The idea of working cooperatively with your ex can seem impossible, but for divorcing parents, it’s usually a necessity. In most cases, children of divorced parents have more positive outcomes if they have relationships with both parents. A healthy co-parenting schedule is what sets the foundation for this to happen.
Family courts usually encourage joint custody arrangements or visitation with the non-custodial parent. This motivates parents to work together to create a co-parenting schedule that benefits everyone involved. While it’s not always easy, it is possible to work with your ex on a co-parenting schedule. Take a look at some tips that can help.
Transportation Is a Big Consideration
Even when everyone involved is on the same page, the logistics of getting children to where they need to be when they need to be there can be a challenge. For example, weekday overnights with a noncustodial parent who lives too far away from the children’s school to reasonably be able to get them to school on time might not be doable.
Instead, the parent who lives further away might need more time with the children on weekends and holidays to compensate for not being able to spend time with them during school weeks. How will you handle it if one parent doesn’t have access to reliable transportation?
What is one parent has a working vehicle and the other does not? For these special circumstances, the driving parent could agree to do the bulk of the driving, and the non-driving parent may want to agree or offer to chip in for gas or other transportation costs.
Don’t forget to take the children’s schedules into account as well – whichever parent has the children when they’re scheduled for extracurricular activities, after school lessons, or playdates will need to be responsible for getting them to those activities.
Don’t Lose Sight of Your Children’s Needs
When two adults are trying to work out logistics and schedules between them, they can sometimes forget to take their children’s feelings and needs into consideration. Divorce can be tough on kids, and custody arrangements can result in considerable changes to their routine at a time when they’re most likely to be craving structure and stability.
Try to come up with a schedule that doesn’t require your kids to give up things that are familiar and comforting for them. Make sure that your child will have time to acclimate and get comfortable in both parents’ houses. If your child is old enough, talk to them about your parenting plan and let them have input. You don’t have to allow them to make all of the decisions, but it can’t hurt to take their feelings and suggestions into account.
Be Ready and Willing to Compromise
You want a schedule that doesn’t inconvenience you too much – so does your ex. And, in fact, so do your children. It may not be possible to give everyone everything they want and maintain a workable co-parenting schedule.
Go into conversations well-prepared and willing to make compromises. You don’t need to be a doormat, but it doesn’t help anyone if you’re inflexible and stubborn either. Remember, the ultimate goal is to come up with a solution that’s best for your children.
You shouldn’t compromise on their well-being, but you can compromise on smaller things. Don’t insist that your ex do all of the driving if you can do some too. Don’t insist that the schedule be worked around your regular spin class or tee time unless that works for your child and your ex too. Be flexible and reasonable.
Don’t Use Your Co-Parenting Schedule to Punish Your Ex
If your split was recent, you may still be angry with your ex. Your anger might be totally justified, but the parenting schedule is not the place to express that anger. Don’t try to punish your ex by limiting the time they get to spend with the children or placing unnecessary obstacles in the way of their parenting time.
When you use time with the children as a weapon against your ex, you end up hurting your children as well. Don’t think of it as giving your ex time with the kids, think of it as giving your kids time with their other parent.
Your children want to know that both of their parents love them, and if one parent is prevented from spending time with them, they may start to believe it’s because of something that they did wrong. If you’re still dealing with anger toward your ex, find another way to deal with it, but keep co-parenting decisions about the children, not about your former relationship.
Know When to Let the Court Step In
Many divorced couples manage to collaborate on a parenting schedule. But not all of them can. Sometimes, discussions become impossible because one parent is operating in bad faith – refusing to compromise, moving goalposts, and purposely being difficult.
Sometimes emotions are still too raw for parents to have calm conversations about custody and visitation. In marriages where there were severe problems like spousal abuse or drug use, there may be real reasons to believe that the children are not necessarily safe in the other parent’s care.
In those cases, it may be in everyone’s best interests to let a judge make the decisions about when and under what circumstances each parent can see the children. A family court judge can order a specific schedule and enforce it and can order things like supervised visitation or using a third party to facilitate transfers between parents if necessary.
You don’t have to have a family law attorney to negotiate a co-parenting schedule with your ex or to request that a judge set a parenting schedule for you. In some complex custody cases, an attorney might be necessary, but in many ordinary custody cases, parents can advocate for themselves and their children in family court.
A legal resource group like National Family Solutions can help you prepare for court or mediation and complete and store your legal documents.