Divorcing and separating parents often have a hard time accepting the reality that they have to share time with their children, including special days like holidays. The ideal arrangements for co-parenting would involve parents who agree on the division of parenting time and the majority of the major decisions about their children’s upbringing.
Sometimes, though, special circumstances make custody matters even more difficult than they are for the average family. Any of the three scenarios below could likely result in a protracted custody dispute that parents may struggle to resolve without adequate support.
A child with special needs
Having an autistic child or a child with a debilitating medical condition, like cerebral palsy, can put a lot of strain on a family. Children with special needs require specialized care, different educational supports and regular medical intervention in many cases. They may also have a harder time adjusting to shared custody arrangements. Prioritizing stability and predictability will be important for any family during a transition to co-parenting but will be of the utmost importance for those who share a child with special needs.
Uneven parental bonds
In some families, one parent serves as the primary wage earner while the other is the primary caregiver for the children. Wage-earning parents in high-demand professions may not spend much time bonding with their children. That can then complicate matters when attempting to negotiate a custody arrangement. Particularly if the children are older, they may try to avoid time with one parent and prioritize their relationship with the other. The strained dynamic between one parent and the children can make it much harder for the parents to work cooperatively and for the courts to resolve disagreements about parenting time.
Different cultures or religions
Parents who belong to very different cultures or religions can sometimes bridge that gap by integrating traditions from both backgrounds into the family’s lifestyle. However, after a divorce, it can be harder to give equal weight to the traditions and values of both parents. Parents may disagree about what type of religious services their children should attend, what holidays they celebrate or even the medical care they need to receive. Although they will very likely share the legal decision-making authority for their children, they may find it very hard to agree on matters when their values are vastly different.
Those in particularly challenging situations may need to be more thoughtful when putting together parenting plans and may need to proactively seek solutions for foreseeable issues. Recognizing when custody issues require special consideration may help parents more effectively negotiate with each other or strategize for family court.