5 Essentials for Co-Parenting After Divorce

Even if you and your ex manage to remain amicable during your divorce, the process inevitably changes your relationship. Especially if you and your ex have children together, those changes can make learning to parent together – but apart – a challenging endeavor, at least at first.

And if your divorce was antagonistic or contentious, you may walk away feeling bruised by the experience. While it’s important to find a way to process your feelings of grief, resentment, and anger toward your ex, as a parent you likely know that parenting often requires adults to set their feelings aside to do what’s necessary. Even if you had a difficult divorce, it’s possible to develop a healthy and productive co-parenting relationship with your ex for the sake of your kids.

We often hear the refrain that divorce is hard on kids, but the truth is children can and often do come through divorce healthy, happy, and well-adjusted. Much depends on their parents’ ability to establish respectful co-parenting habits and boundaries.

Here are 5 essential tips to help you establish a co-parenting relationship after divorce:

#1. Imagine Your Co-Parent as a Co-Worker

One of the hardest parts of ending a marriage can be unraveling the emotional ties that stitched you and your spouse together. When you share children together and still have to interact because of them, it can be even more challenging to sever those emotional ties so that you can move forward. Because of that, some divorced parents struggle to stop the cycle of bickering and negativity that likely contributed to their decision to end their marriage in the first place.

If you are struggling with negative feelings toward your ex, try to imagine that they are a kind of co-worker. By establishing a business-like relationship with your ex, you can learn to interact in a respectful and courteous way that serves the productivity of “the business,” – the raising of your children. Conversations can be focused and to the point, and if they veer into unproductive realms, you can set a boundary just like you would at work. And, just like at work, you can try to avoid “meetings” that could just as well have been emails.

This attitude can help you learn to communicate with your ex in a courteous, direct, and respectful way without either feeding or getting drawn into unnecessary emotional dialogue. It may also help you to learn how to better handle conflict with your ex if you try to conduct yourself professionally. Perhaps, in time, you and your ex will be able to develop a new, friendly rapport, but all that is absolutely necessary for your children to thrive is for you both to learn how to work together.

#2. Don’t Put Your Children in the Middle

When conflicts do come up, it’s important that you do everything you can to work out your issues with your ex when your children are not present. Set up a time to meet in a neutral location or to chat on the phone. You can ask a friend to watch your kids or wait till they’re at school to have that difficult conversation.

It’s also important that you refrain from using your children as go-betweens. It might seem easier to tell your child to tell their other parent that they need to stop dropping them off late, but it puts your child in an extremely uncomfortable position. Whenever possible, allow your child to have a relationship with you both without carrying the burden of being trapped in the middle of any tensions that exist between the two of you. If you’re having an issue with your ex, speak to them directly.

Most importantly, don’t ever badmouth your ex to your children or make them feel like they need to choose between the two of you. Your children deserve to have a loving relationship with both their parents, and it’s your responsibility to support them whenever possible. By the same token, don’t depend on your child to be your shoulder to cry on when you’re angry or hurt by your ex.

#3. Be Consistent and Reliable

Part of the work of parenting – divorced or not – is logistical, but for divorced parents the logistics of parenting can be even more complicated. Keeping track of schedules and dividing (and remembering!) responsibilities can be a logistical nightmare. But children – especially children of divorce – need consistency.

Especially if you weren’t heavily involved in the daily management of your children’s schedules prior to your divorce, learning how to stay on top of your child’s now-even-more-complicated schedule will help to reduce conflict with your ex and ensure that your children know they can rely on you.

Thankfully, there are many apps that help divorced parents manage everything from their parenting schedules to tracking expenses to keeping shared to-do lists, including:

#4. Remain Flexible

At the same time, it’s important to remember that you – and your ex – are only human. Sometimes you’ll make a mistake, forget something, or need to ask your ex to move the schedule around to accommodate, for instance, a work trip or your mom’s birthday. It can be hard not keepig score with your co-parent, but it will help you both work together harmoniously if you can be gracious when they occasionally forget your daughter’s soccer practice or ask to switch the schedule to accommodate a work event.

#5. Think Long-Term

While your marriage vows may be defunct, your shared commitment to your children is not, which means that you will be connected to your ex for the rest of your life. Even after your children are grown and move away from home, you will likely still encounter one another at your children’s weddings, at graduations, perhaps even at your grandchildren’s birthday parties.

This can be a bitter pill to swallow when you’ve only just extricated yourself from a relationship that was likely not working for either of you, but accepting this reality can help you to adjust your perspective about the smaller and likely accumulated grievances you carry against your ex. Attempt, if you can, to develop a respectful relationship with your ex so that one day, maybe, your children won’t have to worry about having you in the same room at your grandchild’s wedding.

When to Call an Attorney

Sometimes, despite your best intentions and efforts, the parenting arrangement you made with your ex during your divorce does not work out. If you and your ex are not able to re-work your arrangement amicably, it’s important that you reach out to an experienced child custody attorney for legal counsel.

If you are concerned that your parenting agreement needs to be modified, reach out to us online or call us at (516) 584-4685 to schedule a consultation.