When you're in the initial stages of the Chicago divorce mediation process, everything seems confusing--including how you're going to handle dividing your children's possessions. What items do you really need to have two of? What items can easily move back and forth between different parents' homes? There are several key things to take into consideration for your children when you're setting up a custody plan and two households following the divorce.
Your child should have a place to call their own at each parent's home. Obviously, whether or not this is a full-size bedroom all to themselves will depend on a number of factors: the size of the house; the size of the family at each house including half siblings, step-siblings, and more; and what works for each family. However, your child should have a bed to sleep in and a place to store their possessions, even if they're only there every other weekend. You want to be sure that they feel at home no matter where they are!
One of the biggest points of contention between parents is clothing. In general, clothing should move freely between houses, especially as your child gets old enough to have favorite outfits. You don't want your child to feel as though their own clothing doesn't belong to them! If there's a concern, such as one parent frequently refusing to "send back" good school clothing or other important items, consider some of these possibilities.
- Make sure that clothing that goes to one house always comes back. The child can keep dirty clothes in a backpack or bag to bring home with them.
- Set aside one time each month or each couple of months to sort items back out.
- Make your child responsible for their own clothing: if it doesn't come back with them, they won't be able to wear it!
Toys and Games
Your child is attached to their toys and games, and they want to be able to take them with them no matter where they are. In general, toys and games should be able to travel freely between parents' homes. Of course, each child should have toys in each home so that even if they don't pack up a bag, they'll have plenty to do! Fill out the movie and game shelf at each home as well as allowing your child to travel back and forth freely with their possessions. There are, however, several things that you should encourage your child to think about.
- If they're only at the noncustodial parent's house every other weekend, it doesn't make sense for them to take everything they own with them (even though this may feel comforting at first for a child whose world has been disrupted by the divorce). Instead, encourage them to pick out a few things that are very important to them.
- Items that belong to other children in the home are off-limits. Only items that actually belong to each child should be moved between households.
- Remind your child that there will be no desperate run back to the house to get items that are left behind: they should pack carefully and ensure that nothing is forgotten.
For items that are particularly important to your child, consider duplicating them: favorite dolls or action figures, stuffed animals, or games or movies that are particularly enjoyed, for example. This simple step can reduce a lot of frustration--not to mention setting the stage for smoother transitions for both parents.
Young children, in particular, have a large amount of gear that goes along with them! Realistically, car seats, high chairs, and other items should be purchased for both households in order to smooth out the process of transitioning between houses. If your child is still in an infant bucket seat, you may be able to simply purchase separate bases and swap the car seat back and forth with your child; however, you don't want to have to take out and uninstall a car seat every time you transfer an older child! Big items like bicycles should also be purchased for each home, at least as far as possible, to help make transitions easier for your child.
Packing up between houses can be difficult enough, especially for younger children. Forcing children to pack up key items that they need on a daily basis is even more frustrating! Make sure that you keep supplies of key toiletries at both homes. This might include:
- Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash
- Toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc.
- Hair brushes and pony-tail holders as needed
- Lotions, baby powder, and other items that your child will need on a regular basis
Handling medications can be one of the biggest challenges associated with transitioning children, especially if the custody plan allows for the noncustodial parent does pick-up from school, where children might not be able to carry their own medications without serious repercussions. There are several techniques you can use to make this process easier:
- Leave medications with the office at school. The other parent will be able to come in and pick up the bottle at the end of the day.
- Keep over-the-counter medications in both homes, so that either parent will have proper access to them when they're needed. Each parent should be responsible for replenishing their own medications when they run out.
- Save the old bottle from the child's medication when picking up a new month's prescription. Measure out the appropriate amount for both parents and transfer them accordingly.
- Meet to exchange medications. This can also be an important step for exchanging key information, especially if your child has medical conditions that need to be managed on a regular basis.
Keeping up with your child's possessions can be hard, especially if you're shuffling several children. The most important factor, however, is making sure that your child is comfortable and happy no matter whose home they're in. By carefully considering what your child will need most, our Chicago divorce mediation can help create a custody plan that makes the process of transitioning between homes easier on them.
Contact a Divorce Mediator in Chicago Today
Need help with your divorce in Chicago and keeping things as simple as possible? Contact us at Split Simple today to learn how we can help move the process forward more efficiently.
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