Today’s blog post is brought to you by Veronica Baxter, a blogger and legal assistant living and working in Philadelphia.
The worst happened and you and your spouse decided that the best and only way forward was to get a divorce. Moving forward, how you decide to relate to one another will hugely impact your children. Here is some advice, based on the wise words of busy NJ family law attorney Katherine Wagner, for successfully co-parenting and managing the child custody arrangement after divorce.
Tips for Successful Co-Parenting
While you and your spouse have the power to sever your relationship with one another, this does not end the family if you have children. “Co-parenting” is the term used for unmarried couples actively sharing parenting responsibilities as a team. While this might sound difficult if you are newly-divorced and still feeling hurt or angry, there are steps you can take to form a co-parenting relationship with your ex – if you are willing to put the needs of your children ahead of your own.
1. Put Your Feelings Aside for the Sake of Your Children.
Putting aside your feelings about the divorce and your ex, if the divorce was not amicable, it will be challenging – and this is NOT to say that you should ignore or repress those feelings, but rather, that you create another outlet for them that won’t interfere with your new co-parent relationship with your ex.
The most successful co-parents seek outside help to process their emotions, since as a co-parent it is inappropriate for you to vent on your ex, or even worse, vent in front of your children. Seek guidance from your spiritual advisor or a therapist – you won’t regret it. And talking with someone outside the family will free you and allow you to create a healthy co-parent relationship with your ex.
2. Commit to Remaining Calm and Civil.
Again, if you are suffering from lingering resentment over the divorce, this can be a challenge. But if you can think of yourself as a new person now, a co-parent, that might help. The previous you was unhappily married, then divorced – the new you is single but also a co-parent. You might also think of being a co-parent as a profession, for which you must behave and appear in a certain way. That might help you at first.
The key is committing to remaining calm and civil at all times when communicating with your ex. If you strive to keep the subject of your conversations strictly the children, this will help. Under no circumstances should you indulge in re-hashing old arguments and if your ex goes there, ignore it.
If you or your ex find it difficult to talk in person, try emailing or texting. This takes much of the emotion out of it.
Under no circumstances may you bad-mouth your ex in front of your children. That inappropriately involves them in your arguments, and really, aren’t your arguments over once you divorce? Let those issues go and move on.
3. Keep Lines of Communication Open and Collaborate.
If you are committed to co-parenting your children with your ex, then you two need to work together as a team for the good of your children. Talk often about how the kids are doing and what they need. Even if you two disagree, you can stay civil and listen to one another. Just think about what a good model of Christian values you two can be for your children.Check out our previous blog article about Dating With Children.
Tips for Sharing Child Custody
1. Have Your Child Custody Arrangement in Writing
This is a must. Usually, the child custody arrangement is incorporated in the judgment for divorce by the court. If you and/or your ex decide that a change is needed, you then petition the court the change the written agreement.
If you and your ex change the agreement informally, without court approval, that might work for a while but problems tend to crop up. For example, one of you might take advantage of the other by stretching those terms further than agreed, or, one of you might decide to return to the former written terms. In that case, the court would find for the one that adhered to the written terms!
Avoid potential problems by sticking to the written child custody arrangement and making sure any changes are approved by the court and in writing.
2. That Said, Be Flexible
While you have written child custody terms, it pays off to be a bit flexible if something comes up for your ex. That way, if something comes up for you and you need a slight change to the arrangement, he or she will be more likely to agree. Again, it is all about being collaborative and reasonable – that is your new role as a co-parent.
3. Manage Transitions from Household to Household to Avoid Drama
One great tip is to establish this pattern: the parent having the children with them drops them off with the other parent. Especially for younger children, this eliminates the impression that one parent is taking the children away from the other, and also eliminates the chances that the children will not be packed up and ready to go. Less drama! It’s better for everyone!