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full-access parenting custody arrangement

Risks of ‘full access’ custody arrangements

When high-profile couples divorce, details of their split often make headlines – especially if unconventional phrases or decisions are part of their divorce. It wasn’t that long ago that the world heard – and started using – the phrase “conscious uncoupling,” right?

The latest catchphrase in divorce could be “full-access parenting”, which is what former celebrity couple Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen are reportedly doing. But should people emulate them? 

Full access to each parent

According to reports, the former couple plans to allow their shared children to see and spend time with either parent whenever they want. The parents allegedly promised not to interfere with their children’s wishes and will not use their kids as “pawns.” (Reports do mention a “schedule” but the overall impression left is that the arrangement is pretty much open.)

While this might seem like a creative and compassionate arrangement, the fact is that this type of flexibility and lack of structure could ultimately do more harm than good.

Risks to consider

Too much flexibility can create incredible confusion, from not knowing where a child is going after school to struggling to balance work and family. Studies show that kids benefit tremendously from structure because it creates a sense of safety and predictability.

Further, the reality is that even when parents have the best intentions, a lack of framework after divorce can be upsetting for kids.  

Children can start feeling incredible guilt over making choices; parents could engage in bribery or other manipulative tactics to “win” time with the child; the lack of routine can mean a child does not spend meaningful time with each parent.

In short, a set schedule is good for kids and it’s good for the parents too.

Is this a realistic approach for my family?

This sort of ‘loosie-goosey” approach will likely not be the right fit for most people. That said, there are elements of it that parents can use in their plan that can have benefits.

For instance, you can have a structured schedule for parenting time, but you might relax or eliminate restrictions regarding when your child can communicate with the other parent. Or, you might agree to spend certain holidays together so the children can spend time with both of you.

You could also take your child’s preferences into account when it comes to creating your parenting plan. Practicing respectful parenting while avoiding toxic behaviours should also be a top priority.

“Full-access parenting” may not be a good fit for you, but some elements could be worth utilizing as you create your post-divorce plan for parenting.

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