With a national divorce rate landing at 50%, figuring out the best ways to co-parent while apart is, unfortunately, a common dilemma. There are a few simple rules when it comes to successful co-parenting such as putting your child first, communicating constantly, and learning to stay flexible. But what do these tips really mean and how can they help make joint custody as painless as possible?
While it may not be the easiest rulebook to follow, the following tips ensure an easier transition for the most important player in the game of custody – your child.
Your Child is #1
Unfortunately, joint custody doesn’t always mean equal custody. Based on availability and where your child goes to school or camp, you may not see your child as much as your ex. That’s just how the cookie crumbles. While things may feel unfair and unequal, if more time at his mom or dad’s is easier for the child’s schedule and keeps his or her life as normal as possible, it’s a sacrifice you’ll have to make as a parent. For their sake, learn to be flexible and put personal feelings aside.
Stay Positive (Or Neutral)
While you’re likely wrapped up in the emotional weight of your divorce, the worst thing you can do is speak negatively about your ex in front of your child. It’s unhealthy to argue in front of your children and it’s equally as damaging to use them as a vessel for your complaints and grievances. It upsets your child and worsens the already traumatic experience of watching his or her parents split-up. Not to mention, the last thing you want to involve your child in is taking sides. That only worsens your family dynamic and adds to an already dramatic situation.
You may disagree with your ex’s parenting style. But for the sake of sending your child a consistent message, it’s important to discuss parenting rules with your ex in advance of any discussions you may have with your child. In the same vein, you should create a detailed parenting plan with your ex that includes contingencies for holidays, birthdays, and special events. Have rules on everything from pick-up locations when a child goes from mom to dad, introducing other partners into the child’s life, and even what divorce details are appropriate to share. This reduces the risk of potential fights and ensures a smoother transition.
Then Communicate Together
In a messy situation, create a sense of normalcy and calm by speaking to your child together. Watching parents stand together provides a child with structure and the comfort of an atmosphere familiar to the one recently left behind. And sending mixed messages is always an ineffective parenting strategy. A lack of clear guidance can leave your child confused and anxious.
Now that you’re no longer husband and wife, treat your ex as a colleague. Would you use emotion and fighting words against a co-worker? Would you blow them off or skip an appointment? Probably not. Compromise like your ex is a manager or business partner. In general, being an adult is the best thing you can do for your child.
Co-parenting only works if each parent can provide a safe and loving environment. If you’ve divorced because an ex was emotionally or physically abusive, joint custody may not be your best option for the health and safety of your child.
Dealing with emotions after a divorce can feel overwhelming. A professional counselor can help you heal and make smart decisions during a tumultuous time in your life. Even if you just need someone to vent to for forty-five minutes per week, a counselor is better than your kid. And if you’re really struggling to co-parent, consider bringing your ex in for a joint session.
While emotion often interferes with everything in life, don’t let emotion overtake your most important job – parenting. Parenting is difficult on its own and co-parenting with an ex makes that job all the more difficult. For a smoother transition and a stronger family, make your child a priority and keep grievances at bay.
If you are thinking of divorce and have children, seeking the advice and services of an experienced divorce and family lawyer is in your best interest. Divorce and custody cases can be messy, overwhelming, and complicated, especially when you and your soon to be ex are unable to agree on the terms.
At Rappleye & Rappleye P.C., we are committed to provide expert representation for our clients. We have been serving the residents of Jackson, MI for over 60 years, with a solid history of success. Let us help you in your family law case, and we will put our experience to work for you!