As a family law lawyer, I have been involved in some pretty catastrophic cases as well as some cases that went pretty seamlessly. Today, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you my knowledge and experience from my law practice on the topic of co-parenting after divorce.
Co-parenting after a divorce can provide children with the stability, consistency, and the understanding that children need to cope with divorce. Many children commonly describe divorce as the most traumatic experience that they have ever lived through. But co-parenting is not easy, in fact, it is very difficult, even in the best of circumstances.
People are complicated individuals. Part of what makes people so complicated are our emotions, but it is also the part that makes people great, and the part that makes people not so great. To complicate matters further, there are a lot of emotions that people can experience especially when going through a divorce. These emotions can include: sadness, fear, anger, disappointment, sorrow, betrayal, hurt, used, worthlessness, jealousy, resentment, bitterness, and grief over the loss of their loved one, loss over their marriage, and loss over their family. It has been said that the grief a person can experience during or after a divorce can be similar to a person who has experienced the death of a spouse.
After taking the above-listed individual emotions into consideration, it is not hard to see why co-parenting during or after a divorce is so difficult. The key to co-parenting, however, is to focus on what is best for your children. If you need counseling for yourself, or help on dealing with your emotions, please get help, but don’t use your children as counselors or as messengers. During a divorce consultation, and sometimes throughout a divorce case, I often have to ask my clients some very difficult and yet very important questions, so that we can pinpoint the real issues. The answers to these difficult questions can give us the navigation tools that we need to proceed with the divorce case. I often find myself saying to my clients that it is important to remember that just because your partner was a bad spouse to you, it does not automatically mean they were a bad mother and/or father to your children. Make sure you clarify this issue because your kids will not just be your children until they are 18 years old, but for their life. Your children may have struggles as a adult where they may need you and your ex-spouse’s guidance, but they also might have celebrations such as the birth of your grandchildren where they may want both grandma and grandpa present to celebrate.
If it turns out that your ex-spouse was a good mother and/or father then co-parenting will be what is best for the children. I encourage you to try the recommended strategies found at www.helpguide.org until co-parenting becomes easier:
1) Communication: Communication with your ex-spouse will be paramount. Set a business-like tone and treat each other with respect and neutrality. Make requests instead of statements or demands. This will make it easier for the other partner to try different parenting approaches. Listen attentively. Commit to talking consistently, but keep the conversations only focused on the children. This will not be the time to try to engage in marriage counseling, or bring up old baggage.
2) Aim for Consistency: While the rules don’t exactly have to be the same at both households, you and your ex-spouse should establish consistent guidelines for your kids to follow, so that the children are not bouncing back and fourth between two radically different sets of rules and two radically different sets of disciplinary environments. Additionally, I would recommend deciding upfront if your children will be allowed to participate in sports because sometimes the practice and/or games will fall on the other parent’s parenting time. Having these decisions made upfront will allow for a smoother transition when sports sign-up time comes around. Finally, there is a lot that can be said for consistency in children’s wake-up time, meal time, and bed time schedules. If you can keep your children on a similar routine as they transition into two homes, you will notice their adjustment period will be shorter and they will regain their confidence and happiness faster.
For more information on co-parenting please feel free to call Legacy Legal & Business Services at (616) 681-0100 for your free consultation.