Many parents consider parenting and their children’s well-being to be their utmost priority. A child’s health, emotional wellness, education, and future are all of paramount importance to a parent. When a divorce occurs and a family unit is divided, many parents wonder how co-parenting in a two-parent household will work and how their children will be affected. There is a way, and more than one way, to co-parent with your former spouse. Part of a successful two-parent household parenting plan depends on the level of cooperation between the parents, their maturity, and their willingness to put their children’s needs ahead of their own.
Here are some guidelines and points to consider when creating a parenting plan that works for you, your former spouse, and your child. They start with the general principle that both parents are expected to act in a manner that is in the best interests of the children and that both parents should allow the other parent frequent and continuing contact with the children. Make it clear to your children that the divorce or breakup was not their fault and that both parents love them and want what is best for them. This is even more important if your divorce was not amicable.
Legal custody refers to which parent (or both) makes the decisions regarding a child’s education, medical care, extra-curricular activities and the like. Generally, parents share joint legal custody of their children after a divorce unless extenuating circumstances, such as domestic violence or a substance abuse problem, require one parent to assume legal custody of a child. There are exceptions in cases of emergency, such as if a child were to need immediate medical care.
Physical custody refers to where your children reside. Generally speaking, the law favors the children dividing their time equally with both parents, when possible. There are several ways in which custody can be shared. For example, parents can design parenting plans with alternating weeks, changing visitations mid-week, weekly dinners, split weekends, alternating weekends, and what is best suited for both parents’ schedules and their children’s schedules. Flexibility – especially a willingness to trade days and accommodate the other parent and the child’s needs — is essential to the success of your parenting plan. If you need help putting your children’s interests first, parenting classes, therapists, spiritual advisors, educational courses, and your Austin family law attorney can be excellent sources of guidance and education.
When creating visitation schedules, the key considerations are each parent’s work schedule, your children’s school and extra-curricular activities, and family and life events. As your children grow older, visitation schedules can change. What works when your children are under the age of ten may not work when your child become pre-teens and teenagers.
Your children’s needs may also change. For example, a child may become involved in an extra-curricular activity such as sports or music, or want to spend more time with one parent for a period of time, or start driving and want to spend more time with their friends than either parent.
Parents often have more difficulty adapting to a child growing up than the child does. Be flexible and willing to adapt to different life situations. And use of technology to keep in touch with or check in with your children. As examples, nightly phone calls, Face Time, Skype, both parents attending an event or mid-week dinners or a weekend breakfast can go a long way towards keeping in touch with your children as they develop.
When co-parenting, it is unlikely that both parents will have the same rules in two different households. Different lifestyles or parenting styles does not mean that one or the other is wrong. They are just different. Expect that the other parent will continue with their life and involve your child in their life, just as you will. Unless it is an unhealthy or unsafe situation for your child, try to be open minded and maintain consistency in your parenting.
When co-parenting, treat the other parent with respect. Do not discuss any litigation, your issues with the other parent, that parent’s family, friends or lifestyle, or any other negative comments. This should include your friends and relatives within your sphere of influence. Negative comments about the other parent can be damaging or traumatic to your children. If there is a substance abuse, inappropriate lifestyle or domestic violence issue, get professional guidance as to how to handle the situation and discuss it with your children in a safe environment.
If the other parent has a new significant other or spouse in their life, it is appropriate to assume that person will be a part of your child’s life. This new significant other or spouse could also come with other children resulting in a blended family. Be flexible and open-minded, unless there are domestic violence or substance abuse issues. Treat the other parent’s new significant other or spouse with respect and encourage your child to do the same. Do not ask your child for information about the other parent, interrogate them about their feelings on the subject, or otherwise interfere with your child’s relationship with the other parent and any changes in lifestyle. It is up to the other parent to help your child to develop a relationship with their new significant other or spouse, but you can encourage them to do so as well as to develop other healthy relationships.
Divorce does not have to negatively affect the healthy emotional development of your children. If an Austin family law attorney at Nunis & Associates can help, don’t hesitate to call. 512-236-9696.