Attorneys’ 10 “Rules” for Successful Co-Parenting After Divorce
After a divorce, it can be difficult learning how to work together to co-parent children in a way that is best for your children and yourself. Obviously, it’s difficult for “exes” to see eye-to-eye on anything, and this is especially true when it comes to co-parenting in different households.
In this article we provide a list of “rules” that can help ex-spouses successfully co-parent after the divorce. These guidelines offer a framework for forging a healthy co-parenting relationship for the sake of the children’s best interests.
After a divorce, don’t demean your ex-spouse in front of your kids.
Whenever possible, say positive things about your ex to your children. Criticizing your ex-spouse to your kids is a form of triangulation, or an attempt to pull your children to your side against your ex. This generally backfires, and puts your children in a difficult spot. If you need to vent your frustrations, by all means, do so – but choose a close friend or a counselor instead of your children.
Don’t argue in front of the children after your divorce.
No doubt you and your ex-spouse will continue to have disagreements even after the divorce is final. Try to stay calm in front of your kids and deal with any conflicts privately. When you argue in front of your children, it increases the negative impact a divorce may have on them.
After a divorce, don’t side with a child against your ex-spouse.
If your child complains about your ex-spouse, listen but try to remain dispassionate. Then talk privately to your ex to get his or her perspective, and work together to decide how to handle your child’s feelings and behaviors. Deal with the situation in the same way you would wish your ex-spouse would react if the circumstances were reversed.
Don’t let your children submit to an abusive parent.
The term “abuse” can mean many things. It is important to get a clear picture from your children exactly what has occurred. Try to remain calm in front of the children, so as not to intensify the situation, and reassure your children that you will do whatever needs to be done to keep them safe.
If you can (and if it is safe), try to talk to your ex-spouse to see if the situation can be resolved informally. If you determine that your ex-spouse is abusive, either physically or emotionally, you may need to get help. Our attorneys can advise you and, if necessary, involve the authorities or the court in order to protect your child.
After a divorce, don’t react in the same old way to triggers.
While your ex-spouse may drive you just as crazy as he or she did during your marriage, remember that his or her words no longer need to have the same power over you as they once did now that you are divorced. Do whatever you can to learn to detach and choose a more useful way of reacting. Your efforts will encourage a higher level of cooperation and a lower level of conflict.
Do make every effort to keep agreements with your ex-spouse.
Once an agreement is made, it needs to be respected. If circumstances occur that make that impossible, work with your ex-spouse to renegotiate as needed. This encourages cooperation between the two of you. If a successful resolution cannot be reached, our attorneys can assist you to find a way forward, which may include conflict resolution, mediation, or getting the court involved.
After a divorce, do encourage your children to follow the visitation (parenting time) schedule.
Most co-parenting schedules are negotiated in the context of the divorce settlement and entered into a legally binding parenting time schedule. It is important to stick to the schedule, even if it may seem difficult. You also should encourage and facilitate your children spending the scheduled time with your ex-spouse.
Not only are you legally bound to follow court ordered visitation schedules, you are fostering a positive relationship with both parents – which will benefit your children in the long run.
Keep your ex-spouse informed about the children’s schedules.
Many families use joint online calendars such as Google or Cozi to be sure everyone knows what is going on in terms of scheduling and events. Open and clear communication will go a long way to keep your ex-spouse in the loop regarding things that involve your children. Having a central calendar will also help you coordinate travel arrangements and scheduling conflicts.
- Communicate with your ex-spouse about any concerns you have involving your children after a divorce.
If you have a concern about one of your children, make every effort to communicate those feelings effectively with your ex-spouse without pointing fingers or blaming. Remind your ex that your priority is the children, and that you want to work together to find solutions to whatever problems or concerns arise.
Stick to these guidelines, even if you believe your ex-spouse is wrong.
Just because your ex-spouse may not follow these guidelines doesn’t mean that you don’t need to either. Take the higher road, negotiate your differences in private, and seek professional help if needed.
Remember that – for the sake of your children – someone has to make the first move in terms of adopting a positive co-parenting role. Taking that first step is the very best thing you can do for your children. If your situation seems hopeless, our attorneys can in some cases recommend a course of action involving counseling, mediation or conflict resolution to get you and your ex pointed in the right direction.
Co-Parenting After Divorce – The Bottom Line
Successful co-parenting is hard work, and requires a lot of cooperation. It involves letting go of angry reactions to differences between you and your ex-spouse and putting aside resentments from the past – so that you can raise emotionally healthy, well-adjusted children.
As you both learn to communicate and negotiate differences, you will find that the rewards of your children’s healthy development make it all worthwhile.