Co-parenting after a divorce is seldom easy. This is particularly true if you have a disputatious ex-partner. You may have genuine concerns about your ex’s parenting style or still feel so emotional about the divorce that you’re not sure if you will ever find a way to overcome all the resentment you still hold toward them.
If you’re like most parents though, you also know that your child’s welfare is paramount and if you can find a way to co-parent amicably with your ex, you can both give your child the stability and security that he or she needs.
To help accomplish this after a divorce, the court usually relies on both parents taking an active role in co-parenting.
What Does Co-Parenting Mean?
Co-parenting is a term used to describe the joint role of having both parents active in a child’s daily life. Unless there have been serious issues in the family dynamic, such as substance abuse or an act of domestic violence, co-parenting is considered the best way to ensure that a child’s needs are met and gives them the ability to retain a close relationship with each parent.
While joint custody is without a doubt beneficial to children, the arrangement itself is often a point of stress to the parents and can be both infuriating and exhausting to the parties involved.
If you are in this situation, using the tips below not only can help you find a way to remain calm when issues arise, but can help you stay consistent in your parenting by providing ways you can work with your ex to resolve potential conflicts together.
5 Tips for Co-Parenting Successfully
Tip #1: Set the Hurt and Anger Aside
It’s okay to be hurt and angry. In fact, it’s perfectly normal and expected when a marriage has ended, and the divorce has been less than amicable. To co-parent successfully, however, your feelings of resentment, hurt, and anger – must take a backseat when it comes to the needs of your child.
Keep in mind that you do need to get those feelings out and talking to someone can help, but you should never vent those feelings to your child. Instead, talk to your friends, seek out a therapist, or even take up journaling to help get those negative feelings off your chest.
Tip #2: Display a United Front
Both parents want to be the “good” parent, but overriding your ex’s decisions to make yourself look like the better parent are not beneficial to your child or your co-parenting agreement.
Even if your preferred parenting style is a little more lenient, it can actually be reassuring to a child to see that their parents are united in their decisions and consistent in the routines they established priory as a family.
Tip #3: Communication is Essential
Your attorney may have done the communicating for you while you were in the middle of your divorce, but now that you are both out on your own living separately, it often becomes harder to communicate without causing conflict.
Instead of engaging in conversation with a confrontational mindset, remind yourself that you are doing this because of your child’s well-being. Resolve that even though you couldn’t get along in marriage, you will conduct yourself with dignity and try to get along for the sake of your child.
Use these methods to help maintain effective communication:
- Keep the conversation focused on your children. It’s easy to turn a conversation into an argument about your needs or what your ex thinks they need. If you find that one or both of you are doing this, firmly turn the conversation back to focus only on your child.
- Make a point to listen. When emotions run high, it’s easy to quit listening. Instead of having the last word, make a point to be quiet and let your ex speak. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them or that it signifies you approve of what they say, but you can at least convey to them that they are heard and you are trying to understand their point of view.
- Make requests – not demands. No one likes it when they feel that another person is trying to make them do something they don’t want to do. Instead of ordering your ex to have your child home by 7 p.m., try wording it as a request. “Could you please have them back here by 7 p.m. – they need to finish their homework before bedtime.” This explains that there is a reason you have set a time limit and that it benefits your child for your ex to return at the agreed time.
- Keep it business-like. If your ex is good at “pushing your buttons,” it can be hard to communicate effectively without the conversation dissolving into an argument. Choose ahead of time that you will approach the conversation like you would if you were going to a business meeting. Talk, text, or email with cordiality and keep it as formal as you can.
Tip #4: Work Together to Make Transitions and Visitations Easier
Whether your child moves from one household to the other every few days or on weekends, it is still difficult for them every time they have to shift from one parent to the other.
Try to remain positive about the visit with your ex and have them ready to be picked up or dropped off on time.
Make a point to remind your child that they will be seeing their other parent in a day or two ahead of their visit and that you are excited for them, even if it is still difficult for you to interact with your ex during the transition.
Tip #5: Dealing with a Visitation Refusal
You may think that your ex is up to something if your child suddenly doesn’t want to spend time with you, but it’s really not unusual for a child in joint custody to not want to leave one parent to stay with the other.
Talk to your child about their refusal. Often it is something as simple as there are more toys or cooler entertainment gadgets at one place than at the other, or one parent may be a little more relaxed in discipline. There could even be a misunderstanding in something that you or your ex said that makes the child want to stay with your ex instead of you.
You may even find that it is simply that your child needs a little space to sort things out the same way you do. By using effective co-parenting techniques, such as those listed above, you may find that your ex can help you find out what the problem is and may even work to smooth things over for you.
Do You Need an Attorney Who Specializes in Family Law?
Whether you’re contemplating a divorce and need to know how it will affect your children or you have an existing custody agreement that needs modifying, Speights Law can help. We have evening and weekend appointments available. Contact us today at 770-479-1500 to schedule your free consultation.
Amanda Speights is a co-founder and lead family law attorney at Speights Law, PC in Cherokee County. She is an experienced family law lawyer who handles an assortment of domestic cases, including divorce, child custody, child support, appeals and other types of litigation in the state of Georgia.