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 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.
I come from a home where my 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
My parents divorced incredibly amicably and continued to co-parent well into my adulthood. They have enjoyed 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 trained collaborative lawyer, 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 with whom you need to maintain a relationship because of the children 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 an 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 child.
- It is the child, or children, who are the most important part of your relationship, and not your own personal views about the other party.
Family law solicitor, Bedford