While it is generally not easy to effectively cooperate with your ex-spouse, if possible, doing so will minimize the personal and financial costs of litigation and, more importantly, doing so will serve the best interests of your child(ren). When feasible, it is in your child(ren)’s best interest that you put forth your best efforts to co-parent in a healthy way, trying to avoid automatically attributing negative motives to your ex-spouse’s behavior.
Since providing for your children’s well-being is a top priority, the following suggestions are ways you can effectively co-parent with your ex and help establish a healthy, stable environment for everyone involved.
1. Create an effective Parenting Plan
No matter how good your or your ex-spouse’s intentions are – or how amicable or contentious your divorce may have been – it is absolutely necessary to prepare a clear and comprehensive parenting plan setting forth each parent’s rights and responsibilities on all important parenting matters. A clear and comprehensive Parenting Plan will avoid miscommunications and unintended conflicts, while still allowing parents the flexibility to agree to accommodate each parent’s reasonable requests.
The Parenting Plan should include the following provisions:
a. A specific parenting schedule, including holidays, school breaks, vacations and birthdays;
b. Specific provisions regarding transportation of the child(ren) to carry-out the parenting schedule, as well as to ensure transportation to and from activities;
c. Basic rules that will apply at each parent’s homes, such as will your children be allowed to carry a cellphone, and at what age?
d. How long must a parent be dating a significant other before introducing him or her to the child(ren).
e. Specific provisions regarding who will be responsible for making significant decisions related to the child(en), including: education, extracurricular activities, health care and religious upbringing. If these decisions are made jointly between you and your ex-spouse, there should also be a provision regarding conflict resolution in order to minimize the effect on the child(ren).
f. Specific provisions regarding who is responsible for making routine appointments and the procedure for non-routine and/or emergency matters
g. Specific provisions regarding when you or your ex-spouse may care for your child(ren) in the event that either of you are not able to personally care for the children during your parenting time. In Illinois, this is called the Right of First Refusal.
Please note that the list outlined above is not an exhaustive list, and your Parenting Plan should be customized to meet the specific needs of your family.
If your relationship with your ex-spouse is on shaky ground, bring in a lawyer to help you navigate the situation and develop a solid co-parenting plan.
2. When feasible, cooperate with your ex-spouse.
Although having a Parenting Plan is the necessary foundation to effectively co-parent, the reality is that things do not always go according to plan. Unexpected situations will almost certainly occur and it is important to accept and anticipate these so that you can effectively co-parent with your ex-spouse.
It is important to be flexible with your ex-spouse, within reason, during these situations. Doing so will likely minimize the personal and financial costs of litigation and help provide a unified front for your child(ren). Additionally, you will help serve the best interests of your child(ren) and show them the importance of being understanding and flexible.
3. Be accessible to your ex-spouse
While you do need to stop what you are doing every time your ex-spouse calls or contacts you, you should make yourself accessible in the event there is an issue related to your child(ren). A good rule of thumb is to always respond to communication within 24 hours.
Regardless of what led to your divorce, in order to co-parent effectively, you should focus on the best interests of your child(ren). If you and your ex-spouse willingly engage in an effective co-parenting relationship, you will set a great example for your children and reduce unnecessary stress in your own life.
4. Refrain from making disparaging remarks about your ex-spouse
Regardless of your current relationship with your ex-spouse, there was a reason you decided to divorce. You will likely encounter difficult situations with your ex-spouse that will make co-parenting difficult or not possible. In these situations, you should never make disparaging remarks about your ex-spouse to your child(ren) or in the presence of your child(ren).
Instead, find a trusted friend or family member that you can discuss the situation with and express your negative opinions about your ex-spouse, but make sure that your child(re) are not present.
5. In order to co-parent effectively, you must learn to communicate effectively
Generally speaking, lack of communication, or an inability to communicate effectively, is one of the main reasons couples divorce. Although you have both committed to co-parenting and want to do what is best for your child(ren), you will likely need to work on effective communication.
While email and text messages are quick and simple, they allow for the tone of messages to be misconstrued, potentially creating further animosity between you and your ex-spouse. For at least the first several months, make an effort to communicate either over the phone or in person when applicable, and follow up with an email or text message. Regarding emails and text messages, be mindful to the fact that your message may come across in a manner not intended.
If you receive a message that triggers you, take some time to cool off. Then, ask for clarification in a constructive and professional way. Kindly explain the way you took the message to mean so they understand how it could’ve been misconstrued.
For tips on how to co-parent during the holidays, check out this blog post.
If you’re looking for a child custody attorney in Oak Brook to help you establish an effective co-parenting plan with your ex-spouse, contact the Law Offices of David A. King P.C. today.