Tips for Co-Parenting after Divorce

Let me start by saying, I am one of the world’s biggest supporters and advocates for marriage. There is thankfully no divorce on either side of our family. This blog post is by no means meant to encourage divorce. I believe divorce should be a very last resort.  Divorce is, however, the statistic for one out of every two marriages, and so today I wanted to offer tips to those people affected. My greatest hope is that if you are currently struggling in your own marriage or relationship, this will be your wake-up call to get off the fence and get help, before it is too late.

Erica

By Guest Blogger Scott Morgan

As a divorce lawyer, I see people on a daily basis dealing with the aftermath of separation and divorce. In those cases where the couple has children, the unavoidable reality is that the children are likely to experience much more emotional turmoil and anxiety than the parents anticipate.

As a father of two young children (ages five and seven), I consider myself very fortunate to have a healthy marriage and a stable family for my children to grow up in. As I tell my clients, if you have children, you owe it to yourself and to them to see if there is any way to work things out so that you can have a happy, well-adjusted family. Yes, it is possible. Unfortunately, often after much of a fight to keep a marriage together, sometimes there is simply no remaining practical option but to divorce and start over. When this is the case, it is time to focus on co-parenting.

While most parents agree that they want to do what is in their children’s best interest, following through with that can often be challenging. Here are some tips to help you move past the pain and work with your ex-spouse.

Effective Co-Parenting is the Best Way to Help Your Children Adapt to the Divorce

Your divorce will affect your children; this is an unavoidable fact. Working together on a healthy co-parenting arrangement will help your children adjust to this major change. They need to know they are still loved in order to feel secure during this time. However, the benefits extend beyond childhood security and self-esteem.

Learning how to solve problems. Children learn how to work through their issues by watching their parents. If the parents are locked in a battle of wills that is fraught with name-calling and spitefulness, then the children will learn the same behavior. Even though you have divorced, you and your ex can still be partners. Your cooperation and willingness to move past the pain will teach your child how to resolve issues and work together.

Consistent rules are more productive. Children of divorced parents will learn quickly how to play both sides of the fence in order to get their way. Working together eliminates this problem. Even though you are divorced, you will still have to come to an agreement on key issues and abide by those agreements. When the rules, discipline and rewards are consistent between the households, everyone will benefit.

Set the Pain Aside

Divorces usually come packed with emotions. It is normal to feel angry, resentful and hurt, especially in divorces where abuse, neglect or infidelity played a role. It is vital that you find a way to set those feelings aside. This is the time to focus on your child’s needs. The co-parenting arrangements are not about your relationship with your ex-spouse, they are about your child’s relationship with both of you. Remember that your children should never be your sounding board for problems with your ex, nor are they your support for the emotions you are going through. Call your friends, join a therapy group or find a great counselor to fill this role. Your job is to support your children and the co-parenting arrangements, and that means keeping your negative feelings about your ex to yourself.

Be the Adults

It is tempting to have your kids deliver messages, but this puts your child squarely in the middle and undermines your co-parenting efforts. Be an adult about the situation, pick up the phone and talk with your ex-spouse. It will be awkward at first, but it will get easier with time. Most importantly, it will benefit your children. Here are some tips to help you communicate effectively and avoid fighting over the phone.

  • Keep a formal tone. When you view the relationship with your ex as a business partnership, it will become easier to stay civil. Remember that the important party here is your child, and use the same respectful tone with your former spouse that you would use with an important customer or colleague.
  • Ask, do not demand. Remember the old saying that you will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar? When you need something from your spouse, ask nicely rather than demanding.
  • Listen to your ex-spouse. It is tempting to tune out everything your former partner is saying, but that is not what’s in your child’s best interests. Listening does not necessarily mean that you agree, but it does show respect and will help keep things on a positive note.
  • Calm and collected. Your ex-partner is not going to go away, so you will have to find some way to work together until your child is grown. Getting angry after a conversation or fighting with your ex on the phone will cause your child a great deal of stress. It is in your child’s best interest for you to find ways to stay calm when dealing with the ex.
  • Kid-focused conversations. Discussions with your partner can sometimes degenerate into complaint sessions about old issues. When the conversation starts to shift in this manner make an effort to turn the focus back to the children.

Co-parenting arrangements can be difficult to put in place, but they are extremely important. Your children will benefit greatly from watching you and your ex-spouse work together. In addition to feeling more secure and loved, they will also learn important problem solving skills. The road won’t always be easy, but your children will benefit greatly from your efforts.

About Scott Morgan

Scott Morgan is a board certified divorce lawyer in Austin, Texas who regularly blogs on the subject of divorce and family law. You can read his blog at AustinDivorceSpecialist.com.

I have to say, reading this post today makes me sad. Tell us, have you been affected by divorce? Are you a divorced parent currently doing your best to co-parent in the most effective way possible for you and your children? How can you properly co-parent if you are angry or resentful? How can you even AVOID divorce in the first place? Please share any tips with our readers.

xoxEDxox

28 Comments
  1. Scott these tips are spot on. I am a divorced mother with two kids and it took my ex and I a very long time to get here but I can finally say we are co-parenting in harmony and it has made all the difference for our children.

  2. Kelly, congratulations on the way you and your ex have grown into a mature co-parenting relationship. You should be proud of how you have handled the situation and put your kids best interest first.

    For anyone who reads this and feels like they are in a marriage that is spiraling towards divorce I highly recommend another post on Erica’s blog – http://womenonthefence.com/2011/03/31/how-i-saved-my-marriage/ . Divorce is a last resort and a lot of other couples have been where you are and have managed to fix their marriages.

  3. Great post! It took my ex husband and I 4 very long years to co-parent. The effort we put in was worth it! One thing to remember: there are no easy way when your marriage is in trouble. It is hard to try to fix it but even harder to go throught a divorce. The problems you have with your relationship have to be resolved whether you stay togethet or divorce. Think about it!

  4. That is great Cathy, I am happy for you and especially happy for your kids. I know this will sound odd coming from a divorce lawyer, but I really believe that many parents do not give enough thought before divorce about what life will be like post-divorce. They think that their ex will be out of their life, but this is far from the what actually happens. The reality is a lot more complicated – new stepparents, boyfriends/girlfriends of your ex or lifestyle choices that you may not necessarily approve of, etc.

  5. Hi Scott,

    You are so right. Here is one of the things I did and there are many more stories……

    4 years ago, my kids asked me to buy a gift for their dad’s girlfriend (the girl he left me for….) after taking a deep breath, I decided to buy the gift. I told myself that if the kids wanted to buy her a gift it has to mean that she is nice with them and that they care about her. The smile on their face when they told me how much she loved the gift they bought for her was priceless.

    1. Cathy, how brave, mature and what a wonderful mother you are to put your kids first. This is me bowing down to YOU. 🙂

    2. Hi Cathy,

      First off I bow down to you as well. That was incredibly big of you. Second, I am working on a show right now about parallel or co-parenting after divorce. Being that you are currently experiencing this I was wondering if you would be interested in speaking with me. If so please email me with your phone number and photo of your family to amoracasting@gmail.com. Thank you!

  6. Great post and such an important topic that unfortunately does not get enough attention or support. All children need to be allowed, and encouraged, to freely love both their parents no matter the circumstances. So terribly unfortunate how many children have to navigate the treacherous waters of one parent’s hatred for the other.

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  7. This is great advice for people who aren’t dealing with someone with a personality disorder. I’ve been trying to get my ex to go to mediation to create a parenting plan, boundaries, and be on the same page for over a year. He refuses, so I have to get him to go to court now. They will make him go to mediation. It’s just incredible how someone would rather be told by a judge to go to mediation, than take that step on their own. I’m really anxious for the first time in my life and in therapy now because of the stress. I don’t want to be. I want to move on but my ex makes it difficult and he is a habitual button pusher who does do things that are related to parenting. Frustrating. I wish co-parenting was an option. To make it worse, I’m a social worker who specializes in children’s issues. If a parent came into my office and told my story, I would have concerns for the child. My ex doesn’t validate my knowledge or experiences at all. It’s all about him. Sad.

    1. Reading your comment just proves that you have a disorder to. You have put all the blame on your ex. I bet if your ex were to comment on here, he would say the same about you. You said “My ex doesn’t validate my knowledge or experiences at all. It’s all about him. Sad.” Just because your a social worker that “specializes in children’s issues” doesn’t mean you know how to handle every issues. If that were the case you would still be married. You need to start accpepting some of the blame also. Stop blaming him for everything. “My ex doesn’t validate my knowledge or experiences” LMAO Wow.. You really put yourself on a high pedstal. I have known marriage counselors that get divorced. I have never heard them say anything like that. Your comment also tells me that you, let’s say “difficult” to be married to.

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