Co-parenting can be a struggle. It takes maturity, humility and tenacity to succeed. At the end of the day, however, it is one of the best things you can do for your child's development, wellbeing and emotional stability.
As you move forward after a separation or divorce, take time to consider these tips for navigating joint custody with an estranged spouse. Above all, remember you both love your child and let that knowledge guide your efforts to work together.
- Compartmentalize: If you and your partner had a rough separation, there may be built up resentment, bitterness and sadness. As you co-parent, set these emotions aside and focus solely on your child's care. You may need to reconfigure how you relate to your ex-spouse, seeing them as a teammate who's helping raise your child, instead of your former lover and companion. Whatever you do, keep your child out of the middle and abstain from using him or her as a messenger or sounding board. Having healthy relationships with both parents, free of manipulation, is your child's best option.
- Communicate professionally: Obviously, honest and purposeful communication is necessary to co-parent, but keep your discussions focused on your child. Listen carefully to your ex-partner and try to understand where they're coming from. Make requests instead of making demands. Dedicate yourself to having frequent communication, even if it takes place via telephone or email. HelpGuide.org advises asking for the other parent's opinion on an issue you feel ambivalent about to cultivate respect and a positive foundation for compromise.
- Prioritize consistency: To nurture your child's sense of stability, both of you should operate by the same fundamental principles, especially regarding important issues, like off-limit activities, acceptable behaviors, curfews and school performance. That being said, don't get hung up on the little things, like your ex-spouse allowing late-night snacks when you don't. Put your energy into making crucial joint decisions regarding your child's medical needs, education and mental/social/spiritual wellness.
Sometimes, regardless if you're giving co-parenting your best effort, problems and questions about scheduling, visitation and other topics arise. Since your child's wellbeing is at stake in these matters, don't hesitate to contact an experienced child custody and family law attorney to get more information or help with legal proceedings.