If you have ever gone through or are going through a divorce in Texas than you almost assuredly have heard the term “co-parenting.” This is one of those words that you wouldn’t hear anything about but for your involvement with the divorce. Judges in Texas, attorneys and mediators are all fond of using Co-parenting as the typical advice given to parents who are apprehensive about raising a child in a divided household. Many quarts require you to take Co-parenting courses, either in person or online, before you are able to get divorced.
What exactly is co-parenting? The best I can tell you is that co-parenting generally speaking refers to when two parents who have gone through a child custody case or a divorce and now live in separate households, come together to coordinate their efforts in raising a child that they have together. Despite their differences and differing points of view when it comes to raising a child these parents will put aside their differences and raise it child based on a collective belief in what is in the best interests of that child.
The irony for many parents in this position is that they were unable to co-parent their child when living in the same house as the other parent. now those same parents are being asked to take on the challenge of raising a child with another person with whom they do not reside. Just when you think your job of working with this person you are divorcing his over with, you come to realize that the toughest part of that relationship is yet to come. However, co-parenting is the most important aspect of your relationship with your ex-spouse.
What I like to tell parents who are going through a child custody case or a divorce and are coming close to the finish line is that they don’t have to see eye to eye with their ex-spouse on every issue of parenting. You do not need to develop a respect, I love, or any other positive emotion toward this person. It is acceptable for you to be completely business like in your approach to Co-parenting. They may be difficult to do this as well, considering it is your child we are discussing here, but when it comes to interacting with your ex-spouse you do not need to turn into that person’s biggest fan
Identify the traits that you need to work on when it comes to resolving problems with your ex-spouse
You and I could probably spend all day discussing the shortcomings and failings of your ex-spouse in regard to his or her parenting style. your divorce may have been based on problems, but you had with how he or she parented your child. Now you are being asked to work hand in hand with this person to do what is best for your child and to lookout for his or her best interests. Before you accuse me in the courts of giving you an impossible task, I would invite you to take on a challenge that you can defeat. That challenge I am referencing is your dealing with your own shortcomings when it comes to parenting.
Whether we like to admit it or not there are areas in our life that need improvement. Coming off of a difficult divorce or child custody case may not be the most pleasant time to realize this but I’ve yet to meet a perfect parent- myself included. for instance, you may have issues with patience. You may be impatient with yourself, your child or even your ex-spouse. Going through a long and tedious divorce probably did not rid you of this quality. Keeping in mind that you have problems with patience can be a very important step to take towards being able to co-parent with a person who demands patience.
Why am I asking you to focus on yourself right now rather than to focus on your ex-spouse? The reality is that your ex-spouse is going to have their habits. These could be habits that you think are good and habits that you think are bad. If you weren’t able to change that persons habits while you were married to him or her and lived in the same household as him or her, why do you believe that you would be able to eliminate those habits you don’t like now that you are living apart from that person?
The reality is that you have a better chance to change your own bad habits then you do another person’s. Give yourself an opportunity away from social media, television, in external forces to really consider where you need to make changes in your life when it comes to working with an ex-spouse. Review your divorce in your mind and think about the opportunities that you may have had to deescalate the situation and chose not to. Think about the months leading up to your divorce and the disagreements that you and your ex-spouse would get into. Did you contribute to those disagreements? Could you have avoided a disagreement had you chosen to take a different perspective or approach with your ex-spouse?
While you cannot go back and change the course of your marriage or the course of your divorce you are fully able to change the course of how you plan on co-parenting with your ex-spouse. Your ex-spouse may not take the same approach with how he or she interacts with you and Co parents with you. All the positive steps you are taking in your life to benefit your child and you may never occur to your ex-spouse. Again, it is not your responsibility to ensure that your ex-spouse does all the things that you do.
What I like to tell clients about arguments is this: arguments are like fire. Fire needs oxygen to sustain itself. If you snuff out the oxygen in a room and the fire cannot grow and will die eventually. Think about arguments with your ex-spouse in the same way. Your ex-spouse may have a problem with something you’ve done or may have an issue with something regarding your child.
If he or she approaches you with anger it is up to you to redirect that anger towards a more productive end. If you meet anger with anger and you are supplying the oxygen at his or her fire needs to burn continuously. If you deny him or heard that anger his or her fire is much more likely to die out. Well the fire dies out you then have the opportunity to co-parent more effectively and earnestly with your ex-spouse.
Figure out the best way to communicate with your ex-spouse
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you and your ex-spouse do not communicate well. I don’t think it takes a divorce expert or a family law attorney with years and years of experience to tell you that marriages fail in large part because of a problem with communication. It may be that one of you has issues with anger or rage that makes communication very hard. It may be that there has been a violation of trust at some point in the relationship that has negated any communication skills you once possessed.
Whatever the case may be, you and your ex-spouse worked very hard for months to separate yourselves from one another emotionally, physically and legally. All that effort allowed you to get a divorce and to be able to move on into a post-divorce life. However, as we have touched on previously in today’s blog post the most challenging aspects of your relationship are still to come. Even if you are no longer husband and wife your children are depending on both of you to act as parents.
Children of divorced persons do not grade their parents on a sliding scale because they are now divorced. Think back to high school or college and that professor who graded your class on a curve. The curve functioned in a way that allowed the vast majority of your class to get the exact same grade. This was true even if the work that you produce was vastly different you could put forth D minus effort and get a C grade because of a curve.
Your kids will not begin to grade you on a curve as a parent just because you have chosen to get a divorce. Your children will still rely on you to provide the necessities of life and to do so in a loving and caring way. We can talk all day and all night about how tough and resilient children are, even children that have faced divorce in the home. The reality is that your children in their post-divorce life have the same needs as they always have. it may be that your children have greater needs now that you and your spouse are no longer married in the stability of your child’s life has been threatened.
With this being said you and your ex-spouse cannot choose to turn your backs on one another then go about your own plans when it comes to parenting your children. The essence of co-parenting is communication. As such, you and your ex-spouse need to figure out how you are going to communicate affectively for the best interest of your children. The only way you will discover how to communicate with him or her is to ask.
Fortunately for you and your ex-spouse technology can step in to assist people in your position. while the COVID-19 pandemic may prevent you and your ex-spouse from interacting in person with one another you are free to utilize the telephone, text messaging, email, Co-parenting websites and a range of other forums to communicate with your ex-spouse when it comes to parenting. Talk with your ex-spouse about how he or she prefers to communicate with you and what is the most effective and efficient means of doing so. You may find that must face to face contact with the person you have gone through a difficult divorce with maybe the best thing for yourselves and your children.
Don’t use your children as a way to get back at an ex-spouse
One of the unfortunate things that I see parents do in divorce cases is to use their children as a tool to get what they want from an ex-spouse. For instance, if you have been unable to pay child support since the beginning of this crisis because you lost your job your ex-spouse cannot withhold visitation from you with the kids until child support is paid. There are legal mechanisms for child support to be recovered when it is owed. Withholding visitation with the kids is not one of those mechanisms.
If you are using your children to punish your ex-spouse in some way this is a sure way for you to ruin your co-parenting relationship with him or her. If your children have to be separated from your ex-spouse during this time because of concerns over illness, then there should be something that is temporary. Communicate as often as possible with your ex-spouse so that he or she is aware of how your child is doing. Do not withhold communication and use the shutdown, stay at home orders or the virus itself as an excuse.
This is not an opportunity for you to attempt to drive a wedge between your children and your ex-spouse. Eventually this pandemic will come to an end and regular Visitation will resume for you and your family- if it hasn’t already. Be fair to your children and to your ex-spouse and you have how much better shot at affectively co-parenting with him or her during this pandemic.
Questions about Co-parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys are available six days a week to offer you free of charge consultations. These consultations can be held in person, over the phone or via video. We take a great deal of pride in serving our community and in helping families just like yours accomplish their goals in the area of Texas family law.