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Navigating the new normal: core principles for beginners in sharing child custody and co-parenting

| Feb 16, 2021 | Divorce |

Divorce brings about a host of emotionally-charged changes in your day-to-day life. Many newly-divorced couples find the tasks of managing new child custody arrangements and transitioning into co-parenting among the most challenging. 

Advice about how to navigate the evolution of your relationship with your co-parent and your children is plentiful. We can’t promise to add anything new to what you may have already heard.  

The evolution of your relationship with your co-parent and children is ever-changing. Based on our years of experience in family law, these core principles may make the transition in these relationships easier to navigate.

Core principle #1: the kids’ interests come first

You and your co-parent made the decision to end your marriage. Your children did not. They likely feel upended, confused and saddened by the situation. You owe it to them to put their interests in front of your own right now by doing everything you can to ensure they feel stable, loved and heard.

Try to approach every decision you make in the coming weeks and months considering whether it is in your children’s best interest. You won’t always succeed (see Core principle #4 below), but what’s important is the effort.

Core principle #2: co-parenting is not a competition

A contentious divorce forces you and your former spouse into a competitive mindset, particularly if you leave it to a court or arbitrator to decide issues like asset division and child custody.  

In divorce litigation, that mindset may seem inevitable. However, it is utterly antithetical to co-parenting. Successful co-parents set aside competition when it comes to managing and participating in children’s lives, and focus instead on collaboration. 

Therefore, we urge you to dispense the notion you are in a competition with your co-parent over who is the better parent. Forego all instincts to compete with your ex over how much fun you and your kids have when you’re together, or which parent your child seems to favor at any given moment. It’s a road to nowhere that will only interfere with Core principle #1.   

Core principle #3: trust in the virtue of routine co-parenting communication

New co-parents understandably find it difficult to communicate at times. Emotion gets the better of them, or they shut-down and refuse to interact. 

Those are human instincts, but they do nothing for you as a co-parent. Smooth sailing in sharing child custody and co-parenting duties requires communication about the kids that uses clear language, sticks to relevant topics, and occurs on a predictable schedule.

It may feel difficult at first, but establishing a communication routine virtually guarantees long-term co-parenting success. If necessary, agree with your co-parent on a preset format for emailing or texting each other about the kids, to avoid straying into unproductive fights or upsets. 

Core principle #4: be gentle with yourself and your co-parent

Divorce does not stop the rest of your life from happening. You and your co-parent will go through ups-and-downs together and individually, many of which would have happened regardless of divorce. 

Therefore, cut yourself a break when you feel like you are having a rough go of it. By the same token, remember that your co-parent may have a bad day here and there, too. You can do right by yourself and your children if you choose to go easy on your co-parent in those moments.