Making co-parenting work after a divorce is no small task, given the family upheaval and stress that has occurred. New living arrangements, custody schedules, birthdays and holidays, life decisions about education, and other activities are all part of adjusting to a new parenting situation.
However, with care, dedication, and planning, co-parenting can and does work – and the result can be the best outcome for the child whose interests both parties have at heart.
Adaptation and Communication
Even in a relatively civil divorce, residual stress and life changes require adjustment for everyone in the family. In a high-conflict divorce, the adaptation period and ongoing anxiety is greater.
For the parents, this means remaining in contact regarding the child’s life while adapting to life as a solo parent. If conflict continues, co-parenting is especially challenging.
For the child, especially depending on their age, they need to be reassured that despite the dissolution of the marriage, they are still loved and cared for by each parent separately. Either way, cooperating for the best interests of the child is a challenge that must be faced head on.
One of the first tips therapists and family advocates will agree on is that communication must be open and frequent. With parents no longer living in the same residence, by nature they will need to communicate more and establish ground rules for schedules, pickup times, the child’s daily basic needs, and their own availability.
Some parents find technology helpful – such as shared Google calendars or any of the wide variety of scheduling apps – and also find they can even reduce communication conflicts.
An equally important component of co-parenting is keeping ex-spousal disagreements away from the child. Inevitably, both parties may not be 100% happy with the terms of the divorce, whether it is custody, alimony, or the outcome of equitable distribution. Those preexisting disagreements may carry on; but each parent needs to carefully think about how they plan to move forward on future shared decisions.
The child’s education, health and welfare needs, extracurricular activities, and many other aspects of a healthy childhood will still need to be discussed and agreed upon. Often parents find that a professional counselor or divorced parent support group can help in this process. They can benefit from others’ experiences in how to co-parent productively.
One of the aspects that highly contentious divorcing couples may not recognize is their existing combative communication pattern with each other in front of the child. Patterns do not die easily, so being aware of tone and maintaining respect regarding the other parent is important to acknowledge.
Making the other parent the bad guy can have devastating long-term effects on the child’s emotional adjustment. Respect that the child has a valid relationship with their other parent and avoid undermining or criticizing it.
Somerville Divorce Lawyers at the Law Offices of Katherine K. Wagner Have the Knowledge and Care for Your Divorce Case and Co-Parenting Concerns
Somerville divorce lawyer at the Law Office of Katherine K. Wagner is an experienced divorce and family law practitioner who will advocate for your rights in this difficult time. We represent clients in Somerset County, Hunterdon County, and Middlesex County, New Jersey. Contact us for a confidential free consultation at our office in Somerville at 908-526-0099 or by completing our online form.