It may be the farthest thing from your mind at the time of a divorce, but it is important for you to be able to show your ex-spouse respect through how you act in relation to him or her during visitation periods. Even though you may have fought tooth and nail to get as much time with your kids during your divorce, against the interests of your ex-spouse, you are now on the same team as your ex-spouse. It is a team effort to raise your child. You and your ex-spouse need to be on the same page as much as possible when combining to meet that challenge.
You can get on the same page a lot easier if you were to show your ex-spouse respect in relation to the visitation with your child that you share with your ex-spouse. If you can set aside your personal feelings for your ex-spouse and treat the relationship more like a business relationship you will be in good shape. I’m sure that you have people that you work with that you do not necessarily like. However, you do not act disrespectfully towards that person because you are first and foremost an adult, but you are also concerned with how your employer will view your bad actions. Just think about how much more important your child is than your job.
If you and your spouse harbor anger or frustration towards one another from the divorce and hang onto those emotions in your post-divorce life you are not doing your children any good by doing so. First and foremost, your kids view you and your ex-spouse as the models of what it means to be an adult. You can make an argument that getting divorced was either a good or bad thing as far as modeling adult behavior. However, it is tough to argue that harboring anger and resentment at one another is anything but a bad trait to display for your kids.
On a practical level, if you are trying to coordinate various elements of your child’s life and just trying to get him or her from point A to point B with the assistance of your ex-spouse, constantly being upset with him or her is a bad way to go about this goal. It is much better for you to show your child that you can work alongside someone who you may not like but you share common interests with. Your child represents the ultimate common interest for you and your ex-spouse to share.
Religion as it pertains to co-parenting
Within the final decree of divorce, you will be told what sort of rights you hold in relation to raising your child in the context of religious faith. Obviously, if you and your ex-spouse are not religious people then this issue will be a moot point. However, if you are a person of faith and intend to raise your child within that faith you need to be aware of what you can and cannot do in relation to faith and your child.
It is probable that both you and your ex-spouse have the right to direct your child in their faith when you are in possession of that child. Meaning, if you are a believer in one faith and your ex-spouse is a believer in another that means that each of you will have the opportunity to expose your child to your specific faith when you have him or her in your position. You cannot bar your ex-spouse from exposing your child to their faith when your child is with him or her.
So, if you and your ex-spouse had disagreements with one another during the course of your marriage on how to raise your child in relation to religious faith, then you will most likely have similar problems managing the faith of your child in a post-divorce world. Again, I would encourage you to communicate as best you can with your ex-spouse in relation to religious practices and your child. It is best for your child that he or she have some degree of cohesion between their parents when it comes to religious faith. For instance, if your church has an event coming up that you want your child to attend you should contact your ex-spouse and let him or know- especially if that event conflicts with a parenting weekend of your ex-spouse.
On the other hand, if you and your ex-spouse share the same faith then you should use that shared faith as an opportunity to show your child that his parents are working together in an important area of life. Maybe, if the circumstances are right, you and your ex-spouse could coordinate the attending of a religious service together with your child. To the extent that communication, stability, consistency and religious faith are all important to your family this could be a great deal to strengthen your child’s faith as well as their belief that their parents care for him or her a great deal.
Update the other parent when you move or get a new phone number
This piece of advice is practical and legal in nature. It is practical in the sense that in an emergency you need to know where your child is. You may also need to know where to reach your ex-spouse if you need him or her for some reason. If you do not drop off/pick up at each other’s homes and instead meet at a neutral location, you may not know where your ex-spouse lives. With that said, you need to be able to get to him or her if your child is sick and needs to leave that home or for another reason similar to that.
Another reason why you need to update your ex-spouse when your phone number or address changes is because your final decree of divorce orders you and your ex-spouse to do so. The fact is that people like to play games with one another after divorces. Technically, you are supposed to update the court when your address and contact information changes as well. Do not look at moving as an opportunity to play games with your ex-spouse and cause him or her to lose track of you. Be an adult and update this information with your ex-spouse and the court.
Flexibility is key when dealing with a visitation schedule
Even though the visitation schedule and parenting plan you have in place right now can be found in your final decree of divorce, the fact is that the orders will change over the course of time. This isn’t because of any reason related to you or your ex-spouse specifically but is due in large part because your child will get older and their needs will change. If your child is a teenager, in a few years that section of your decree won’t even be relevant since your child will turn into an adult. If your child is younger, eventually he or she may not be able to stick to the visitation schedule due to sports or other extracurriculars.
The point is that you should not look at your current order as being set in stone. It is far from that. Even if you never go back to court to have the order updated officially it can still change due to agreements between you and your ex-spouse. Agreements don’t have to be in writing and don’t have to go through the judge to be effective. In fact, the court assumes that you and your ex-spouse will make changes to the parenting plan on the fly in order to accommodate the needs of each other and your child. Co-parenting is all about these type of situations and making them work for your family.
How to achieve parenting goals- remember these hints
Following a map is a great idea if you are going someplace that you have never been before. That’s true whether you are in a vehicle going on vacation or trying to figure out how to co-parent with your ex-spouse. If you have never raised a child as a single parent then you wouldn’t have any idea where to begin. It’s unlikely that you learned all that you need to know during your divorce. Here are some tips that I would recommend you implement in your life once the divorce is done and over with.
I’ll pick up where I left off a moment ago by telling you that it is essential that you be flexible with the visitation schedule you have with your child. There are going to be seasons in your child’s life where he is going to be busy and unable to make all of the pre-set visitation days. There will be other times where your child may need to spend more time focusing on school or other activities. You will need to be aware of this and be flexible with your time. Remember: your child doesn’t come to see you in order to make you happy. He comes to see you because it is in his best interests and should benefit him by being exposed to you and your influence on him.
If your child’s schedule needs to be altered temporarily you should inform the other parent. Typically this happens if you are the parent who has the right to designate the primary residence of your child. You are usually the parent who gets updates on school activities, sports, church stuff, etc. As a result, you are the one responsible for informing your ex-spouse of changes or additional the calendar. Make sure you inform your ex-spouse of any impacts to his parenting schedule as soon as you can.
Once you provide those updates, you two can work together in order to come up with alternative visitation plans. You may find that it is difficult to come up with amended plans that offer as much time with your child. You may also find out that not everything goes your way when you attempt to reconfigure the visitation schedule. Again, the thing that you want to make sure of is that your child has an opportunity to see you. Work with your ex-spouse especially if he or she is being reasonable with trying to accommodate everyone’s schedules.
The vacation days that you want to take need to be communicated early in the year
Since we are smack dab in the middle of July, now would be a good time to cover what needs to happen in relation to visitation with your child and the summer holidays. If you are the noncustodial parent and have visitation with your child during the month of July, you need to be familiar with what your final decree of divorce requires of you as far as summer vacation is concerned.
It is likely that your decree mandates that you give your ex-spouse notice by the middle of April of your intentions to see your child during the summer months. You can choose to see your child for the entire month of July. If this is what you want to do and have a trip planned for that month you should communicate that to your ex-spouse. That way he or she will not plan a trip for a weekend in that month that conflicts with your longer vacation. Communication about this issue can go a long way towards preventing future problems.
Questions about today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week here in our office. These consultations are a great opportunity to ask questions and receive direct feedback about your specific circumstances. Thank you for spending part of your day with us here, and we hope to see you again tomorrow.