Family life

Shared custody for toddlers

Most parents agree that children will spend a week with dad and a week with mom, but is this really the best for a toddler? Is a week too long?

Breaking up is never stress-free. Most couples engage in a relationship without thinking it will end one day, and it is not always easy for them to make arrangements that will formalize their rupture. Obviously, situations are as varied as the couples they involve. For some of them, it is impossible to reach a reasonable agreement like cases of overseas divorces, parental abuse and those for whom the separation is very challenging. Joint custody does not apply either when the child's safety is compromised in the presence of a parent. However, in an ordinary separation, choosing the type of custody should be done calmly and logically to respect the happiness of the children.


A lawyer once told me: "If couples could take decisions together and compromise on issues that are important to them, there would be very few divorces." While a divorce or a separation is rarely undertaken for pleasant reasons, it is our duty to put our differences aside and talk when it comes to our children.

The Canadian law on divorce also stipulates that custody agreements must allow the child to see both parents on a schedule that puts their well-being first.

Duration of visits

For many families, shared custody is established on two weeks, regardless of the age of the children. However, for very young children, time passes extremely slowly. Indeed, for a child under three years old, a week without seeing a parent can seem like an eternity and cause much trouble to both parents. For many, while the other parent talks to a crying child over the phone, the other feels bad for not being able to give their child what they want until the next week. It is for that reason that more and more parents agree that children should have shorter periods of custody.

Periods of two to three days are increasingly popular among couples because they allow the very young children to adapt to the separation without feeling the weight of the absence of one parent. That way, they also enjoy the presence of each parent during each visit. Parents can choose from many options, for example, children can go with their mother on Monday and Tuesday and with their father on Wednesday and Thursday and so on. Parents can also determine periods that will give them a weekend every two weeks.

Times are changing

For many parents, especially those who have experienced the divorce of their parents when they were young, this idea of moving around often may seem unacceptable because they remember the pain of packing their suitcases and changing neighborhoods all the time. However, it should be kept in mind that the situation will change with time. Indeed, children's needs change as they grow. 18-month-old children do not understand what is going on and fear losing their parents but a child who is 9 years old understands what is happening and knows that they will see the other parent in only a few days.

Similarly, many parents of older teenagers agree to have custody for periods of two weeks or more so they do not have to move as often and they can feel comfortable in both houses without always feeling as if they were about to leave. With age, needs change greatly and that is why it is so important to maintain good communication between parents and children. This is how parents can help children adapt and show them they love them because children always need to be sure of it, regardless of their age.

If you are wondering what would be the best for your children, or if you and the other parent disagree, do not hesitate to contact a mediator who can advise you and take into account the age of your children and your situation.

Image de Anne Costisella

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