The divorce is hard on you. Of course, it will also be hard on the children.
While there are steps you can take to ease the transition, the simplest way to keep a divorce from becoming a downward spiral is to be prepared. Clear and consistent communication is the key to parenting, and even if you've moved to a new home away from your ex-spouse, you're still parents together.
The basics of co-parenting
In co-parenting, it's important to prioritize cooperation with your ex and make sure that your children's daily lives involve as much consistency as possible while the family transitions.
To do so, it is important to work together on the following:
- Visitation and living accommodations
- Transportation schedules
- School, religious and medical decision making
- Discipline and parental philosophy
- Vacations and events outside the regular routine
- Payment for extra expenses
Simply agreeing to discuss matters likely isn't enough. A parenting plan needs to include a plan of action for when your child gets sick at school and needs to be rushed to the doctor's office, or for when the principal calls you to discuss a problem.
The parenting plan should address scenarios before they happen. For example, who will make which decisions regarding the children and what criteria will be used? And how will you ensure that both households maintain similar expectations for the children? As any parent already knows, parental authority is only effective when it's consistent and respected. When two homes operate under vastly different rules, the children may become confused or they may even take advantage.
Managing different scenarios
Life is unpredictable and so is parenting, which is why the most effective parenting plans involve a "how to" approach that establishes mutually agreed-upon guidelines. You won't have an answer ready for every circumstance, but knowing how to communicate with your co-parent can reduce tension and keep control over the situation, which benefits your children.
Best for children
A common phrase in divorce is "doing what's best for the children." It doesn't end with the settlement; it's a universal truth of parenting in any situation. The parenting plan should acknowledge parental issues, such as how to handle transportation if one parent doesn't have a vehicle, but the plan should mostly address how to meet your children's needs.
It benefits no one to get wrapped up in personal concerns and petty fights or holdover arguments from the divorce. The purpose of a parenting plan is to make the transition roll smoothly and to give your children a functioning relationship with both parents, and the foremost part of a successful parenting plan is to make sure that your children's best interests remain the core.
For more on these matters, please see Joel S. Seidel & Associates' overview of child custody and parenting plans. Our firm represents divorcing parents throughout Los Angeles.