Written by Jennifer E. Drury, Drury Pullen, A Professional Law Corporation
March 11, 2022
If you have children, co-parenting starts the day you decide the marriage is over. Even the most amicable divorces need a plan for future co-parenting. Putting your children’s best interests first, no matter what, is the key to co-parenting.
The first thing you must do is decide if you and your spouse are able to talk about co-parenting after the divorce. If you can, that is great. The strongest agreements will come from the two of you. However, if you cannot talk about co-parenting, don’t!! Let professionals such a mediators and therapists assist both of you with co-parenting discussions. This is an important an issue and needs to be handled the right way.
Mediation is a great way to resolve matters out of court with your co-parent. It can be less costly, both emotionally and financially, than a court battle. Best of all, an out of court settlement will likely help you and your co-parent work better together moving forward.
Here are a few tips to help with positive co-parenting:
Plan everything in your marital settlement agreement.
Do not leave any decisions to, “We can work it out on our own later.” The more thorough and detailed you are now, the better co-parents you will be because there will be fewer things to disagree about. Not detailing everything for your children now almost guarantees future disagreements, emergency court dates and potentially lots of attorney fees. A wise attorney once told me, “the devil is in the details.” This is especially true in custody agreements. You want your agreement to be thorough to avoid pitfalls and future disagreements, but you also want to leave a little room for flexibility (e.g. it is great to detail that each parent gets two weeks of vacation time; but, is the intention to take one two-week holiday, or two one-week holidays? Or, does it matter?)
Limit your discussions about money to the bare minimum and do not involve the children.
Instead each of you do your best to write out future expenses for the kids (possibly as part of the financial statement for the divorce) and each pick expenses they will pay for. Will this be exactly 50/50 every year? Of course not. However, over the years, it will balance out. When things change, you sit down as parents and restructure who pays what, but remember, if you can’t talk about, bring in a professional to help.
Plan ahead for the introduction of significant others.
This is a very touchy subject, especially when the divorce is due to an affair. However, to limit future problems, this issue should be addressed as part of your initial discussions and your agreement should be included in your settlement agreement.
Plan meetings-whether you anticipate problems or not, it is a good idea to schedule regular meetings with your co-parent. These meetings can always be cancelled or rescheduled, if things are going well, but scheduled meetings give you and your co-parent an opportunity to discuss what has been working, what does not work, financial issues, and future scheduling.
Consider using trained professionals such as child custody mediators rather than the court system.
The use of trained professionals can be quite useful during the divorce as well as after when any co-parenting problems arise. Mediators, parenting coordinators and trained therapists can save you a lot of heartache, money and time, and help ensure your children will continue to have the love and respect of two parents.
Co-parenting after a divorce is not always easy. It takes commitment, flexibility and, at times, compromise for the sake of your children. Parents often are inflexible about the most insignificant issues. A well drafted and detailed divorce agreement is helpful but will never answer all the issues that can arise between co-parents. Being flexible and open minded will help you and your co-parent work through difficult issues. Being a good parent after divorce is about making sacrifices and doing what is best for your children. Learn more about mediation here.
Jennifer E. Drury, Drury Pullen, APLC, is a trained California attorney mediator whose practice is focused on mediating disputes related to family law and divorce. Ms. Drury is based out of Santa Barbara, California but maintains a virtual mediation practice with the ability to work with families throughout California. Virtual mediations are conducted via Zoom and are designed to save the parties time and money so those precious resources can be reserved for family use. CLICK HERE to schedule a consultation.