You have decided to divorce your spouse and, as a consequence, recently moved out of your house. It has already been a big adjustment for you and your soon-to-be ex. However, you may not realize that the change can have an even more significant effect on your children.
Typically left out of discussions until the eleventh hour, children in these situations often wake up one morning to find themselves packing their things to spend time in a new home they have never seen before.
It’s no surprise this becomes the cause of great distress and worry for children, even teens. Therefore, it’s smart for the parent who is leaving to comfort their children during this challenging transition and prepare them for the possibility of a custody battle.
How Can You Prepare to Co-Parent?
There are a number of things you can do to prepare for co-parenting. For the sake of your children’s wellness, your post-divorce relationship with your ex-spouse, and legal considerations, you should prepare in the following ways:
Minimize Your Children’s Stress
The top parenting priority for the spouse who is leaving should be to minimize their children’s stress during this change. There is no single right way to reduce children’s anxiety. How well children fare will depend on their age and maturity, relationship with their parents, temperament, and coping skills.
Great ways to keep children’s stress levels down are to continually reassure them that you and your spouse still love them, despite the fact you are splitting up, and not to have “adult” discussions or arguments in front of them. That said, to protect your children’s sense of security, you should keep them in the loop about any changes that will affect them directly, including what their new custody schedule will look like for the foreseeable future. You should also keep the communication lines open for your children to ask questions and voice concerns they may have about where they and you will now be sleeping.
Finally, it’s beneficial to enlist the assistance of a mental health professional and a lawyer. Both will help make the transition as smooth as possible for the children and may help you avoid future conflict between you and your spouse.
Keep a Co-Parenting Journal or Calendar
In many divorces, the fight over custody causes the most strife. Emotions are raw, especially where children are concerned, and raw emotions can be the source of disruptive and destructive behavior. Additionally, because there are usually few documents and verifiable facts concerning custody, an expensive and hurtful battle of “he said, she said” can follow.
Therefore, the spouse leaving the house should keep a co-parenting journal and calendar from when they move out. The calendar should detail where the children spend the night and include special trips, events, and vacations.
Though tempting, you should leave out any negative commentaries, sticking to the facts only. The journal should contain greater detail about significant events and behaviors, particularly any destructive behavior regarding parenting from the other spouse.
A calendar and journal help memorialize details couples might otherwise forget and offer an accurate, real-time picture of the current custody situation. They can also provide beneficial information for negotiating custody arrangements or, if necessary, making a case before a judge.
Establish a Workable Custody Schedule From the Get-Go
It’s crucial to enter into a desirable custody schedule as soon as possible after moving out. The initial plan a family follows can quickly become the “status quo.” Once it does, unless it is disadvantageous to the children’s best interests, it can be challenging to alter even at trial. Because children of divorced spouses already endure turmoil outside their control, many judges will choose to leave the existing custody schedule in place if the plan works reasonably well to promote stability.
Sometimes, spouses negotiate, or a judge rules that the status quo custody schedule should change. However, that requires fighting an uphill battle rather than engaging on a level playing field. In the long term, entering into an undesirable custody schedule is merely setting the family up for more problems later.
Never Make Children Messengers or Pawns for Personal Agendas
To successfully co-parent after a divorce, you need to avoid using your kids as messengers for personal agendas. Although initiating contact with an ex you dislike is hard, you shouldn’t use your kids as a communication link to send messages to the other parent. Putting kids in the middle of conflict from the start sets a bad precedent. For co-parenting to be successful, children must be separated from the parents’ relationship issues. Instead of sending your kids to deliver a message, call or message your ex directly.
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Understand Effective Co-Parenting Contact
It also helps to understand effective co-parenting contact rules from the start. For instance, what kind of tone is appropriate? How do you make requests, restrain yourself, set a meeting, focus on kids in a conversation, etc.?
Instead of doing trial and error, be proactive. Co-parents should use a business-like tone when communicating with each other. You should talk as if you are talking to a colleague. With this in mind, the importance of neutrality, respect, cordiality, and patience can’t be overemphasized.
When making statements that can easily be misinterpreted as outright demands, focus on requesting instead of demanding. Using the words “can we try” or “would you care to” is better than “do this…” or “you have to do…”
The importance of listening, even if you disagree, and trying to understand the other person instead of simply responding, can’t be overlooked. Co-parents must also know how to restrain themselves and avoid overreacting or bringing up past unrelated issues. Any contact should be 100% children-based. Try not to make conversations about your needs; instead, make them about those of the children. It’s also good practice to try to maintain communication and commit to appointments and agreements.
View Co-Parenting As Teamwork
It’s critical to view co-parenting as teamwork in every aspect. Since you share your children, you can’t make decisions exclusively by yourself going forward. Parenting is about decision-making daily, and your decisions must go through your ex in most cases. Trying to cooperate from the start makes things easier for everyone.
Foster Consistency From the Beginning
After divorce, children get exposed to two perspectives that teach them flexibility. However, they must understand both parents have their own unique rules. Trying to make it clear what is expected of your kids when they are under your care is critical for eliminating confusion.
You don’t have to adopt similar rules in both households. However, there should be consistency in the guidelines to maintain discipline. This is critical for curfews, school work, and off-limit activities. You should agree on such matters with your co-parent. The way both of you “punish” your kids for breaking the rules should also be fundamentally the same, even if mistakes are made in one household.
Parents should impose punishments in the other household too. Additionally, parents should reward good behavior and meeting schedules in the other household. Children shouldn’t do homework or go to bed at a certain time in one household and be left to do what they want in another.
Love Your Children Regardless of How You Feel About Your Spouse
Co-parenting may not be easy for you from the start. If things are difficult, remind yourself you are doing it for your children. Your love for your kids should be stronger than your dislike for your ex.
If you follow this co-parenting mantra, you may find it easy to work on teamwork, avoid being personal, and become a better communicator. You may also find yourself developing a healthy friendship with your ex-spouse that is free of hard feelings, mistrust, and other negative feelings.
Children shouldn’t have to worry about whether their parents are getting along after a divorce. Instead, parents should be meeting their children’s needs in every way. Co-parenting is bound to work with children’s development as the main focus.
However, a parent can always use the legal route to encourage a disgruntled ex-spouse into doing what is best for the children. A seasoned divorce lawyer is suited to offer professional co-parenting advice and facilitate the necessary court orders when one parent isn’t putting the children’s needs first.
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About Our Firm and Lawyers
At The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates, our divorce lawyers know how difficult co-parenting and related matters can be. This is why we help parents prepare for the task of co-parenting and solve their co-parenting and other divorce-related issues, including ones regarding visitation and communication. As trained mediators, we can help you and your spouse in many ways.
All About Mediation
Mediation is one of the services our firm’s lawyers offer. Basically, it’s about a divorcing/divorced couple and a lawyer preparing for and settling divorce-related issues, like co-parenting disputes, together. The lawyer acts as a mentor and negotiator for the couple, helping them come up with ways to manage problems and eventually helping them come to fair agreements.
Thanks to mediation, many couples find they’re able to communicate and problem-solve better with their ex-spouses. This can be invaluable, not just for the ex-couple, but also for the children.
The ex-couple maintain a healthy post-divorce relationship, and the children know their parents still care about one another. Additionally, mediation can keep a divorce-related matter out of court where things can get expensive.
How We Treat Our Clients
Our firm has been serving people like you for many years. In this time, we’ve learned to recognize and appreciate how our clients, their relationships, and their divorces are different. As a result, we’ve decided to treat every client individually and personalize our services.
If you decide to make one of our attorneys your own, your attorney will respect your thoughts, feelings, and needs regarding your divorce and your children. You’ll receive the kind of attention we provide all our clients with.
You’ll also receive our empathy during this difficult time you’re in. Many of us at The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates have been through similar difficulties, so we know what family problems can be like. However, we also know what success stories can be like, and we’ll do our best to help you achieve yours.
Our Lawyers Have Handled Many Cases Like Yours
Our team is dedicated to family and divorce law, including shared parenting/co-parenting, so we’re qualified to help you. On our team are lawyers with LL.M degrees in Trial Advocacy and others who have completed some of the most prestigious programs in legal training. We’re fully prepared to negotiate with difficult spouses and, if necessary, courts.
Our lawyers are very resourceful too, so they work with nationally recognized experts and well-regarded parenting coordinators, psychiatrists, and other professionals. These experts and professionals help us represent and meet the needs of everyone in your family, including your children.
As an award-winning firm with many decades of experience, we’re very confident we can help you and your family. We’ll help you all through this difficult time in your lives.
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Keep Your Children’s Welfare As Your Priority
Creating a stable environment for your children during this difficult period could be a process of trial and error. Sometimes you may get it right, and other times you won’t. The key is to remain aware of how your children respond to any changes, even small ones, that you make in their lives and respond accordingly so they stay as comfortable as possible.
With your attention, guidance, and, most importantly, love, your children will adjust more quickly and easily to their new normal. You and your children will be able to enjoy a new and hopefully improved parent-child relationship that’s unencumbered by the stress of your divorce.
Reach Out to Us for Assistance
If you are looking into getting a divorce, you want someone who will be on your side. Connect with us at The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates by phone at (256) 935-1790 to find an attorney that will go to bat for you in or out of court. We will advocate for you. We’ll tell you more about peaceful co-parenting strategies during a free consultation. Reach out to us today.