If you fight a lot with your spouse, be cautious about joint custody

If the nature of your relationship is such that you can't speak calmly to one another for more than five minutes, joint custody will be a problem. In joint custody, each parent has a legal right to participate in making major decisions for the children. That means you'll be required to have a lot of interaction with your spouse, which can set the stage for long-term bitterness and conflict. The resulting hostility can have a damaging emotional impact on your kids, and lead to a host of problems and adjustment issues later on.

One solution is to divide the responsibility on major decisions. You make the call on some issues, and your spouse has final say on others. For example, one parent makes decisions about medical care, therapy sessions and religion, while the other decides about tutoring, private school and sports activities.

Here's the most important thing to remember about joint custody: it only works when parents can agree with one another. If your spouse and you don't see eye-to-eye on raising your kids, or continually fight, you'll probably be making many trips to the courthouse. Think carefully before agreeing to joint custody in these circumstances. If you can't get along, you may have to pursue sole custody.