Suppose you and your spouse are divorcing and the both of you have two children. Is it possible to come to a custody agreement where you take one child most of the time, and your spouse takes the other child? The short answer is yes, it is possible, but perhaps not in the best interests of the children. Absent truly compelling reasons, you should avoid such a solution.
One way it can get tricky
If the children are legally both you and your spouse’s, family courts and lawyers generally encourage you to find a solution in which the children stay together. But suppose one child is yours, and the other child is legally your spouse’s? Furthermore, both of you share some type of custody (or visitation) with your child’s other parent. Both children could have more or less grown up together and regard each other as siblings instead of stepsiblings, but they are not legal or biological siblings.
Such a situation gets tricky for several reasons. For example, there is the presence of other parents and perhaps even other siblings in the picture. Also, Florida does not automatically grant legal rights to stepparents. That said, if you, your divorcing spouse and the other parents involved can find a way to keep the children together or to give them a lot of quality time together, that is almost certainly in their best interests.
What are compelling reasons?
So, what are some compelling reasons that might justify parents splitting up children who are legally both theirs? Here are a few examples:
- Child Y has a troubled relationship with one parent, while Child Z has a difficult relationship with the other.
- It is possible that Child Y has abused Child Z.
- After a parenting plan has been in place for a while, an older teen requests to live more with the other parent.
A therapist can help your family explore any reasons you may have for splitting the children up. It may be possible to resolve issues such as sibling abuse without separating the children. Also, an attorney can advise you on the process, alternatives and an effective parenting plan.