The transition from being a married couple parenting your children as a team to co-parenting with your ex after a divorce can be rough. Whatever the reasons for your split, it’s easy and understandable that resentment and unresolved tensions might color your interactions with your ex. When you have children together, however, the stakes for making it work are high.
Most parents choosing to divorce do so after considerable thought and care, but the fact remains that divorce inevitably causes upheaval and change in a child’s life. Your child will want to be reassured that their relationships with both their parents will not suffer as a result of the divorce. Therefore, it is important that parents try to insulate their children from any ongoing conflict as much as possible.
Establishing a parenting plan during your divorce is one of the first steps to ensuring that you and your ex have common ground from which to move forward as co-parents. An experienced and compassionate divorce attorney can help you to draft a parenting plan as part of your divorce settlement.
A healthy and productive co-parenting relationship post-divorce will look different for every couple, but there are some general rules of thumb that can help you and your former spouse establish a positive co-parenting relationship that will help your kids transition into your family’s new life:
#1. Don’t Badmouth Your Ex to Your Kids
Most people have strong – and often not altogether positive – feelings about their ex-spouses following a divorce. You may also be experiencing grief as a result of the loss of your marriage and the change your family has undergone. These feelings are natural and understandable, and it’s important that you find healthy outlets for sharing and processing them, whether that’s with a therapist and/or with trusted friends.
Your child, however, should not be your confidant. Part of maintaining a healthy and respectful co-parenting relationship with your ex means acknowledging that your child needs to have a strong relationship with both of their parents.
This means that both parents should agree to avoid speaking poorly of each other to their child. Your problems with your ex are your problems – and vice-versa – not your child’s problems.
Engaging in badmouthing your ex to your child or weaponizing your child against your ex can be considered parental alienation, which is a form of child abuse. If you are concerned that your ex may be engaging in parental alienation against you, it is important that you reach out to a reputable family law attorney as soon as possible.
#2. Maintain Boundaries
Establishing and maintaining boundaries can be difficult after a divorce, especially when you must continue to have some form of relationship with them because of your children. You are likely both healing from the divorce, and feelings may still be raw.
You may find that it is counterproductive to talk about anything other than the children for a while. In the beginning, keeping conversation focused on your children will help you recover your equilibrium with each other. Eventually, you may even find a way to be friends, or at least friendly, but it may take some time for you and your ex to reach that place. Even if it never happens, you and your ex can be proud of maintaining a respectful and healthy co-parenting relationship for the sake of your children.
Regardless, however, it’s important to remember that you are not entitled to personal information about your ex and neither are they. By granting each other privacy, you allow yourselves the freedom to move on and become your own people even as you maintain your connection as your child’s parents.
#3. Use Technology to Your Advantage
In recent years, technology has emerged to support divorced families. Using apps that allow you to coordinate calendars, track expenses, organize medical records, and maintain open lines of communication can help to ease the bumps in the road after a divorce.
For instance, if you are tracking expenses on a shared spreadsheet or through an app like Our Family Wizard, you are less likely to get into arguments over who paid for what and who owes whom what amount. You might also decide to set up a shared calendar or use a custody schedule app like timab to make sure you each know when it’s your time with your children. And through video calling features on Whatsapp or Facetime, you can read your child a bedtime story or help them with their homework.
#4. Agree on Basic Rules and Routines
One of the hardest things for children to adjust to is the constant change in routines and expectations as they move from one house to another and back again. Inevitably, there will be differences between households, but to the extent that you and your former spouse can minimize major fluctuations in rules and routines, those efforts will help your children feel safe and secure. Consistency contributes to a sense of security, especially for young children.
Parenting styles will inevitably differ and it’s important to be flexible, but it might be worth seeing if you can agree to a consistent bedtime, especially if your child is switching between houses throughout the week. You might also discuss other major parenting decisions – whether your child can attend a sleepover, when your child is allowed their first cell phone, what kind of access to the internet they’re permitted, and when they’re allowed to use social media.
By respecting each other’s input and working as a team to establish the overarching rules and routines that govern your child’s life, you’re less likely to experience conflict around these major parenting decisions.
#5. Choose Your Battles
If you allow it, you and your ex can continue to fight about anything and everything. There will likely always be things that your ex does as a person and as a parent that will drive you up the wall. In most cases, however, both you and your child will benefit from any amount of grace you are able to grant your ex. As much as possible, remember that your ex is also trying to figure out how to live and parent in this new situation.
However, sometimes conflict is necessary. When disagreements inevitably arise with your ex that need to be discussed, it’s best to have those conversations away from your child. Schedule a time to talk on the phone or, if a face-to-face meeting is necessary, meet in a neutral location.
You should also never overlook serious concerns that impact the health or safety of your child. If you are ever concerned that your child is unsafe or being harmed in any way, you should contact a child custody attorney promptly to figure out what your options are to keep your child from harm’s way.
If you are going through a divorce, it’s important that you have a compassionate and experienced attorney by your side. At Crossman & McNamee, LLC, our lawyers are dedicated to guiding you through the difficult process of divorce and helping you and your family rebuild your lives in a positive way.
No matter where you are in the process, you can contact us online or call us at (937) 468-3796 to schedule a consultation.