Custody battles between divorcing parents can be quite complex when the divorcing spouses refuse to compromise. Sometimes reaching an accord can be impossible, and the court must decide the fate of the family.
One rarely considered option is splitting custody of the kids. What does that entail?
Children do not live under the same roof
In most cases, the California family law courts do not propose and rarely sign off on split custody arrangements without clear and convincing evidence that doing so is in their best interest. The sibling bond should be preserved wherever possible. There are rare exceptions when splitting the children is the best option. Let us examine some of those possible scenarios.
Doctors diagnosed a sibling with mental or behavioral problems
Having one child diagnosed with a mental or emotional condition does not preclude the children from living together under one roof. In fact, the diagnosis should never be a presumed barrier to the children’s right to be with their siblings. But some children diagnosed with conduct disorders like Oppositional Defiant Disorder can exhibit bullying behaviors that could make a sibling feel unsafe in their presence. Since the safety and well-being of the minor children are paramount, a court might agree to split the custody of the siblings between the parents.
One-half of the parent-child relationship is now toxic
This goes beyond the realm of a child simply getting along better with one parent than the other or preferring to live with one parent for other reasons. When one child is poisoned against a parent so much that separating the children is the only means of preventing the alienation of the other child, splitting siblings may be appropriate.
Ethical considerations when splitting sibling custody
Conventional wisdom dictates siblings should be reared together. Children are not community property to be divided equally for the benefit of their parents. The children have not chosen to divorce each other. At a minimum, the children have a right to the society and companionship of their siblings, absent extreme circumstances. But there are no cookie-cutter solutions for every family dynamic. The decision to split up siblings must be weighed carefully against the benefits they gain from a closer day-to-day relationship with their brothers and sisters, with strong consideration for sibling bonds, both now and looking forward.
Learning more about your legal custody options here in California can inform your choice whether to initially pursue a split custody arrangement or petition the court later for a custody modification.