If you have worked to get through a difficult divorce you will likely want
to take a step back and relax. You’ve made it through one of the
most difficult times in your life and have managed to keep your sanity
intact. What you are left with is the need to develop a strategy for working
with your ex-spouse on parenting your child.
That’s right! After all the effort you undertook to separate yourself
from your spouse you are still connected to him or her in regard to the
most important aspect of your life- your children. What if your ex-spouse
isn’t someone that you have any belief in as far as your ability
to co-parent? How can you both overcome your differences in order to raise
a happy, healthy and successful child?
These are the questions that we will be discussing today in our blog. Let’s
begin by addressing the most important aspect of co-parenting that I can
think of: communication.
Exchanging information between you and your ex-spouse
The benefit of living under the same roof as the other parent to your child
is that you and he/she ostensibly know the same things about your child.
Their schedule, their health status, whether or not medications need to
be taken, whether or not a jacket is needed for a field trip, etc. are
all issues that you would both know because you can look across the dinner
table and address the other person directly.
Once your divorce has been worked out those opportunities are largely gone.
You and your ex-spouse will not be spending that sort of quality time
moving forward and you’ll need to figure out a way to recreate that
sort of forum that allows for the free flow and exchange of information.
The information that you share with your ex-spouse regarding your child
must be accurate. By this I mean that you cannot tell a half truth or
outright “fib” just because the real story doesn’t comport
with your world view of opinions. If your child has been suspended from
school because she hit another student you can’t tell your ex-spouse
that she was suspended because she was upset at your ex-spouse and that
caused her to hit another child. The whole truth, and nothing but the
truth, needs to be shared.
Secondly, the complete story needs to be shared with your ex-spouse. Simply
telling your ex on a Friday evening that your child has a field trip on
Monday morning is not good enough. Provide the full context of whatever
update you are giving as far as date/time/location details. If special
clothing is needed or if something needs to be purchased from a store
tell him or her this. Your ex-spouse is not a mind reader and if you hold
all the cards as far as information is concerned you will need to be the
one to provide information as needed.
Third, the information that you need to share must come timely from you
directly to your ex-spouse. If your child has a homework assignment that
will be due on Monday morning don’t let your ex-spouse know about
it on Sunday night when your child is getting ready for bed. Give him
or her as much time as possible to prepare for the deadline and to get
any supplies needed to work on the assignment. It isn’t fair to
your spouse to cause him or her to run around at the last minute to do
something. It isn’t fair to your child to have to rush through a
project or to show up to a birthday party without a gift because you didn’t
tell your ex-spouse about the party until the day of.
Utilize co-parenting websites
In your divorce it may be ordered that you are to communicate primarily
with your ex-spouse over co-parenting websites like Our Family Wizard.
It could be that you and your ex-spouse have shown the inability to communicate
in other fashions and this method is to be utilized as a last resort.
It is critical that you utilize the sole method of communication that you
are ordered to use if that is what your divorce decree mandates. If you
are allowed other methods of communication that by all means utilize them
to the fullest.
Remember the Golden Rule
Do unto others, as others would do unto you. This is the age old, golden
rule that we’ve been told a million times in our lives. It’s
one thing to hear the rule be told us, it’s another to actually
live the rule.
When you parent after a divorce you are relying on your ex-spouse to be
fair, supportive and communicative with you and your child. This means
that if you would expect him or her to tell you something then you should
provide him or her with the same courtesy. The essential information that
is needed to complete an assignment at school, transport a child to a
ball-game or simply help out with a tough time with a friend, may be just
what your ex-spouse needs to help your child.
Don’t leave it up to him or her to “figure it out on their
own”. You need to be the bigger person and share information as
you would expect for it to be shared with you. What you will quickly find
out is that by being willing to share this information with him or her,
he or she will be willing to do the same with you. The end result will
be that there will not be an information that falls between the cracks
and hurts your child in some way.
A cautionary tale of what can happen if you and your ex-spouse do not communicate well
Let’s lay out a hypothetical story that could describe you and your
ex-spouse if you fail to communicate well together as divorced parents.
The lessons that we’ve learned so far in our blog post would have
solved these issues but, alas, the advice was not heeded.
You and your ex-husband have one child, a daughter, who just turned six.
You were both named joint conservators of your daughter in your divorce
and your possession schedule allows you to alternate one week on, one
week off with your daughter. Unfortunately you and your ex-husband do
not engage in good co-parenting techniques.
Your daughter will start kindergarten in August of this year and the school
district requires that she be immunized prior to starting school. While
you had your daughter you took your child to her pediatrician to get the
shots but you did not tell your ex-husband that you had done so. The following
week, you take your daughter to another doctor to get the same shots.
When both shot records are sent to the school the school nurse realizes
that your daughter received the same set of immunizations twice in two weeks.
Both you and your ex-husband wanted to do what is best for your child but
ended up harming her because of your inability to communicate and co-parent.
Exchanging accurate, complete and timely information with your ex-spouse
is crucial to treating your child well and ensuring their well being is
More on communication and co-parenting in tomorrow’s blog post
If you are interested in the subject of co-parenting please return to our
website tomorrow to learn more about this subject. In the meantime, please
contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan with any questions that you have
on this subject or any other in family law. A licensed family law attorney
can sit down with you at no charge to answer your questions. We offer
consultations six days a week in our office. Our attorneys represent clients
across southeast Texas and we would be honored to do the same for you
and your family.