1. File when ready.
Do you agree on how custody will work best? Put it in writing, and file the agreement with the court. “If there’s a problem later, you want to have it on record in case the agreement has to be enforced or modified,” says Randi Vladimer.
2. Take a timeout.
Can’t agree on custody? Before parents go to court, sessions with court-appointed mediators are required in both Montgomery and Chester counties.
3. Grit your teeth and negotiate.
“You don’t want to end up in court,” says Sheila Brennan. “Court is where a judge or master who has never met you or your kids makes decisions about the future of your family. Avoid it at all costs.”
4. Try 50-50.
“I work towards an agreement that gives as much equal time as possible,” says Malvern-based psychotherapist Matthew Gelber. “Children survive divorce the best by having the most stability possible, which includes time with each parent.”
5. Take your 50.
“Create a calendar, and plan what works for you and your kids,” says Brennan. “Present it to your spouse and let him come back to you with what he wants. The plan can be tweaked, but go in with a plan.”
6. Create a shared digital calendar.
Get everyone on the same digital page. “It eases the kids’ minds to know which parent is taking them where and when,” says Linda Hershman, a marriage and family therapist in Berwyn. “And it keeps parents accountable to the kids and one another.”
7. Different houses, different rules.
“It’s tough for moms to accept that dads will most likely have different rules about food, screen time, bedtime, whatever,” Brennan says. “Focus on what you can control, which is what happens in your house.”
8. Don’t worry about being the fun parent.
“In the beginning, it may be more fun at dad’s house because of those relaxed rules,” says Brennan. “But whatever the dad is doing right or wrong, the kids will figure him out quickly.”
9. Don’t be the angry parent.
“The more anger you have, the more momentum the divorce has, but then you have to co-parent,” says Hershman. “Love your children more than you hate your spouse.”
10. Keep grandparents neutral.
“What you tell your family about the divorce is how they will respond to your ex,” Hershman says. “Try to keep in-laws out of it so those relationships can stay as intact as possible. It’s what’s best for your kids.”
11. Soccer games? Yes. Family vacations? No.
“You don’t want to give kids false hope that you may reconcile,” says Hershman. “Do things together, but put a limit on it so it’s not confusing for the kids—and so that you can move on.”
12. Agree on when to introduce new boyfriends and girlfriends.
“Very often, Mom and Dad will have different ideas of what’s appropriate,” says Hershman. “If I’ve gone out with someone three times, is it time to introduce them to the kids? Or is three months better? It’s a very difficult conversation to have, but it’s better to have it before a problem arises.”