they already are. Here are some steps you can take to make the best of a custody disagreement and come up with a resolution.

Be self-aware. You've heard it said that you can only control what you can control, and it really is true. You can't control how your former spouse behaves, but you have full control over how you respond to the things that they do. This can be especially difficult if they have a tendency to be confrontational or manipulative, or are just used to getting what they want.

Add into that your history dealing with their behaviors, and it can feel next to impossible to stay in control of yourself. But it can be done. Regardless of what goes on, remember the person you are and want to be, stay grounded, and be aware of what you're doing.

Keep a detailed journal. Maintain a record of all communications involving your child. This doesn't mean that you should spy on your children while they talk on the phone to your former spouse, but it does mean that you write down everything possible about when you or your child interact with them.

Also keep track of interactions with lawyers and anyone else involved with your case, because you never know when you might need this information. While it doesn't hurt to write down your feelings, make sure you don't do so in place of the facts. Remember: Facts first, feelings second.

Have positive influences around you. The operative word here is "positive" influences, so cling to the people you are closest to and trust the most. While your best friend may have been through a divorce too, be sure that they aren't weighing you down with unnecessary negativity.

Maybe the most important quality of the people you have around you is whether or not they're willing to be honest with you. A child custody dispute is a difficult thing to go through, and having someone who's willing to tell you what you need to hear from time to time can keep you in check and help you keep a clear mind for your kids.

Compromise when possible. Don't give in to unreasonable demands, but try to be as flexible as possible without costing yourself more than you're willing to give up.

Set boundaries. When discussing custody or other issues in person, meet in a public place where you feel comfortable. If you're planning to talk on the phone, put limits on when you'll answer so they don't feel free to call you at their leisure. Let them know that you're only available between certain hours, and stick to those hours.

Stay involved with your kids. Your life may be forever changing, but your kids need and deserve good, quality time with you. Even if they're upset with you, take the time to talk to them and listen to their concerns.

Be honest with your kids. Honesty doesn't entail spewing every ugly detail about what's going on, but it does involve some very serious discussions about is going on. Remind them that they are loved as often as possible, and that life may be different but it is still good.

Work with a lawyer you trust. There's no reason to go through a custody disagreement on your own. An attorney who understands child custody laws can help you focus on what's important without drudging up what's not.

Come up with a parenting plan. A parenting plan should be written on paper so that it can be referred to when one of you wants it changed or claims that it's not being followed. A thorough plan includes details like when visits will take place and how holidays will be handled. Some states require a parenting plan, but even if yours doesn't it will serve you well to have one.


Everything you do during a child custody disagreement should be done with the long-term health of your relationship with your kids in mind. Anything that isn't working toward this goal is something that shouldn't be done. By doing the right things now, the odds of a smoother ride down the road only get better.

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