There's no way around it: Child custody cases are stressful. The big unknowns that lie ahead can cause you countless sleepless nights. While life will never look the same as it once does, you can have hope for a more settled future once you get through this difficult transition time.
One way to calm your worries is to clear up common myths about custody - and to have a more realistic understanding of what to expect. Here are three things you should about the custody process.
1. It isn't all-or-nothing.
Few things trigger more alarm and despair than the prospect of losing your kids. Fortunately, that's not likely to happen. Minnesota law recognizes that children do best when both parents are involved. Yes, there are rare exceptions - in cases involving domestic abuse or substance abuse, for example - but in general, nobody's going to get shut out of their children's lives.
Joint custody (both in terms of decision-making and time-sharing) is the norm in many cases. While joint physical custody doesn't mean a 50-50 split, it does mean both parents will have the ability to spend meaningful time with the children. What's more, there's no presumption in favor of the primary caretaker, which means fathers and mothers are on equal footing.
2. It doesn't have to be a battle.
Heated, drawn-out custody battles are rarely in the interests of anyone involved - least of all the children. Although much is at stake in custody proceedings, that doesn't mean it has to be a fight over every last decision. The best custody arrangements often result from a give-and-take.
What's more, you and your ex will have to learn to coparent effectively. Working out a custody arrangement is your first opportunity to do so.
In many cases, mediation is a useful tool for working through disagreements. With the help of a neutral facilitator, you can strive for an arrangement that best suits the needs of your family.
3. It's not set in stone.
Yes, parenting plans do have some degree of permanency, but they're not set in stone. Changes in circumstances may warrant revisiting them down the road.
Unless both parents agree, getting the court to approve a change in the children's primary residence can be an uphill battle. Additionally, the law sets out specific time frames for when parents can raise modification requests (with some exceptions). These limitations are designed to prevent excessive requests that can be draining for both parents and children alike.
Moving forward with confidence
As you can see, custody cases aren't as scary as they seem. What's more, no matter what stage you're at in your custody case, you can gain peace of mind by working with an attorney who understands this area of law.