Divorce is a difficult time, and with the end of a marriage comes emotions that can make it difficult to imagine working together with your ex-spouse on any issue, but especially child custody. Despite these complex feelings and the difficulty of setting these types of emotions aside, many California parents find it beneficial to work together to co-parent their children.
Co-parenting means sharing custody, parenting time and parental authority, which naturally means that parents must be able to work cooperatively to some degree. However, it is possible to co-parent with an ex-spouse even if you are not friends as long as both parties are committed to the best interests of the children and the terms of the co-parenting plan.
Not only does drafting a co-parenting agreement provide parents with the opportunity to have more control over the final custody order, it can save time and help avoid a costly litigation process. Many parents find that when they can work together on a custody plan, it allows them to provide their children with stability and continuity of lifestyle during a time of transition, as well as laying the foundation for kids to have strong relationships with both parents.
Dealing with difficult emotions
One of the main reasons that co-parenting agreements fail is that one or both parents are unable to effectively deal with the difficult emotions and disputes that often come up during and after divorce. In order to make a co-parenting agreement work, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse may find benefit in doing the following:
- Making parenting time and transfer procedures very clear
- Never allowing anger to dictate decisions
- Focusing on creative ways to resolve disputes
- Never putting children in the center of disagreements
- Focusing on the emotional and mental health of your children
When the parent's focus is on the well-being of the children above all else, it allows two individuals who do not necessarily get along to parent effectively and positively.
Your unique parenting plan
There is no one-size-fits-all co-parenting plan. If you wish to co-parent, you would be wise to work with an experienced family law attorney to ensure the protection of your parental rights as you work through the following:
- Parenting time
- Parental authority on issues such as religious upbringing
- Schooling and educational preferences
- Extra-curricular activities
- Holiday visitation schedule
- Special needs care
If you would like to co-parent or share custody for the sake of your children, it is useful to talk this issue through with a knowledgeable legal ally before you commit to a plan that will impact your family for years to come.