You have a custody agreement or order and a parenting schedule. Now what happens? Here are some tips to help you peacefully co-exist as co-parents after your divorce is finalized.
1. Streamline Communications:
Even if you have sole legal custody (decision-making), you have to keep the other parent informed about the major decisions that you are making. That can be a lot to manage. Consider setting up a weekly email or phone call to go over all kid-related issues. Just make sure to keep your communications polite. It can be helpful to use one streamlined system for communicating. A number of Greenblatt Law’s clients have used Our Family Wizard, a web-based program aimed at helping parents communicate. Parents can send each other messages, share a calendar, keep track of expenses, and invite professionals involved with the family to view information. Whatever method you use to communicate, keep up with it. Keeping the other parent in the dark about decisions is a sure-fire way to land yourself back in court.
2. Get Organized:
If you are the more organized parent, consider mapping out a shared calendar at the beginning of each year (school or calendar) so that any adjustments can be made early enough for each of you to plan in advance. Keep all receipts for expenses you and your ex share saved on your computer so that you can send them along when it comes time to reconcile expenses. Check with schools to see if dual notifications can go out so that your ex is getting the same information directly from the school. Make sure you both are on all school and activity email distribution lists.
3. Be Flexible:
You spent a lot of time and money negotiating a parenting schedule but you may be asked to make changes to accommodate your ex’s requests. For example, your ex was invited skiing with another family and she wants to bring the kids but it falls during your parenting time. You have nothing planned but it bothers you because this is your time and you are a little jealous that your kids are going on such a great trip with your ex without you. Say yes. Negotiate a swap in the schedule and agree. This is about your kids, not you. Odds are that you will need to request some changes in the future and the goodwill you build by being flexible will make life easier for everyone.
4. Stop Using Your Children:
Your children should not be your messengers or your reporters, whether they are five or fifteen years old. Information or changes to the schedule should be passed between the parents, not the children. Also, do not subject your children to interrogation after spending time with their other parent. You may think a conversation in which you ask what was served for dinner, what time they went to bed, and whether they watched television or did homework is harmless but it is not. Asking your children to be your eyes and ears at the other parent’s home not only isn’t appropriate but also may backfire. If your children feel pressured by you to spy, they may not open up to you on their own if something important happens.
5. Let It Go:
You may have a lot of complaints about your former spouse. You and your ex probably parent differently but odds are that you both fall somewhere on the spectrum of good parenting. Differences in your parenting you may have noticed during your marriage can easily carry over into your co-parenting post-divorce relationship. Unless you have safety concerns about your ex’s parenting choices, just let it go.