How to Co-Parent Effectively After Separation or Divorce

When you and your spouse separate to begin a divorce process it may feel like your relationship with your spouse has come to an end. In many ways it has. The two of you will no longer be living together and the end of your marriage is quickly approaching. The person that you have shared an extended period of your life with will no longer be your spouse or partner. In this way, your relationship with him or her truly is coming to an end.

On the other hand, while your marriage relationship will be coming to an end that does not mean you will not share an important relationship with him or her moving forward. Specifically, you will still share a co-parenting relationship with your ex-spouse even after your divorce. When it comes to co-parenting, you and your ex-spouse will need to learn how to manage conflicts, foster a working relationship with one another, and put the best interests of your children first when it comes to decision-making circumstances.

If you are just beginning a divorce, then it can seem like an impossible proposition to imagine a circumstance where you and your co-parent can work together amicably. Even when it comes to a subject as important as your children the two of you may be in disagreement on so many issues that finding yourself in a circumstance where you can put aside your differences and work together for a common cause may not seem realistic at all. Because we don’t know your specific circumstances, there is no way to tell if this is true or if it just feels that way to you.

However, make no mistake that you and your co-parent can at least work towards building the framework of a relationship that can allow you to effectively raise a child together. While there will be some emphasis put on this by your family court judge the real work has to be done by you and your ex-spouse. Simply hoping that the two of you will be able to work together better on issues related to your children after you get divorced than you were able to during the marriage is not likely to result in any tangible differences in parenting.

Rather, the best that you and your co-parent can do is to take steps to set aside certain differences and focus on your common goals associated with raising a child together. There are relational problems that you will have to overcome as well as logistical issues associated with living in a household separate from your co-parent. These are all challenges that you will need to be intentional about overcoming. That means creating goals for the two of you and working to achieve those goals together. But those goals and how you go about achieving them will depend upon your specific circumstances as well as the needs of your children.

In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we are going to share with you our thoughts on how to co-parent effectively after you separate or get divorced from your spouse. These will be practical tips that are intended to help you make progress with your co-parent today when it comes to improving how you approach co-parenting and what you can do to better manage conflict and overcome adversity in this important post-divorce relationship. Bearing in mind that it is your child who stands to benefit or be harmed most by this relationship, we are glad to be able to share some perspective about this subject with you today.

Communication is key

When it comes to being able to co-parent effectively after a divorce or child custody case the name of the game is communication. There is no doubt that you are very likely to find yourself in a position where you do not agree with your co-parent on every subject related to your children. Those disagreements may have directly led to you separating from your spouse for getting divorced in the first place. However, now that you have chosen to get a divorce you will be entering into a situation where being able to communicate effectively with your co-parent will be very important.

However, we also realize that communication may not be something that you excel at especially regarding your co-parent. Very few of us are born gifted communicators. This means that we must work at communicating to become better at this skill. You and your co-parent should take the time necessary to work with one another to improve your communication skills. This can begin with learning how to communicate with one another. The way that you communicate with your Co-parent may not be the best way to communicate with your boss or best friend. However, you can learn directly from your co-parent how he or she prefers to be communicated with.

Ironically, this is the kind of skill that you perhaps should have been working on throughout your marriage. However, by being able to work towards better communication now that you were going through a divorce you can improve upon your ability to talk through difficult situations with your co-parent regarding your children. For example, you may want to talk with your co-parent about their preferred way to get in touch with you. You may be in favor of face-to-face conversations on difficult subjects. On the other hand, your spouse may prefer to talk through subject matter related to your children over the phone or even over e-mail. Whichever method you all ultimately choose to use will depend upon your personal preferences and strengths.

Ultimately, however, you choose to communicate with your co-parent is fine. So long as you both can communicate effectively and without reservation, it is possible to be respectful towards one another. If you find yourself becoming less than respectful towards your co-parent in daily communication, then you may want to take a step back and think about a better way to approach the situation. You may find that you are better off addressing these issues in a different way than you had anticipated.

Consistency in discipline

One of the reasons why people can struggle after getting divorced from a co-parenting perspective is the inability or unwillingness to parent the children as a team. You and your spouse may have struggled to form a bond when it came to parenting while you were married. Now that you are getting a divorce it can be even more difficult for you to see eye to eye or to even discover what you have in common as far as working together to raise your children. Every family goes through difficulties when it comes to raising children. No kids are perfect, and no parents are perfect. Inevitably, you and your co-parent will be forced to agree or at least have an understanding of how to approach issues regarding your children.

If discipline problems become an issue in your household, then you and your co-parent will have to figure out how you all are going to approach those problems as a team. When your child is acting up at school or not completing their homework on time that is a potential situation where you and your co-parent will need to act as a team to benefit your child and strengthen your co-parenting relationship. The real question that the two of you need to ask yourselves is how you are going to go about doing this.

One of the first places that your child will look when responding to discipline from either one of you is to determine if there is a united front between you and your co-parent. If your child determines quickly that you and your co-parent are not on the same page when it comes to discipline, then he or she will certainly take advantage of this. Much of the time, a child will determine which parent is less strict when it comes to discipline and will begin to favor that parent. Or your child may even attempt to manipulate the parent who is less strict on discipline to be able to have less strict consequences at the other parent’s home.

To better coordinate and have consistent discipline in both your house and that of your co-parent, you and your co-parent should communicate regularly about the problems that your child is experiencing and how to combat those problems. If you are not allowing your child to have dessert at home because their grades have been slipping at school, then you should communicate this to your co-parent. While he or she may not take on the same form of discipline that you are, he or she can choose to implement their punishment or discipline to combat the issue.

Ideally, what you want to see in a situation like this is both you and your co-parent presenting a level playing field as far as discipline and response to behavioral issues. While the punishments and discipline do not have to be the same, they should be equal in terms of severity and extent. If your child was suspended from school for fighting, then appropriate discipline should be handed out at home. If you discipline by requiring your child to do their schoolwork at a certain time and place after school every day while your ex-spouse disciplines by taking away television time but does nothing else then these forms of discipline are not exactly equal. Your child will notice this discrepancy and can play you and your co-parent against one another as a result.

It is especially important for the parent who has primary custody of your child to communicate issues at school to the non-primary parent. The school should be communicating with both parents when it comes to disciplinary and school issues. However, schools sometimes neglect to do so. As a result, it likely falls on the primary conservator to give updates on discipline and other problems at school. Otherwise, the parent with visitation rights may not know the full story simply by asking questions of the child himself or herself.

Discipline should be a part of any child’s life. However, it is up to the child’s parents, in this case, you and your co-parent, to determine the type and extent of the discipline. If you and your co-parent can consistently communicate about the discipline you are more likely to find success in creating good behavior and fixing bad behavior. However, you and your co-parent must be intentional about performing these steps daily.

Set your ego aside and do what is best for your children

This can be a monumental challenge for many families during and after a divorce case. It can be difficult to admit to yourself that you were wrong or made a bad decision when it comes to parenting. We as parents tie so much of our self-worth up to how our children perform in various capacities such as in school, athletics, or even in their behavior. As a result, when our children do not meet our expectations, it can be troublesome to learn that something we did or recommended was not received well.

By the same token, our children may have been better served by taking the advice of our co-parents. After having gone through a difficult divorce process it can sometimes be a bitter pill to swallow when you find out that your co-parent provided better advice or had a better plan of action regarding a particular issue than you did. Being able to accept the reality of your co-parent providing good perspective and advice does not have to be the source of anger or anything like that from you. However, to get to the stage where you are comfortable accepting circumstances like this it may mean setting aside your pride and instead looking to what is in the best interests of your children.

When you were going through a family law case, it was presumed that you and your co-parent were making decisions in the best interest of your children. If your case went before a judge for a hearing or a trial then the judge was responsible for making decisions that were also in the best interests of your child. Now that your family case is done and over with you are still responsible for making decisions that are in the best interest of your children. The only difference now is that a judge will not be looking over your shoulder to make sure that you are doing so. It is up to you and your co-parent to hold one another responsible for making sure that your children are being looked after with their own best intentions in mind.

It is important to understand situations from an objective standpoint where you may be acting in your own best interests or based on your pride rather than what is truly in the best interests of your children. Family courts acknowledge that parents may have different interests than their children at certain points in family law cases. This can occur when an attorney ad litem is appointed to your case to ensure that your child’s interests are being considered during the process of your divorce. Most frequently this occurs in contested custody circumstances where you and your co-parent do not agree on who should be named as the managing conservator of your child, for example.

Overall, it can be an exceptional challenge to co-parent with a person that you recently divorced. However, you can rest assured that by setting aside your differences with your co-parent you are doing a lot of good on behalf of your child. Depending upon the age of your child you may be looking at more than a decade’s worth of co-parenting responsibility. You can decide to allow this to be an extremely negative circumstance for you and your children or allow it to be a circumstance where your child can benefit, and you can learn how to help your child in conjunction with your co-parent.

If you find yourself looking at a situation involving co-parenting and have questions or concerns about how to move forward, then you have a great resource available to you in the Law Office of Bryan Fagan and our experienced family law attorneys. No group of attorneys in the city of Houston or Southeast Texas has a team like ours that combines experience, empathy, results, and of focus on client outcomes. You can reach out to us today to learn more about your case and how we may be able to assist you in a divorce or post-divorce circumstance involving you and your family.


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