Shared parenting responsibilities present challenges to every couple, married or not. For recently divorced former spouses with a shared custody arrangement, a whole new set of concerns and obstacles arise. When it comes to co-parenting with a former spouse, there's one important factor to remember: the kids always come first.
No matter the tensions from the marriage or past issues, the success and happiness of your children needs to take top priority. It may sound oversimplified to tell former spouses to put aside their differences for the sake of the kids. However, it doesn't have to be an overwhelming challenge if parents remember a few key considerations throughout their shared parenting arrangement.
Create a plan and stick to it
A parenting plan is an incredibly effective tool when used correctly. Former spouses can create a parenting plan during the custody decision process and lay out procedures and expectations for shared parenting responsibilities. Parenting plans commonly include two important elements.
The first element is a schedule. Simply put, this is the routine for parents and child to follow on a regular basis. Aside from emergencies or unexpected modifications, parents should treat the schedule as if it is a hard and fast rule. Following the schedule ensures parents know their respective duties and children have a consistent, reliable routine in place.
The second element is a decision-making agreement. Who can make important decisions on behalf of the child such as medical determinations and social choices? Some parents share this role while others designate one parent or the other. The parenting plan allows this division to meet the best interests of the child.
Remain a team
Even after a divorce, co-parents should try to maintain a civil, united front. Shared custody arrangements are on the rise across the country with many states seeking to make them the default option. As long as it's in the best interests of the child and is a safe option, shared custody is the preferred arrangement.
That said, many former spouses struggle to work together. Even with a contentious divorce in your wake, it's crucial that parents work to maintain unity in terms of shared parenting responsibilities. This does not mean you have to be best friends with a former spouse or spend significant amounts of time together, but it does mean you should remain willing to work together.
It can be as simple as refraining from criticizing your co-parent around your children. Show the children that their parents still respect one another even after a split. Compliment their strengths and try to look past their weaknesses, at the very least when it's near the children.
Getting a divorce means a couple is breaking up, not a family. Your custody arrangement may involve working with a former spouse for the betterment of the children. Consider the importance of putting the children first and work with a former spouse to maintain civility and respect as co-parents.