Divorce can be a messy and painful process, but it can get even more complicated when you have to deal with hashing out custody arrangements and co-parenting with your soon-to-be ex. While the process is rarely easy, there are several things you can do to ensure you co-parent efficiently and effectively with your soon-to-be ex right from the start. The sooner the two of you learn to parent together, while not together, the easier the transition will be for the children.
Develop a Parenting Plan, then Develop a Contingency Plan
During the early days of divorce, it can be easier to stick to a strict schedule. You can loosen this schedule later on, but making a plan is likely to keep all parties happy, and can give your child a sense of certainty in a rather uncertain set of circumstances. Plan how you and your co-parent will deal with school, medical and disciplinary decisions together, and set up a visitation schedule. Once you’ve laid out a basic plan, you’ll want to develop a contingency plan.
Having a contingency plan can be helpful when you or your ex need to change around the visitation schedule. This will happen, and you’ll need to learn how to roll with it in order to ensure everyone stays happy.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open, Whenever Possible
While your marriage may not have worked, you and your former spouse can’t simply walk away from one another. When you brought a child into this world together, you bonded yourself to that person. Whenever possible, try to keep the lines of communication open with your former spouse, when it comes to the children. Remember, it is your spouse’s right to know what is going on with the child, just as it is your right.
It is important to remain somewhat flexible when it comes to parenting after a divorce. It is important to first accept the fact that you will not have control over every aspect of your child’s life and his or her co-parent will make small decisions without you. Be open to this, and remain flexible when it comes to visitation schedules. Sticking to a rigid visitation schedule can hamper your child’s relationship with their other parent, and that isn’t healthy for the child.
Leave the Kids out of It
Your child should never become your messenger, and they should never be used as a pawn against one parent or the other. To effectively co-parent you’ll need to leave the kids out of it, and simply allow them to have a relationship with both of their parents. All of the planning, mild disagreements, and discussions about how to make your situation work should go on behind closed doors.
Never Bad Mouth Your Co-Parent In Front of the Children
Bad mouthing your co-parent in front of your children not only undermines their authority with the child, but it can hurt them, too. Children can feel torn between their parents in a time of divorce. They love both parents equally, but may feel like they can’t vocalize those feelings in front of one person or the other. To ensure your child doesn’t feel this way, make sure to never bad mouth your co-parent in front of them. You should also work to foster the relationship between your child and the non-custodial parent if you have primary physical custody.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
Divorce can be an ugly process, and it can leave you emotionally drained and tired. Getting yourself well so you can take good care of your children should be a top priority. Working through your feelings of hurt, resentment and anger with a professional can make it easier for you to deal with your ex as a co-parent, and it can help you move forward to a happier and healthier mental state. This is always a good thing, both for yourself, your relationship with your co-parent and for the children involved.
Plan in Advance
When you and your co-parent were working together a couple, it may not have been necessary to plan events and activities in advance. Now that you’ve separated planning things in advance can make things move along much smoother. Your co-parent will likely want to take part in your child’s activities, or at least have the option to do so. By scheduling activities, events and even doctor’s visits in advance, you’ll give the other co-parent the option to participate. Remember, though, it is important to keep these meetings civil for the sake of your child.
While divorce is rarely easy, and custody agreements can be complicated., following these seven steps will make navigating the process a bit simpler. Remember, you and your spouse are divorcing each other, not the children.