“It Wouldn’t be a Train Wreck without Innocent Bystanders”
There’s a lot of truth in that old proverb, and the children are the bystanders. Co-parenting (except in cases of abuse or other felonious behavior) is the best way to meet all your children’s needs and to assure that they maintain the close relationships with each parent that they have a right to enjoy.
The First Rule
Abide by every stipulation of the divorce/joint custody agreement. In Colorado, nobody violates family law without repercussions, especially if it’s a parent violating the court’s orders. When circumstances, like a sudden business trip or an illness, require you to adjust, both spouses need to be reasonable in handling it, including making the child part of the discussion when possible.
A Few Additional Suggestions
Calm Down: Anger, resentment, and jealousy are perfectly normal feelings after divorce. Learn to express those negative emotions positively that is away from the ex-spouse or the children. Talk to a friend, see a therapist or religious leader, get a pet, exercise more — there are numerous healthy ways to help you maintain an even emotional keel. (As a bonus, you’ll probably live longer, and you’ll be happier.)
Communicate Fully and Openly: Don’t make assumptions, ask questions. Don’t make demands, make requests. Keep the conversation child-focused and business-like. When the conversation gets stressed — stop; step back; breathe deeply; speak slowly. Listen carefully to everything the ex- says, and to what they aren’t saying.
Develop a Unified Discipline Plan: Parents’ often have different opinions on behavior, but two homes with different rules are going to confuse the children. Publicly, every child fights it, but children instinctively need routine and structure because predictability creates security.
Establish Boundaries: Not just for the kids, but for you and the ex-spouse. Since you are no longer married, you no longer have the right to personal information (like financial records) except as the court directs. You should care about the influences your ex- brings into the children’s lives, but keep it within limits. Who the ex- is dating (and what they do together) isn’t your business. If the new partner poses a threat, the court can intervene. If, on the other hand, you’re politically conservative and the new partner is politically liberal, live with it — in silence!
You’ve Made A Good Start, Keep Going
Hundreds of books have been written on co-parenting, these suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg. Walker Wright and Associates is a full-service family law practice serving Colorado families for more than 20 years. Your situation is uniquely yours, but we’ve dealt with enough families that we can help with yours.