By Ariana E. Cha and Jennifer Dixon
Here are some questions parents should ask themselves when considering joint custody:
Q: How well do you feel you and the other parent can get along?
A: Parents should cooperate with each other. "Support the child's relationship with both parents," Barbara Nordhaus, assistant clinical professor at the Yale Child Study Center, said Thursday. "Drop-offs and pickups should go smoothly. The better a couple can get along, the easier joint custody will be for the children," said Beth Clark, clinical psychologist and a consultant to the University of Michigan Center for the Family and Child. Leslie de Pietro, coordinator of Family Care Resources at the University of Michigan, agreed. "Children shouldn't be used a pawns." Parents should meet regularly to discuss the joint custody situation without the children.
Q: Who are your children? What are their needs?
A: Parents should keep an eye on what's best for the children - not what seems fair to the adults. "There's some controversy about the value of shared versus single custody, whether it's in the best interest of the child to be shuttled from one house to another. Some children need a designated home," said Larry Schiamberg, acting director of the Institute for Children, Youth and Families at Michigan State University.
Q: How would the logistics of joint custody work?
A: Parents need to decide how to divide the children's time during the week, weekends, holidays and summers. If the children split their time between the father and mother during the week, the parents should try to live in the same neighborhood. "It's unfair to ask children to adjust to a new school as well as a new home and the other parent every few weeks," said child psychologist Jacqueline Vincent of Davis Counseling Center in Farmington Hills.
MICHIGAN: FOR HELP IN WORKING THINGS OUT
If you want help working out a joint-custody arrangement or are having problems with your current one, here are some counseling and mediation numbers you can call for help at any hour:
* Statewide: the Resolution Center, 1-800-RESOLV.
* Macomb Family Services, 1-810-468-2656.
* Oakland Family Services, 1-810-858-7766, or Start Making It Livable for Everyone (S.M.I.L.E.), 1-810-858-0453.
* Washtenaw: Ann Arbor Mediation Center, 1-313-663-1155.
* Family Service of Detroit and Wayne County, 1-313-961-1584.
Reprinted with the permission of the Detroit Free Press, October 18, 1996.
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