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Co-Parenting Following Divorce or the End of Your Relationship

Many families focus on getting through their divorce or other child custody case, however once the case is over, many parents struggle with how to move forward, get beyond the frustration or anger of their divorce and begin working and collaborating together to successfully raise happy, healthy children. 

Of course, if you are in a situation where the other parent is a narcissist and you have to focus on parallel parenting, some of the tips in this article may not be possible for you. On the other hand, for many parents effectively learning the methods of co-parenting is a learned skill, something each parent can develop, improve and master. Like any new or developed skill, it takes effort to learn. Becoming an excellent co-parent will not only benefit you, the other parent, but most importantly, it will benefit your children. They will have a happier, healthier childhood and a stronger bond with each of their parents if they can see that their parents can cooperate and effectively work with one another to meet their needs. 

Every journey starts with a single step forward. Parental conflict is exactly the same. A step toward conflict often leads to a long journey of conflict. On the other hand, taking a step toward healing, collaborating with your child’s other parent and working together starts with a single step and can lead to a long path of cooperation and collaboration.

Every journey starts with a single step forward. Parental conflict is exactly the same. A step toward conflict often leads to a long journey of conflict. On the other hand, taking a step toward healing, collaborating with your child’s other parent and working together starts with a single step and can lead to a long path of cooperation and collaboration.

When many parents have pain through a divorce process or other end to a relationship, they end up embroiled in a battle where often nobody wins. A lot of times the largest pawn or most intense battle through the end of the relationship is the children. Children can become leverage in situations where it can significantly effect the children. This can include one parent or the other controlling access between the children and the other parent, parental alienation, false allegations of child abuse, denial of obstruction of parenting time, failure to communicate important information about the child or other damaging behaviors that can have a long-term negative impact on the relationship between the parents. Each behavior generally frustrates and angers the other parent, harms or interferes in their relationship with the children and creates and fosters a lack of trust and lack of respect. 

You have the power to break this cycle. You can turn over a new leaf and take the first step toward working with the other parent to reduce parental conflict. Often when the children are used as leverage, there are deeper issues between the parents that frustrate or anger one or both parents. Often these issues can include such things as hurt over infidelity or other relationship problems, a lack of financial support, one parent’s belief (justified or not) that the other parent lacks parenting skills or abilities, the belief that one parent failed to commit to keeping the family together, and general mismanagement of family funds or resources. 

Parents often struggle to understand that their co-parenting relationship will generally be a reflection of what they give and put into it. If a parent is negative, unkind, uncooperative and difficult with the other parent, this is likely what they will get back in kind. Of course, in situations of mental illness, domestic violence, serious physical, emotional or even sexual abuse of a child, co-parenting might not be possible. However, in many situations, co-parenting is not only possible but required by order of the court and yet parents spent years making things between them much more difficult than they need to be (at the best case scenario) and in the worst case scenario, they actively damage their children by exposing them to their parental conflict. 

A parent’s behavior and interactions with the other parent can set up conflict for months and years to come and in some situations, the parents fuel the conflict for decades. Many things that create and fuel parental conflict are often short-term focuses on small or minor issues and in some unfortunate situations, particularly where one or both parents do not receive the benefit of valuable and calming legal advice, the parties may even commence a legal action or proceeding over a minor and unnecessary issue and end up being in litigation for years to come. Some parents believe that seeking orders or filing motions to micromanage parenting issues and responsibilities will make things better. However, almost always this only serves to make things worse. 

Why Is Getting a Knowledgeable and Experienced Family Law Attorney Involved Crucial to the Future Well-being of Your Co-Parenting Relationship?

The difficult emotions that often come with co-parenting are frequently a significant test of a person’s character and integrity. Having a knowledgeable, educated and experienced professional who can help focus on logic and give you the courage and strategies to redefine your co-parenting relationship will not only make a significant different in your co-parenting journey, but will forever make you (and someday your children) grateful that you put in the hard work to go down a better path. This is not easy, but anything important is worth the hard work and energy to obtain it. Often, it is easier and less work and more income for a family law attorney to simply facilitate the conflict and help a client battle through each and every issue. However, a family law attorney having the courage, skill and experience to work with you on strategies to fix and change your co-parenting relationship is a worthwhile investment in hard work and effort to make significant changes.

How can a Parent Start to Reframe their Communication and Make Sure the Tone and Substance Fosters Collaboration?

Learning to change the underlying tone of your communication requires mindfulness about how it sounds. If you want to exude cooperation and reasonableness, sounding angry will not facilitate that. Often if the tone of the communication is angry, any collaboration you try to suggest will be lost in the overall tone of the communication. For in person communications, be mindful of your non-verbal behaviors. If you are engaging in huffing, sighing, rolling your eyes, crossing your arms, clenching your jaw or other similar hostile communication behaviors, you will not be able to make positive co-parenting progress. If you are uncertain how your communication comes across, practice saying what you want to discuss at home. If need be, have a friend or family member video you so that you can watch how you can come across to the observer. Practice active, supportive listening and use those techniques when communicating with the other parent.

How Can Parents Communicate in a Goal-oriented Fashion?

If you can’t focus on understanding where the other parent is coming from and trying to find solutions, you won’t be able to effectively parent your child. Listening to the other parent and understanding the other parent’s perspective does not mean that you agree with what they want or are saying, but it does mean you can process what their goals and motivations are. Often in understanding the goals and motivations of the other parent, you can find solutions and compromises. 

Often men and women handle conflict or disputes very differently. Many men may become very aggressive and confrontational during a disagreement or alternatively, they will often become closed off and distance. Women, on the other hand often become very controlling of even minor things and stop listening to communications when they become upset during a disagreement. 

Parents need to ensure that their conflict with one another does not become the end of common sense and effective communication. Just because you and the other parent had a disagreement about an issue does not mean that you need to approach every issue as archrivals. Consider the disagreement an isolated area of dispute and try to give the benefit of the doubt to the other parent. Use a miscommunication as an opportunity to learn and grow. 

What are Some Methods to Solving a Problem When Co-Parents Disagree?

In situations of conflict, there are two primary mechanisms to solve an issue, one is strategic problem solving, the other is social-psychological problem solving.

Strategic problem-solving tries to simply view the issues at hand. If you are experiencing a problem in your co-parenting relationship, do not view it as a systemic failure, but rather, look at the individual issue and several potential or workable solutions. Often by trying to simply identify available problem-solving options, you and the other parent can come to a variety of possible solutions. In identifying multiple outcomes, it increases the opportunity/possibility that you and the other parent can agree on a solution-oriented resolution to the conflict. This usually allows constructive exchanging of information, needs and priorities, sharing mutual concerns and jointly searching for solutions. Again, this is facilitated without focusing on your or the other parent’s emotional wants, needs or desires. Perhaps even more importantly, it allows you and your co-parent to find success in working through a problem and then provides progress that can be built upon.

Social-psychological problem solving is more of an emotional-focused method of resolving issues. The focus in this process is on each parent’s attitudes and the emotional reasons behind difficulties in co-parenting. Many co-parents are unable to use this method of problem solving. Often, it requires peeling back many layers of hurt and understand and process underlying emotions that have led to conflict. When people can work through this method of conflict resolution, it often allows each person to see the other person’s perspective with empathy, compassion and true, mutual concern for the well-being of the children.

What Are Some Basics of Co-Parenting?

Agree to communicate with respect. Both parents may get frustrated at times, but an agreement and promise to always be respectful will hopefully ensure both parents have boundaries on their behavior and interactions with one another.

The parents should collaborate in having consistent, agreed upon rules for the children at both households. The children will thrive and appreciate the consistency and known routine. This creates a sense of security and stability for the children. If the rules are consistent, the children will know what is expected at all times without question or lack of clarity.

Make a mutual commitment for positive talk. If both you and the other parent commit to supporting the other parent and disagreeing or discouraging negative talk, the children will eventually realize that only positive talk gets them positive attention and support from either parent. 

Remember that co-parenting, even in the best of circumstances will present occasional challenges and issues. Recognize that co-parenting will challenge you on occasion and remember that having different priorities and parenting styles will benefit your children, not harm them.

Update and communicate with one another often. Although it is often time-consuming and may even be time-consuming, informing one another about changes in your lives, the needs of the children or events that occur will ensure that a trustworthy communication stream is established. Reinforcing positive things that the other parent has done or facilitated is likely to get passed along to the other parent in a positive way by the children. This will not only foster positive communication between you and the other parent, but provide positive, happy reinforcement to your children. 

Finally, if you are frustrated with something that occurs with the other parent, don’t allow anger and resentment to build. Address individual issues as a discussion rather than an accusation. Facilitate a business working relationship. When you have disappointments or set-backs in co-parenting talk about the issues in terms of your child’s needs and rather than make an accusation, find a way to turn your concern into a constructive question such as “any idea how we can work together on this issue?” That will always be received better than “you did this.” Speak with the other parent the way you want to be spoken to. 

If you have completed your divorce  process or other parenting plan/child custody agreement and your co-parenting relationship is struggling, seek out a family law consultation with a skilled attorney who is knowledgeable and well-versed in co-parenting. Often that lawyer will be able to give you invaluable tips, tools and information to facilitate improved co-parenting rather than a return to court. At Pingel Family Law, it is an honor for us to help parents facilitate a better, improved co-parenting relationship. If we can help you, please call today for a consultation at (816) 208-8130.


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