Saturday, July 05, 2014

8 Tips on Successful Co-Parenting After Divorce

Divorce presents us with problems that don’t have easy answers.  The advantages of co-parenting after divorce are clear- by both parents participating in decision making- both parents are actively engaged in a child’s life.  But for most parents, having a low or no conflict relationship after the bitter struggle of divorce is just not realistic.  But if parents don’t consciously try to reduce conflict, one or the other may take the matter back to court which will cause stress and chaotic uncertainty while the case is pending, and may produce undesired results from the court who may modify custody in a cookie cutter way which worsen the situation.  Certainly taking an ex back to court to modify a custody order will cost a lot of money and will only worsen the relationship between the ex-spouses and make it even harder for them to communicate and co-parent in the future.

One fact is that after the divorce, parents no longer have an incentive to compromise.  Often there is one parent who is more cooperative at the beginning, but after some arguments and insults, they no longer cooperate and the relationship slides into chaos.

Its important to view co-parenting as both a short and long term venture.  Very few divorced couples have respectful, cooperative  relationships soon after the divorce.  But if you feel that this is how it will always be, you shouldn't give in to your more negative emotions.  While you may never consider each other best friends, most parents eventually settle into a civil relationship for the sake of the children.  To do this earlier than later, it is helpful to keep the following eight Tips in mind:

Tip 1:  Redefine your relationship

Try to see you ex not as friend, but as a business partner, and your child as a business.

Tip2:  Choose your battles

Recognize that you have some control over your child, but that there are some things you cannot control.  You can only do your best with the control you have. 

Tip 3:  Respect your ex’s relationship with your child

You have a unique relationship with your child, but your ex has an equal and separate relationship.  Unless there is abuse, your ex’s relationship is important to your child’s wellbeing.  Don’t interfere or sabotage that relationship.  This means not just overt sabotage such as keeping the child from having contact with the other parent, but also subtle sabotage such as bad-mouthing your spouse in front of your child.

Tip 4:  If you have a legitimate concern about your ex’s parenting, try to be diplomatic in how you bring it up.

Instead of “You should..” try “Perhaps just consider..”
Instead of “I think you ought to..”, try “Obviously, its up to you..”
Instead of “The way I do things..”, try “In case this is helpful..”
Instead of “Try it this way..”; try “It may not work for you, but here’s something that worked for me..”
Instead of “Here’s the solution”, try “Of course you can figure out your own solutions, but here’s an idea if you want to consider it..”

The point is, before you contact the other parent, mentally prepare yourself to resist the urge to explode in anger, call names, or shut down the communication.  Whether you succeed in avoiding a fight over the issue or not, you will find a little effort on your part will go a long way to your concern actually being addressed.

Tip 5:  Make it a point to ensure your ex is included in your child’s life.

If you get information about an event in your child’s school, extracurricular activities and other important occasions in your child’s life, inform the other parent as soon as possible.  It is hard to be angry with someone who is making a real effort to keep you in the loop.

Tip 6:  Be flexible.

Work with your ex to accommodate special occasions.  Life is not always on a schedule.  Be willing to switch weekends, or modify pick up or drop off times.  Hopefully the other parent will reciprocate when you want some flexibility.  But even if they don’t, remember your flexibility is often for your children’s benefit, not the other parent’s.

Tip 7:  Co-parenting does not mean “equal parenting”.

Just because you are sharing time with your child doesn't mean that each parent will be all things to a child during that time.  We all fall into natural roles in parenting and that doesn't change because of an artificial court order.  One parent may more naturally be a more emotionally nurturing parent.  Another may be a more experientially stimulating parent.  There are many roles to play as a parent and we have to acknowledge that we can’t be all things at all times.  It doesn't make your ex a “bad parent” if they aren't playing the same roles as you.  Your child will thrive if all aspects of parenting are given by both parents.

Tip 8:  Whenever you are making a decision about your child, put her best interest as the first consideration.

Try to separate your personal issues with your ex from the decision you make for your child.  Don’t say “no” just because your ex says “yes”.   Especially soon after a divorce, you may need to get the advice of a disinterested person such as family, friends, clergy or a therapist.  When making decisions, you need to hold your child’s best interest in mind and put down the old emotional baggage.

Most parents want to do what is right for their children, but the intense emotions of divorce often cloud their views.  Being a successful co-parent means being self-disciplined in your communications with the other parent and raising your child’s needs above your own hurt.  It may be difficult now, but if you keep trying your best, co-parenting will get easier over time.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

What Should I Think About Before Relocating With Children

If you are current engaged in divorce, are thinking about a divorce, or are post divorce, you may have thought about moving your children to another city, state or even country.

Although the idea of a fresh start in a new place may sound appealing, it may not be as easy as you think especially if 
children are involved.

Before you rush into any decision, here are three tips to consider before you start packing:

1.  Is this move really in the children's best interest?

When you relocating your children, you are moving them away from the other parent.  That may sound like a good idea, but for your children this may be a devastating move.  As Texas courts do, you must also think about what is in the best interest of the children before you make any moves.  If your ex-spouse has possession time with the children, chances are that your decree has a geographic restriction on the residency of the child.  it will not be easy to convince the courts to lift those restrictions and allow you to move away unless you have a very compelling reason.  Remember also that you will be moving your children from both family and friends and they will have much more limited access to that support system.   If you have to litigate this matter, it may be a long time before you get a ruling from the Court, so timing of your move is also a critical consideration.  If your children are old enough, you should open a dialogue with them very 
early on so you can access their wishes on whether they want to move at all.

2.  Develop a plan.

Have you thought everything through?  What school will your children attend?  Is that school as good or better than the 
 one they are leaving?  Who is going to take care of the children when you cant?  Do you have family or friends nearby?  Many parents consider relocating for work.  Is your job definite or a "maybe"?  Is the new job really a better opportunity?  The court will be asking these and many more hard question.  You better have a good answer and a solid plan.

3.  Talk with the other parent

Communicate with the other parent about your proposed move.  Who knows?  You may be shocked to find they are 
willing to cooperate with the move.  That's the best scenario and would save you considerable litigation costs.  By 
communicating you can together develop an appropriate parenting plan and visitation schedule.  Communication can also promote creative solutions such as virtual visitation through Skype or Face-time.  Open communication and assurance that you are not trying to cut the other parent out of the children's life will make deciding details such as travel 
expenses for visitation and other issues much easier and without expensive litigation.  

There are just a few of the important considerations you have to take into account if you are thinking of relocating your children.  You should talk with an experienced family lawyer about all the factors that the court will take into account.  

Ultimately, relocation with children should not be an impulsive decision, but rather one that is well thought out  and planned appropriately.