When going through a divorce, one of the most challenging problems families face is how to handle child custody matters. While divorce can be traumatic for children, parents can take steps to prevent further feelings of confusion, anxiety, and sadness by working together as co-parents. In this article, our attorneys share tips on co-parenting with your ex-spouse after a divorce.
What is Co-Parenting?
Co-parenting is an arrangement between divorced spouses in which both parents still participate in raising their child together. Co-parents typically will have substantial amounts of interaction with each other during this process. Following a contentious divorce, co-parenting isn't always easy for divorced parents to do. However, the children are the ones that suffer the most when their divorced parents cannot or refuse to get along.
Therefore, when possible, it's best for the children's sake if their parents opt for a co-parenting relationship. Co-parenting at its core is each parent's ability to put aside their differences to do what is best for their children. Both spouses must be fully committed to being civil with each other to provide their children with a safe, stable, and happy home.
Here are guidelines to implement into a successful co-parenting plan:
Create a Consistent Plan
One of the most important things that co-parents should do is to create a comprehensive parenting plan. With a plan established, most of the hard work is done for you. A parenting plan takes all of the guesswork a confusion out of the formula so you can focus on your child's needs.
A parenting plan should at least:
- Establish boundaries
- State expectations of each co-parent
- Define exchange procedures
- Plan for how to handle parenting time modification requests
- Determine what methods of communication will be used
The more developed the parenting plan is, the better equipped you and your co-parent will be to handle future problems. Additionally, once the plan is set in place, it should be the new standard. Being consistent is crucial for not only parents but children as well. Consistency will help your kids adjust to living in new households by creating a smoother transition for them.
Co-parenting will likely not be perfect, especially in the beginning. Miscommunication and mistakes are bound to happen. It's common to get upset or frustrated in these times, but they shouldn't define your entire co-parenting experience. Learning to be flexible in times like this is key.
Mistakes will happen. Sometimes schedules will need to be changed, or someone will forget an appointment, or communication starts declining, and your co-parent may need a favor from you. In any case, don't let it get you too worked up. Try to be proactive in getting back on track, and don't let your own communication slide.
Remember, you are doing this for your child's best interests. If possible, try to work past your frustration in a peaceful manner while taking steps to prevent similar mishaps from becoming a repeated offense. Also, you never know when you'll need your co-parent to repay the favor. If you show kindness during their hard times, they are likely to do the same for you in the future.
While your romantic relationship may be over, you and your former spouse are still tied together through your children. This doesn't mean you have to be friends with your co-parent, but everyone should have respect for each other. Keeping things civil is crucial for the health of your family, especially in terms of communication.
While you may use to have relied on phone calls or texts to speak to your ex before you were divorced, that method of communication may no longer be the most effective. If you notice that communication through certain methods has become riddled with conflict, opt for another method. For example, co-parenting apps can be great forms of communication because they keep the conversation focused on your children.
Respect should also be carried over to how you speak about your co-parent, especially in front of your children. Never in any circumstance should you bad-mouth your ex in front of your kids. When parents speak ill of one another in front of their children, they are putting confusing and conflicting thoughts in their child's mind that could potentially impact their relationship with their other parent. Remember, the golden rule: If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all.
Seek Legal Representation Today
Learning to co-parent is a matter of trial and error. While you might not get everything right 100% of the time, just remember how important it is for your children's well-being.
If you're going through a divorce and need assistance navigating child custody and visitation matters, Cofer & Connelly, PLLC is here to help. We are here to protect your family's best interests during difficult times.