If you are considering a divorce, it is normal to wonder how co-parenting duties will work once you are living separately from your ex-spouse. While there may not be an exact way to set-up co-parenting duties, there are ways to create an environment that is healthy and best for both parents and children.
Co-parenting is the most successful when both parents can still work together even though they may be dealing with differences. Research has shown that the better parents can interact with each other, the better the children's emotional state. Adjusting to a joint parenting arrangement can present challenges. Working within schedules, planning drop-offs, and even finding time to have a conversation with your ex can be difficult. As you navigate to this new way of life, here are a few things to keep in mind that can ease the transition.
Communication - No matter how fragile or tense the relationship, keep communication with your former partner timely, polite, and effective.
Stay positive - One way or another, children will become aware of the broken relationship between you and your ex-spouse, even if you haven't explicitly talked about it. They may have heard arguments or witnessed your stress and frustration. The family court process will tempt you to speak unfavorably about your ex. Don't do it in front of the children (including within earshot from a different room), and never lobby them to "take your side." It is unnecessary. Kids will eventually figure out the truth for themselves, and you will be accused of coaching them.
A child is not a messenger - You may have a strong impulse to say something like, "Tell your father he better pick you up after school," or "Make sure your mother gives you clothes for the weekend." Your child doesn't need that nonsense. Virtually, everyone these days has a cell phone and email account. Use it, and spare your kids.
Co-parenting is not about you - Your emotions during the divorce can range from exasperated to spiteful. That's normal, but don't let it affect what you publicly say and do. Feelings are best expressed in therapy, or with a close friend or adult family member.
Being a parent was new to you at one point. Co-parenting will be a new adjustment, too. Your children will benefit most if they are shielded from parental conflict.