When two parents get divorced, it does not change their parental rights or responsibilities. Provided having relationships with both parents is in the best interest of the child, the court will likely grant shared custody of the child to the parents. This means that the parents must abide by a set schedule for trading off time with the child, as well as determine who will make which important decisions for the child’s well-being, including education, religion, and healthcare.
Working together to share custody in an amicable and cooperative manner is not always easy for divorced spouses. However, co-parenting can be emotionally healthier for the child and beneficial in many ways. The following is some information about co-parenting and whether it may be right – or possible – for your family.
Benefits Of Co-Parenting
Children often have a difficult time adjusting after a divorce – especially for younger children. They go from having one household to having two, each one with its own routine, parenting style, toys, chores, rules, and more. If parents are willing to stay positive with one another and work together, there can be many benefits for the child. Some of these include:
- Reduced stress – Divorce is already stressful enough for a child, and when the parents do not add unnecessary conflict to the situation, it can significantly reduce the emotional and mental stress on the child.
- Increased sense of security – Having their home as they knew it split up can affect a child’s sense of security. Children often may feel like a divorce is their fault or that a parent moving out means that they do not love the child anymore. When parents each make an effort to create a positive and loving home while sharing custody, it can make the child feel more comfortable and secure when they are changing environments.
- Setting a good example – Even though parents may not want to be married anymore, they can still set a strong example for conflict resolution, respect, and cooperation for the child. When parents have a positive attitude toward one another instead of criticizing one another or having constant conflict, they show the child that there are respectful and positive ways to resolve problems.
- Greater chance of maintaining close relationships with both parents – When each parent makes the most of their time with the child and does not use that time to say negative things about the other parent, it can increase the chances that the child will stay close with both parents. This can increase honesty and communication, which can reduce the chances of drug and alcohol use as teenagers or other types of reckless or harmful behavior.
The above are only some of the many benefits of co-parenting for both a child and the parents. It is certainly worth it to try healthy co-parenting when it is possible in your situation.
The Way Your Divorce Is Resolved Can Affect Your Ability to Co-Parent
How you work to resolve the many issues in a divorce can set the stage for possible co-parenting. For example, if spouses refuse to agree, act with spite and stubbornness, or want revenge on one another during the divorce process, they likely finish the divorce process in an acrimonious state. This is hardly the situation that will foster cooperation and compromise when parenting.
On the other hand, if spouses see the benefits of working together to resolve divorce-related issues, they can often reach a settlement agreement without angry disputes or dragging each other into court to air personal details. Not only can some spouses get through a divorce without tearing each other apart, but the process of finding the middle ground during a divorce can set a precedent for finding the middle ground when co-parenting. Often, the way a divorce is resolved speaks volumes about how ex-spouses will work together to parent their child.
How An Attorney Can Help You Set Yourself Up For Co-Parenting Success
Often, when spouses begin the divorce process, there will naturally be some conflict and emotions involved. However, this does not mean they are destined to fight during and after the divorce. Instead, the help of the right divorce attorney can encourage and facilitate cooperation and agreement out-of-court. A divorce lawyer can assist with negotiations, discussion, mediation, or even collaborative divorce so that spouses can resolve their divorce in a healthy and cooperative manner. Not only does this start the path toward successful co-parenting, but it can also leave spouses in a better financial situation, which can also reduce parenting stress.
Remember That Your Custody Arrangement Can Be Modified
A lot of strife between divorced parents arises when a custody arrangement and schedule is not working for one or both parents. Too many parents stick with a frustrating – or nearly impossible – schedule for far too long. If parents are open and cooperative, they should not hesitate to raise the possibility of modifying the custody arrangement.
Custody modifications are common when there is a substantial change in circumstances, such as changes to a job schedule, changes to the child’s schedule or activities, health conditions, or relocations. In such situations, parents can cooperate to find a new schedule that works for everyone. They can then submit the proposed modifications to the court, which can approve the new arrangement as long as it is in the best interests of the child. This allows the parents to continue co-parenting in accordance with the new arrangement with the least amount of stress on the child possible.
When Co-Parenting May Not Be Possible
While every parent may wish they could have a healthy co-parenting relationship, it is simply not possible in some situations. If an ex-spouse is abusive, has substance abuse problems, or otherwise provides an unhealthy environment for the child, it may be best to fight for sole custody from the start instead of trying to share parenting time. An attorney can evaluate when it may be worth it to fight for primary custody of your child based on your specific circumstances.
Furthermore, some spouses simply refuse to compromise in any way before, during, or after a divorce. If a spouse cannot let go of anger or has a personality disorder, it may be more trouble than it is worth to keep attempting to co-parent. All you can do is try your best and provide the physical, emotional, and financial support your child needs. You cannot control whether or not your ex-spouse is willing to co-parent. All you can do is set the best example you can for your child.
Paige is a highly skilled Denver divorce attorney at Colorado Legal Group, located in Denver, CO. She has been nominated as one of the Top 100 Family Law Attorneys in Colorado by the Association of American Trial Lawyers and as a Lawyer of Distinction.