Most divorces occur due to an elevated level of tension and disagreement between spouses. If divorcing spouses don’t have children together, then the two parties can usually walk away with little contact going forward. But in many cases, parents must be able to work together and co-parent their children after the divorce. This can be no small feat if ex-spouses harbor feelings of betrayal, distrust and general negativity toward one another.
Moving forward, parents need to keep the best interests of their children in mind and avoid arguing in front of them whenever possible. Divorce is particularly difficult for children, and observing ongoing conflict between their parents will only make it worse.
Avoiding conflict down the road
So how can both parties minimize this negativity? One major opportunity to do so comes during the divorce process while negotiations are underway to reach a settlement agreement. Part of that process involves the development of a parenting plan in which the parents will decide issues of legal and physical custody and parenting time.
Normally, the parties will negotiate the parenting plan through their respective attorneys so face-to-face time is minimized. The more details the parties can agree to upfront, the fewer opportunities they will have to argue about parenting issues later on. For example, creating a parenting schedule that dictates where the kids will be during holidays, school breaks, birthdays and other important occasions provides a road map for navigating those events without conflict. Parents can even decide in advance how to hand off their children in a way that requires minimal face-to-face interaction between one another.
Assigning legal custody
In addition, the parents and their attorneys must come to an agreement on legal custody, which determines who has the legal responsibility to make decisions about important matters like health care, education and religion. The parents may share these powers or they may be assigned to one parent. Determining who will handle these responsibilities during divorce negotiations will help to prevent conflict later on.