9 Tips for Hiring a Caregiver When You're Divorced

Feb. 26, 2018

What divorced parents need to consider when finding a nanny or babysitter.

Hiring the right nanny or sitter for your child isn’t always easy, but can be even more complicated if you’re a divorced parent. How much say should your ex have in the choice of child care provider? What if you can’t agree on who to hire? How do you tell your new nanny or babysitter about any odd rules related to the divorce?

Here are tips to make the process easier.

  1. Put Your Child’s Needs First
    It sounds obvious, but Patti Ashley, Ph.D. LPC, psychotherapist, parent coach and author of "Living in the Shadow of the Too-Good Mother Archetype," says the biggest challenge divorced parents face when choosing a caregiver is being unwilling to compromise. She suggests enlisting the help of a neutral third party, such as a mediator or counselor, if the decision process isn’t going smoothly.

    And remember that constant bickering in front of your kids isn't good for them -- learn why you need to stop the fighting.

  2. Figure Out a Schedule
    What is each parent's work schedule and when will you need care? Do you need to hire a full-time nanny to watch your child while you're both working? Do you need a part-time nanny who can care for your child after school? Will you need to bring your nanny on vacation? What happens if your nanny calls in sick or takes a vacation? Plan out a sample schedule, so that you know what you need and when.

  3. Budget Together
    What will you pay your nanny? Check out our pay rate calculator to figure out what the going rate is in your -- and your former partner's -- neighborhoods. Then figure out who pays for what according to your child support agreement.

    “Depending on the child support laws in your state, one parent or the other may have less money than the other, but may still bear legal responsibility for the costs of child care, even in the other parent’s home,” explains Ned Holstein, MD, MS, chair and founder of the National Parents Organization.

    And don't forget to factor in extra expenses that crop up, like overtime when a meeting runs late, paid vacations/holidays, occasional nights out and holiday bonuses.

  4. Decide Who Will Be the Employer
    This is an important distinction to make, as it will impact one person’s tax liability. Generally speaking, the parent with custody of the child should be the employer, as the care will most likely be provided at their home and they will claim the child as their dependent. This means they'll be responsible for keeping track of the nanny’s payroll and filing the appropriate taxes -- and be eligible for child care tax breaks.

  5. Look for One Caregiver
    Dr. Holstein also thinks that it’s hard for your child to have two homes and multiple caregivers and suggests you find one nanny who can switch between the two homes, so you don’t need two different nannies.

    “That way your child will have more consistency in an otherwise complicated schedule,” he explains.

  6. Agree on Candidates
    Discuss what you both want in a nanny and write the job description together -- so you're both a part of the process. If there's contention about which candidates to contact, go through the applicants separately and each pick out your top five. Then call each person on the list and start to narrow down candidates together.

    "If your ex refuses to have a constructive engagement with you, you must reconcile yourself to this reality," says Dr. Holstein. It may be better to accept the other person's choice of caregiver or hire two separate nannies for each home than to engage in endless battles.

  7. Look for Experience
    You may want to hire someone who has already worked for a divorced family. “Children often play one parent against the other during and after divorce," shares Dr. Ashley. "Children then will try to get the caregiver to side with one parent or the other. That is why it is good to have someone who has experience with divorce and is willing to set clear boundaries with the children.”

  8. Talk About Sensitive Subjects
    When you're interviewing potential nannies, be clear about how you want her to handle the subject of divorce. What should she say if your child comes to her with questions? What issues should she be sensitive of? Let her know to be on the lookout for signs that your child is having trouble handling the divorce.

    Discuss this article on How to Explain Divorce to Kids.

  9. Be Clear About Specific Rules and Schedules
    Establish a calendar that clearly indicates when the other parent can pick up the child. Your nanny will need to know what's allowed during her watch.

    In fact, a calendar outlining all activities, chores and free time -- including TV time or computer access -- that applies to both homes helps your child maintain a consistent schedule when traveling back and forth.

    If your ex tries to pick up your child at another time, the caregiver should be instructed to call you and determine if it’s okay to make an exception.

    If there is a restraining order against the ex, supervised visitation only or other rules, the caregiver should know about them right away. Likewise, if you don’t want your child talking to your ex or specific relatives from the other side, let the caregiver know.

“Most definitely mention any rules or special considerations during the interview,” Dr. Ashley says. “You want to be sure you have someone who is willing and able to follow-through and won’t get flustered when “odd rules” are mentioned. If everyone knows what the rules are, then the caregiver can simply refer back to the plan.”

Most of the rules for hiring a new nanny are the same -- whether you're single, divorced or married. Focus on what you need and what your child needs. Then find someone who can make your life easier.

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As mom of Ashley (age 5) and Alex (age 3), Dawn Allcot understands how challenging it can be to find the right caregiver. When she’s not scoping out a sitter for a date night with her hubby, she runs Allcot Media, a full-scale editorial and inbound marketing services firm.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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