For couples with children, divorce does not end a relationship but instead changes its focus. Although they no longer relate to one another in the context of marriage, in order to provide the best possible care for their children, divorced parents must learn to forge a new relationship as co-parents. The following tips may help smooth the transition for divorcing parents and help them provide a stable, healthy environment for their children.
Model mutual respect
Particularly in the immediate aftermath of a painful breakup, when divorced spouses may still be dealing with strong and difficult feelings toward one another, co-parenting can seem like a daunting task. However, regardless of what your feelings may be toward your ex, kids need a strong and loving relationship with both parents. Therefore, it is important to promote and encourage a strong relationship between your children and the other parent. Resist the urge to be competitive, and take care not to vent your frustrations or speak disparagingly of your ex in front of your children.
Another important part of a successful co-parenting relationship after divorce is keeping the lines of communication open between yourself and the other parent. Communicating frequently and openly will help both parents stay in the loop about the children and help create continuity between households. In addition, regular communication between co-parents helps nip misunderstandings and miscommunications in the bud, preventing them from growing into larger conflicts that may be disruptive to parents and children alike.
It can be helpful to set regular times to touch base with a co-parent about things like school, homework, scheduling, holiday plans and health issues. If speaking face to face is too difficult, particularly at first, try touching base by phone, email or instant messaging. With time and patience, collaborating with your ex on parenting issues will most likely become easier.
As important as communication is for successful co-parenting, it is just as important for you and your ex to establish reasonable boundaries and show respect for one another's privacy. Tempting as it may be, avoid grilling your kids for details about your ex's personal life after divorce. Also resist the urge to micromanage or criticize your ex's parenting skills - even when he or she does things in a way that you would not choose. If you make an effort to choose your battles and keep things in perspective, your ex-spouse will be more willing to extend you the same courtesy.
Minimize conflict during the divorce process
Couples with children and others who wish to minimize the negative impact of divorce often benefit from a process known as collaborative divorce. Unlike traditional divorce litigation, which is fundamentally adversarial, collaborative divorce is based on cooperation and communication between the spouses, with a shared goal of reaching a mutually agreeable outcome. At the beginning of the collaborative divorce process, both spouses sign a contract that states they agree to resolve the divorce without resorting to litigation.
For couples who are interested in collaborative divorce but are not necessarily ready to sign a contract, cooperative divorce offers a similar solution. The process of cooperative divorce is essentially the same as collaborative divorce, except that the spouses retain the option of going to court as a last resort.
To learn more about these and other options for achieving a more amicable and respectful divorce, contact a divorce lawyer with experience in collaborative and cooperative divorce.