Co-parenting is a relatively new concept that allows divorced parents to continue to jointly play an active role in their children’s lives. While it isn’t a fit for every family, if it fits for yours, it can allow you and your co-parent to share memories without missing opportunities to watch your children grow.
If you have decided to get divorced but you still want to spend as much time with your children as absolutely possible, you may be considering the idea of co-parenting. If you and your spouse are on good terms and you have similar beliefs and values when it comes to what is truly in your children’s best interests, then it could be a good option. However, before you decide to move forward, it is important to have a complete understanding of what co-parenting entails, and you will need to be prepared to compromise in order to arrive at a co-parenting plan that works for you and your soon-to-be-former spouse.
What Is Co-Parenting?
So, what exactly does it mean to “co-parent” after a divorce? In legal terms, co-parenting involves establishing a formal arrangement pursuant to which the parents continue to jointly raise their children, attend child-related events, and even celebrate holidays and take vacations as a single-family unit. The parents still live separately in their respective residences (one of which will be designated as the children’s “home base”). But rather than splitting up the days of the week, the parents continue to spend a significant amount of time with their children together.
As a result, in order for co-parenting to work, both parents need to be fully committed to the arrangement. They must be willing to work together, communicate respectfully, and make plans that benefit everyone, even if they might not be ideal at a particular point in time. Co-parents still can – and will – disagree from time to time. But when disagreements happen, they must be prepared to work through them without becoming hostile or harboring feelings of ill will.
7 Examples of Co-Parenting Issues You Will Need to Address during Your Divorce
Even though co-parenting works best (and, in reality, only works at all) in situations where the parents are still on good terms, as part of the divorce process, spouses who intend to co-parent must still formalize a written agreement that establishes the terms of their post-divorce parenting relationship. Not only does this provide a roadmap in the event that questions arise in the future, but it also helps ensure that you and your spouse have thoughtfully considered all of the issues you are likely to encounter as you co-parent after your divorce.
A co-parenting agreement should be as comprehensive as possible, and it should take into account the unique aspects of the family dynamics involved. In a co-parenting arrangement, everything from the child’s (or children’s) age to the distance between the parents’ homes can influence the decisions the parents make at the outset of the process. Furthermore, since circumstances change, divorcing parents should do their best to anticipate future developments in their co-parenting agreement. And as much as possible, they should try to ensure that they will not run into issues without any guidance to follow.
With these considerations in mind, some examples of the types of provisions that will typically be incorporated into a co-parenting agreement include:
1. Daily Routines
Rather than deciding how many days of the week their children will spend at each parent’s home, parents who intend to co-parent must plan for the future on a day-to-day basis. Who will drop your children off and pick them up from school? Who will take them home at the end of practice or a recital? If one of you gets stuck working late, how will you communicate and how will you decide how to manage the rest of the day?
Consistency is important in all post-divorce parenting arrangements, but it is especially important for former spouses who co-parent. Since your children will be moving fluidly between you and your former spouse’s homes, you will want to have consistent rules regarding things like screen time, curfews, having friends over, and driving privileges.
We have mentioned communication already, but it is undoubtedly one of the most critical aspects of successful co-parenting. Divorcing spouses who intend to co-parent should set clear, mutual expectations regarding communication between one another as well as between each parent and their children. Even in co-parenting arrangements, each parent should still have the ability to spend some alone time with their children, and interference in this alone time should generally be limited to emergencies and other urgent situations.
4. Extended Family
How will you handle situations involving you and your former spouse’s extended family? When grandparents or aunts and uncles come to visit, will you do anything differently than you would under day-to-day circumstances? If you take your children to your parents’ house, will your former spouse be invited?
5. Birthdays, Holidays, and Vacations
Along the same lines, how will you handle birthdays, holidays, and vacations? Co-parents will often celebrate birthdays and holidays together, and they may even take trips together as well. However, this is not a requirement, and it may be that one or both of you want to find the right balance between celebrating together and having time to bond with your children separately.
6. Scheduling Conflicts
What if, despite your best efforts to plan ahead, you or your former spouse has a scheduling conflict that prevents everyone from being together for a scheduled event? Will you attempt to reschedule, or will you stick to your existing plan but with only one parent present?
7. New Significant Others
Finally, what happens if you or your former spouse meets someone new? This is one of the biggest challenges that many co-parents face. And while some can continue to make co-parenting work, others may find that their parenting arrangement is an impediment to building a new relationship.
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Are you preparing to go through a divorce? Do you have questions about co-parenting? To speak with one of our experienced family lawyers in confidence, please call us today or request an initial consultation online.