Families are created based on love and trust. Children that the couple produce are usually loved by both parents but if the family dynamic breaks down, the love and harmony that once existed is gone. And if the children are young, you will have to be in contact with your ex-spouse on a regular basis for years to come until they reach adulthood. To make this new dynamic work, your co-parenting skills will have to be developed for the best interests of your children.
If you live in the LA area and are seeking or going through a divorce, discuss co-parenting issues with your divorce attorney in Los Angeles since you will have to draft a parenting plan that includes custody, support and visitation schedules and how these matters will be handled.
Steps to Successful Co-Parenting After Divorce
Your children need to be aware that they were not responsible for the family breakup. You want them to feel secure, confident and have a consistent or routine schedule while the two of you share parental responsibilities. If you provide a good example of cooperation and respect to one another, your children will have a foundation for how to handle problems in the future and to be emotionally secure in their own relationships with others. Here are a few suggestions on guiding you to a successful co-parenting relationship with your ex-spouse or partner:
- Communication, communication, communication. Like the real estate adage that location is everything, communication is everything in co-parenting. This means purposeful communication such as letting each other know if a schedule needs to be changed, if a child is ill or is having problems at school, or that a decision needs to be made regarding the child’s well-being. Communication can be by phone, text or email but you should consider the following methods:
- Be respectful and cordial
- If necessary, pretend your ex is a business partner and address him or her as such
- Do not demand but ask or request for whatever you are seeking
- Be flexible and compromise
- Do not overreact to a negative comment; sometimes it is best to ignore it
- Restrict your communication to the needs and concerns of your children
- Include your ex in comments made by teachers, doctors or coaches
- Ask for an opinion at times-this can defuse many potential volatile situations
- Listen to and acknowledge one other’s opinion
- Consistency in the rules is essential. You cannot have two separate ways to handle behavior or the consequences of misbehavior. This includes having homework done, cleaning up or doing certain chores, establishing times for TV or gaming and when they can stay at a friend’s home or go out if they are older. For example, if a child is not to play video games for a week, inform your ex so that the restriction can continue.
- Making joint decisions. You will typically have joint legal custody, meaning you both have authority in making the major decisions regarding your child’s medical, educational, religious and financial well-being:
- Regarding medical issues, discuss whether one parent will be primarily in charge while keeping the other informed of appointments. For major decisions like surgery or certain treatments, both of you should be involved.
- Your children will usually only attend the school based on the primary custodian’s residence though you both should be aware of and attend parent-teacher conferences.
- At sporting events, be cordial to one another and be with your child at the end of a race, game, match or event to show solidarity and pride in their performance.
- For financial matters, a budget is essential. Keep records of expenses if they are to be shared. If a dispute arises, meet and work out a solution or compromise.
- Transitioning from one house to another should be consistent. For example, drop off your child at your ex’s home rather than having you or your ex pick them up. It is less intrusive and avoids awkward situations such as if another friend of your ex is present. Be sure your child is aware of when the transition is to occur and that their things are packed ahead of time to avoid rushing.
- When your children return, make it routine and simple. You can have their favorite food for them on their day back so they have it to look forward to. Have essential items like video games, clothes, toiletries and other similar items at both homes. Allow your child some time to readjust as well without immediately engaging in an activity together.
- Disagreements and disputes may arise and usually do. When they do:
- Find out the reason for the disagreement
- Try to be flexible
- Offer a compromise in exchange if you are intruding on your ex’s time with your child or vice versa
- Keep talking to one another and remain cordial
- If it is a relatively minor dispute, it is best at times to give in
- If you are both entrenched in your positions, suggest a marriage counselor to mediate the disagreement or have one in mind when you first draft a parenting plan when you divorce
- Your children’s well-being comes first. Do not use them as messengers and do not disparage your ex in their presence. If you need stress relief from having to deal with your ex, do not show your emotion in your child’s presence but find a room or go outside to clear your head. If stress is a common emotion, consider taking meditation or yoga classes, exercising more frequently or having a psychologist or counselor or friend with whom you can talk.
Co-parenting can work and your children need not suffer emotionally from having to live a somewhat fractured existence. Communicating regularly with your ex, easing transitions, being flexible and knowing how to handle stress are the keys to successful co-parenting.
If you have any questions about this article, co-parenting or need help with family law services, contact Gastelum Law in Los Angeles, CA