After watching my husband attempt to raise his kids from a different city I am totally convinced that Joint Custody or what is commonly referred to as 50/50 Custody Split is what is in the best interest of kids. This opinion doesn't apply to special cases (abuse, neglect, mental health problems).
My husband's Ex wife is an extremely high conflict individual. She has done many covert and manipulative things in her past with regard to the children. The single worst thing she did was move her kids almost 200 miles away. She did it under the guise of 'visiting her parents.' She told him initially it was a summer visit and then she enrolled the kids in a new school when the summer ended. They were in the middle of building a new house and he had just started a brand new job. So this was not some fly by night relationship where there wasn't much at stake. Once she had her 6 month residency requirement out of the way she hired a lawyer and filed for divorce.
The distance has created all manner of conflict and heartache. Dad can't easily attend school functions, go to doctor's visits, or really have a good handle on what's going on with the kids without good communication from mom. Mom refuses to do that. The driving alone is crippling and not just for Dad. The kids suffer too. Most of the conflict and bad feelings stem from this distance that was created by her. That one act on her part amplified the nightmare we call co-parenting to the point we are all now involved in an extremely expensive and highly emotional court battle. Please, please if you are contemplating divorce do not let your spouse do this to you. You will pay for it years down the road. I met my husband two years after the ink dried on his divorce. He kicks himself over and over again for signing what our lawyer have come to refer to as the "Texas One-Step Decree."
This decree furthered her interest as much as the law would allow. She had large chunks of the standard decree changed to make life easier on her (removed geographic restrictions, has him do all of the driving). He was broke from the house building, heart broken from the demise of the relationship, and overwhelmed with the new job. He went along with whatever she thought she needed. Sound familiar to any of you guys out there? This state of affairs effectively shut down the possibility of being able to create a parenting plan that would allow for 50/50 physical custody. He is your typical weekend Dad with the usual holiday and summer visits.
Fast forward 6 years later and his eldest daughter is now requesting to move in with him. His daughter is old enough to be heard in Judges Chambers. His youngest daughter is making noises that she also wants to move in with him. The studies are quite clear that children want to love both parents and they want free access to both parents. It doesn't surprise me that the girls are asking to move in with him. Every two weeks when he gets them they express their sadness at having to go home.
We would love it if Mom moved back to our town with the kids. She doesn't have a job and has much more flexibility than my husband. Her rich parents bankroll much of her life. We know that will never happen. She seems to be firmly stuck in the anger phase of the stages of grief. She told me once she didn't know why she left her husband other than she always feels unhappy and depressed. She still feels that way 6 years later. We have plopped the money down to try and get the kids through a custody modification. This particular Mom is a high conflict person so it wasn't hard to find lots of examples of toxic behavior to make our case. We have medical neglect, alienation issues, educational issues, and angry tirades. Combine that with the eldest daughter's preference and we have a good shot at winning our custody bid.
It's tragic because I know if things flip and he becomes their primary custodial parent the girls are going to miss their mom just as much as they currently miss their father. There are so many studies showing that kids absolutely need their mom and their dad in their lives. The amount of time spent with both parents directly correlates with a child's future success in life. The courts understand this to a degree and they view a child's 'Family' as mom and dad not grandparents, not cousins, aunts, uncles, step parents just plain old mom and dad. It's been 4 decades since the days of the Stay At Home Mom (Tender Years Doctrine) but custody laws reflect this dinosaur of the past. Here's a link that discusses the topic https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/more-than-20-states-in-2017-considered-laws-to-promote-shared-custody-of-children-after-divorce/2017/12/11/d924b938-c4b7-11e7-84bc-5e285c7f4512_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.c2434f576726
Those of you currently using the 50/50 model - what are your thoughts?