As a divorce lawyer it is not uncommon to see a lot of hostility and arguing between the parties during a divorce. Months and years of acrimonious living can lead to lots of hurt feelings and grudges. However, if children are involved it is important for both parties to understand that even though their marriage is over, their partnership in raising their child is not. Therefore, the parents together need to reach an effective co-parenting strategy for their child and themselves so that during this difficult time, the child feels a sense of stability.
I have found that a strong communication strategy can really help divorced parents. This requires each parent to let go of past hurts and disagreements. For those who find this difficult to do one effective strategy is to treat post-divorce interactions with you ex as you would a conversation with a difficult coworker – unpleasant but necessary. Conversations should be kept factual and professional and emotions should be left at the door.
This in no way means that you are required to agree with everything your former spouse thinks. Even married parents have different parenting styles. The important thing to remember is that you should keep communication lines open and you should never use your child as a messenger between you and your spouse unless you re sending a pleasant greeting or a thanks.
Co-parenting requires involvement by both parents. It means cooperative scheduling and a bit of understanding. Flexibility is key. I have found that parents who put their child’s interests above their own wants have the most success. This means not being obsessed with the minutes and hours your child spends with your ex-spouse. For example, there may be times your child wants to go to a special party on the weekend when you have custody. You should consider your child’s wishes in this regard and decide whether it makes sense.
Explaining the Divorce to Your Child
I sometimes see former spouses get so wrapped up in their own emotions from the divorce that they forget just how impacted their children will be by the news of the divorce and exactly what it means. Remember to listen to your children, reassure them, and tell them you love them. If possible, try to make time for you and your ex to sit down together and reassure your child that he or she did not do anything wrong and did not cause the divorce. Hearing it from both parents together reinforces this idea. It may also be a good idea for former spouses and their children to talk together, or separately, with a professional.
Co-parenting is hard. It might be one of the most difficult things you ever do. I have found in my years of practice that if you can do this successfully you will have given your child a wonderful gift that many other children of divorce don’t have: a peaceful childhood. For more resources on divorce and family law visit the Morgan Law Firm blog.
Scott Morgan is a board certified divorce lawyer in Houston who regularly blogs on the subject of divorce and family law.