By now, you have probably heard the term “co-parenting” a time or two during your family law case. If you are being honest with yourself, you have probably heard the term used about a dozen times. Coparenting refers to the act of raising a child with your ex-spouse or significant other. Based on the dynamics of the relationship this is a difficult situation to find yourself in. On the one hand, you want to be able to raise your child effectively and are willing to make sacrifices to do it. On the other hand, it is not always easy to be in a position where you are making decisions on behalf of your child in conjunction with the person that you do not see eye to eye with on many issues.
However much of a challenge you anticipate co-parenting to be, the inverse of that belief is that it offers your child the greatest opportunity to grow up in a stable and nurturing environment. The reality of the situation is that you and your co-parent are not going anywhere. You are both going to be there for your child moving forward and no matter what happened in your family law case you need to be able to move past it and develop something of a relationship with this person. This can be easier said than done and can make for a difficult transition into life after a family law case.
In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we are going to share with you our thoughts on how your family can manage this transition. Whether you have one child or a half dozen, being able to manage this period in a relationship is critically important to the development of your children. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan have been through this transition with many families and we are here to be able to help you learn more about how your family can benefit from coparenting. If you have any questions about the material that you have read about today, then please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan for a free-of-charge consultation.
Co-parenting during a family law case
For those of you who are still in the middle of a family law case, this is an important time for you to be able to learn how your relationship with your co-parent can impact your child positively. Being skeptical of your ability to co-parent is normal in a situation like this. Odds are if you were an effective co-parent then you would not be in this situation in the first place. However, now that you find yourself involved in a family law case it is time to make the best of a difficult circumstance. There are certainly ways that you can do this that require some sacrifice.
You will first need to come to terms with the nature of your relationship with your co-parent. Family history will always make a difference when it comes to co-parenting. Depending upon your relationship with your co-parent it could be easier said than done when it comes to managing that relationship effectively. Certainly, if there is a history of family violence or other difficulties like this then co-parenting may be especially troublesome or downright impossible. However, if your family has a typical dynamic of disagreements over day-to-day matters then there is a definite possibility that you all can become effective co-parenters.
An important consideration that you should think about is the reality of co-parenting should be based on what is in the best interest of your child versus what is in your best interests. As parents, we can sometimes forget that our children have interests that may be opposed to our own. This means that what could benefit our children may not be beneficial for us. Many times, parents will presume that their children have no preference or simply don’t care about a particular issue in their lives when the reality is quite different. For younger children, you should focus on what your child needs and less on what you want to see happen for them. Sometimes those things will be related. In other instances, the best interests of your child may not be what are in your best interests.
You can start with a family law case on the right foot by doing your best to communicate well with your co-parent. For some people, this may look like figuring out a way to communicate regularly with your co-parent for the first time since your family law case was filed. You and your co-parent may have simply parted ways and not pursued any additional conversation since your case was filed. While this may have been a smart decision based upon your specific circumstances it is not a recipe for long-lasting success when it comes to parenting. Rather, families tend to do better when the two parents are working together on an active basis.
Seeing the case from their perspective
This does not mean that you and your co-parent need to be best friends or attached at the hip. If that didn’t work during your marriage or your relationship, then it probably would not work out well right now. However, what it does mean is that you and your co-parent should think more about how to best communicate with one another. For example, if you know that your co-parent is notorious for not answering phone calls made to him or her, it will be wise to schedule in-person meetings or arrange for an alternative way to communicate with him or her. My point is that you should not continue to try to contact your co-parent in a way that you know will not be successful.
Many times what the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will do is to arrange a specific time to speak with our clients each week if that is what the client wants. If we know that a particular client is difficult to reach once updates about their case every week we can arrange a 15-minute phone call at the same time each week that we know the client will be available. This makes communications that much easier. You could arrange a similar phone call each week with your co-parent when you know he or she will be available to talk. Simply going through the week’s events with your child and preparing your co-parent for any issues that may arise in terms of behavior or activities can be very helpful when it comes to fostering a positive co-parenting relationship.
Even if you and your co-parent have been living apart for some time it is still a different animal altogether to be in a position where you are going to be following court orders during a family law case. Once you have attended a temporary order hearing we have negotiated for temporary orders it is wise to not only ensure that you understand what the temporary orders say but to ensure that your co-parent does, as well. So much of the time disputes over temporary orders come down to one parent or the other simply not understanding their obligation. If you can manage to do so, talk to your child’s parent about those orders to make sure that you all are on the same page when it comes to simple topics like pickup and drop-off times.
From there, you and your co-parent can establish some norms and basic methods for conducting pickup and drop off with your child. One of the big pet peeves that many parents have as they embark upon a family law case is that a child will either not have enough clothes packed for a visitation weekend or a parent will not return all the clothes provided to him or her for visitation. You can go over these sorts of ground rules with your co-parent in detail once you begin this phase of your case. Even if your temporary orders cover this subject, it is still wise to be specific about your expectations as well as other concerns you have with the belongings of your children. Ultimately, these are relatively important matters that should not be the reason why you and your co-parent cannot get the wall or are unable to co-parent effectively. Simply by having a conversation about them, you can avoid major issues at the beginning of a family law case.
How to manage disputes
Inevitably, no matter how well you and your co-parent get along during a case, there will be some disputes that arise between you and your co-parent. This does not mean that you and your co-parent are destined to always run into conflict and have issues with one another. All it means is that well-intentioned people can differ in their analysis of a particular problem or situation. Some of this can be avoided by going over court orders together with your co-parent. However, there are also situations where all the preparation in the world could not have avoided some of the disputes that you and your co-parent are going to encounter.
First, consider being direct with your co-parent about the issue that you are encountering. You may be surprised to figure out that it is a simple misunderstanding that has arisen between the two of you. You can talk with your co-parent about your concerns and what you are observing in your situation. Again, reasonable people can differ in their opinion and interpretation on any number of subjects. If you can find out that this is the situation you are facing rather than a legitimate disagreement you may be able to avoid further problems or issues down the line.
Being respectful and listening as much as you are talking is good advice for a situation like this. I will grant you that it is difficult to follow this advice. When you are upset about something, and that something has to do with your children, it is easy to let your emotions get the best of you and to lose your cool sooner than you would in other circumstances. However, all that means is that you need to be even more diligent about how you approach these problems. Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes may sound like old-fashioned advice but it is old-fashioned for a reason. Doing so can help cool both of you down and help avoid additional and possibly unnecessary confrontations or problems.
Once you have given your parents the benefit of the doubt and attempted to see the situation from their perspective you can move on to assess your options. Unfortunately, it is not always possible for you and your co-parent to sort out every issue of your case between yourselves. In some situations, you may need to go through the courts to arrive at a solution that is in the best interest of your children. Just as you should not be too quick to judge or harshly come down on a co-parent when an issue first arises, in the same way, you should not be too hesitant to pursue legal solutions to your problem if it becomes evident that you and your co-parent will not be able to sort out your problems together using simple communication skills.
In a family law setting, disagreements and disputes over major issues tend to be sorted out best using either an enforcement case or a modification case. In an enforcement case, you are seeking to enforce the terms of a court order signed off on by you and your co-parent. I use the language associated with both you and your co-parent having signed off on something because unless there is a signed court order in place there is no order at all. A handshake agreement between you and your co-parent that you all agreed to utilize for a short period is not a court order. If you are co-parent goes back on their word and decides not to honor the handshake agreement then there is no legal remedy for this.
However, if you all do have a court order then that is certainly a circumstance where the two of you should focus on your respective remedies available under the law. If your co-parent has violated a court order, then that means you can file an enforcement case. Quite literally, an enforcement case seeks to enforce the terms of a court order. You would need to specify the type of violation, and the number of times that it has occurred and request a remedy from the court for that violation. Working with an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is the most effective way to protect your rights in an enforcement setting. This is a complex legal situation where a lot can go wrong if you are unprepared or inexperienced when it comes to filing this type of case.
Additionally, if you find that your current orders no longer match up with your circumstances and are not in the best interest of your child then you can consider filing a modification case. In a modification case, you are seeking to change the terms of a court order. First, there must have been a material and substantial change in circumstances involving you, your co-parent, or one of your children since the last time you were in court. Next, a judge would need to find that the requested modification is in the best interests of your child. Again, this can be a high bar to clear, and it is best that you work with an experienced attorney before engaging in this type of case.
Final thoughts on co-parenting in Texas
Co-parenting is just like any other relationship that you have. You will need to manage the relationship as best as possible to get the most out of it for yourself and the other person. What can be incredibly rewarding about the co-parenting process is that third parties, namely your children, are the ones who stand to get the most out of their relationship. This means that if you can manage to co-parent effectively you and your co-parent can do a lot of good on behalf of your children.
However, just like any other objective or goal that you set out for yourself, you will need to have a plan in place to accomplish your objective. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are not only strong advocates for our clients but we have also seen and experienced how families just like yours manage the co-parenting dynamic. We know what works for families and what does not. Thank you for choosing to spend part of your day with us here on our blog and we hope to see you again tomorrow as we continue to discuss informative and interesting information about the world of Texas family law.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material discussed in today’s blog post please do not hesitate tocontact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody lawsuit.