If you and your spouse are experiencing a divorce, you might consider co-parenting afterward.
What is co-parenting? It is a method of parenting that takes place after a separation or divorce. The idea is to find a way to parent your child together, despite living separately. While co-parenting is often recommended for families going through a divorce, it is not always the best option. If the divorce is due to violence, abuse or addiction, a different arrangement, such as giving one parent sole custody of the children, may be more appropriate.
Successful co-parenting requires a lot of communication, compromise, and maturity from the parents. Through co-parenting, these otherwise difficult situations will be easier for your child to both adapt to and understand.
Learn more about co-parenting, including some tips to make it work for you and your ex.
Why Co-Parenting is So Important
Co-parenting can protect your kids during a divorce and help you meet their needs. During and after divorce, a lot of things are going to change in your child’s life. If you and your ex can co-parent together, then your child can enjoy a relationship with both of their parents and will be less likely to feel that they need to choose one parent over the other.
Co-parenting also benefits parents. When you are able to work with your ex to make co-parenting work, neither of you has to take on the role of your children’s caretaker alone. You are both also less likely to feel concerned that you will lose custody of your children.
Co-parenting also fosters a stable environment, which helps your child to continue feeling safe and loved. You also have the opportunity to model conflict resolution skills to your children, helping them to grow up into well-adjusted, competent adults.
Managing Schedules With Your Ex
Managing a working schedule with your ex-spouse is crucial to making joint custody work after divorce. Managing a schedule with your ex requires:
- Communication: Maintain an open line of communication with your ex-spouse. Let them know about appointments, school meetings or other important parts of your child’s life. Ask your co-parent to share relevant information with you, too.
- Consistency: Once you’ve created a schedule that works for the whole family, stick to it whenever possible. Otherwise, your child will feel lost and unsure about what to expect day-to-day.
- Compromise: Understand that with co-parenting comes the need for compromise. Birthdays, holidays and special events will require some give and take on both parts.
- Organization: Stay organized. Whether that means keeping a calendar or to-do list, do whatever it takes to make sure nothing is falling through the cracks in your child’s life.
- Asking for input: Although you and your former spouse have the final say as parents, it’s essential to let your child know that you value their wants and requests throughout the scheduling process.
Why You Should Never Use Kids As Messengers
Co-parenting means it is your responsibility to maintain prompt and open communication with one another. You should never use your child as a messenger. In doing so, you risk putting your child in an uncomfortable position. Communicating through your child could also mean mixed up or misunderstood messages.
Follow some dos and don’ts for successful communication:
- Do not ask your child questions about your spouse. Your child will not feel good about being asked to spy.
- Do ask your child how he or she is feeling. Let them know that what they are feeling is normal and help them find healthy ways of coping.
- Do not ask your child to speak to your spouse for you. Open communication is key to making co-parenting work.
- Do remind your child that they can be honest with you. If your child has a concern about your co-parenting arrangement, encourage them to speak honestly about it. Resolving issues as they occur means your co-parenting strategies will remain successful in the long-term.
More Co-Parenting Tips
Making co-parenting work takes a lot of time and consideration. It’s a complicated process, but also an important one. There are several things to keep in mind as you navigate joint custody:
- Create and stick to a plan: Consistency is critical. Once you establish a routine, refrain from changing it as much as possible. Because their homelife is changing so much, keep other parts of your child’s life as normal as possible.
- Separate from your feelings: Although this is an emotional time for you, do not let your emotions affect the way you co-parent. Know when to separate your hurt or anger from raising your child. When communicating with your child, keep your tone calm and understanding. When communicating with your ex-spouse, keep interactions brief and professional.
- Answer your child’s questions: Chances are, your child will have a lot of questions. Instead of brushing these aside because you are unsure how to answer them, be as honest as possible. Let them know what changes they should expect to see in their daily routine. Encourage them to continue seeking you out for support.
- Do not vent frustrations to your child: No matter how you may be feeling towards your spouse, do not let that frustration show in front of your child. Complaining to your child about your spouse will make your child feel like he or she is caught in the middle. They will be confused about how they should feel about their other parent. Keep in mind that your child is an extension of you and your spouse — anytime you insult one another in front of them, they may start to resent themselves in response.
- Keep your conversations kid-focused: When communicating with your spouse, keep the discussions limited to your child. Speak openly about your co-parenting schedule, upcoming school or sporting events, and make each other aware of any important changes in your child’s life. Avoid talking about more intimate, personal matters — especially in front of your child.
- Do not over-compensate: Because you may be feeling guilty about the divorce, it may be easy to over-compensate with your child by letting them get away with things they would otherwise not be permitted to do. It’s essential to maintain your role as a parent. Do not refrain from disciplining your child when they need it.
- Seek outside support: Know when to seek external assistance, such as asking for help from family or friends, seeking counseling, or attending co-parenting workshops with your ex-spouse. Letting your child see that it’s okay to ask for help sends a positive message.
Lauren Taylor Law Can Help You Protect Your Kids After a Divorce
It can often be helpful to have the coaching advice of an experienced family law attorney to help you navigate the ins and outs of your new circumstances. If you have any questions about the divorce process, or what to expect from co-parenting arrangements going forward, give Lauren Taylor Law a call at 843-790-9009 to schedule a consultation. You can also contact us online.
South Carolina divorce attorney Lauren Taylor is an authority on family law in Charleston and Greenville. Lauren Taylor Law is an authority on divorce, child support, and alimony in South Carolina. She graduated from the Charlotte School of Law, and has been practicing for several years now. Lauren Taylor relies on her experience and passion to fight for you during this stressful time. Learn more about her experience here.