An important part of what we do at Higgins Law is help our divorcing clients who have minor children identify custody and visitation arrangements that will be in the children’s best interests and work for the families. It may be possible to negotiate a parenting plan between the parties and if not, we will educate the judge about the children’s best interests and strongly advocate for clear and effective parenting time orders crafted to the children’s advantage.
“Co-parenting” is a term that describes an amiable postdivorce parenting relationship in which the divorced parents work together to create a new family situation that is consistent between the parents’ two households, supports the children by putting their needs first, minimizes their exposure to conflict, and that is purposed to insure those children’s well-being. Implicit in this co-parenting dynamic is the inherent recognition that each parent has the right to a positive relationship with his or her children, despite the divorce.
According to an article in Divorce Magazine, studies have shown that children with minimal exposure to parental conflict are more resilient and that the most painful part of divorce for kids is parental tension. A respected psychologist is cited in the article stating that positive relationships with both parents give kids “better psychological and behavioral adjustment, and enhanced academic performance.”
The author of the article emphases the struggle that a child with conflicting loyalties suffers when one parent makes a child choose between the parents and denigrates the other parent in the presence of the child.
In a co-parenting arrangement, the parents commit to open, honest and ongoing communication. The children’s interests and their well-being are the hallmarks of this type of parenting.
When the conflict between divorced spouses is too high to effectively co-parent, a structure that may work for the children and family is “parallel parenting.” In this arrangement, the divorced parents keep their distance from one another with limited contact. If they cannot keep direct contact respectful, a communication protocol will be ordered.
Suggested guidelines include:
- Use “nonpersonal and business-like” communication and only communicate about issues that impact the “children’s well-being.”
- Do not communicate through the children.
- Share schedules using a calendar or in written communication. Make changes to the children’s schedule only by written agreement.
- Share no personal information.
The author recommends that whichever of these two parenting arrangements they find themselves in to try to be enthusiastic, or at least not negative about a child’s visits to the other parent.
Of course, in extreme situations, when the other parent has exhibited behaviors that make a healthy relationship with the children questionable or dangerous, you will need to talk to an attorney (and mental health professional, if appropriate) about how to put the children’s best interests first in developing custody and visitation arrangements.