Too few divorcing parents consider how they will continue their relationship with each other after a divorce. Now I know this sounds a bit odd. Surely they are divorcing because they don’t want a relationship? True, but the reality is that if they have children, they will most likely have some contact in most cases.
Co-parenting, or shared parenting, is the expected norm these days. It is assumed both parents will play an active role in the upbringing of their offspring, even if they are no longer living together. To do this effectively, they have to learn to get on at some level as they will meet when the child goes from staying with one to the other, and may need to plan family activities and holidays around each other’s diaries. And if both parties take this concept on board at an early stage in the divorce process, it can make the whole thing a lot easier for all concerned.
For instance, trying to get a few “digs” in before signing off on a divorce settlement is less likely to happen if you keep in mind that you have to continue to communicate with this person in the future. Both sides are likely to be more keen to reach a workable deal, which sets the children at the heart of arrangements, if they are thinking about the logistics of the years ahead.
In my work I see many parents divorced so I think I have a lot of empathy, both with children involved in divorce and the parents. My biggest concern is often how this is going to affect the children and I think this is how it should be.
Some parents are able to divorce incredibly amicably and continue to co-parent their children well into adulthood. They can enjoy family celebrations and grandchildren without any difficulty, but that does not happen for so many families and it is the children who suffer most. I work really hard to make sure that parents, at each stage, recognise the impact that divorce can have on the children through their behaviour towards each other.
Parents should not use the process to score points, but instead find new ways of communicating. In the worst cases, children can become a go-between for their parents which is devastating for them, particularly as they are often grieving for the breakup of their family unit. As a Resolution family law member, I have seen the multiple benefits that adopting a non-combative approach in negotiations can bring.
My tips for helping to minimise flashpoints with an ex when you co-parent are:
- Remember, you are both parents no matter what the status of your marriage
- Involve your children in talks around arrangements, provided of course that they are old enough
- If possible, keep a shared or online diary you can both access that contains all dates of holidays, where the child is on specific weekends, etc
- Accept there will be problems but that you need to work around them for the good of your children.
- It is the children who are the most important part of your relationship, and not your own personal views about the other party.
Your relationship with your ex won’t be the same as it was when you were married, but a relationship is still possible, and where there are children involved necessary too.
Family lawyer Birmingham