In all the years I’ve served my family law clients, rarely have I heard a client voice pleasure over the end of a marriage. Even clients getting out of abusive relationships confided to me that no matter how relieved they were to get away from the harmful, or even downright dangerous marriage, they felt real loss over the fact for, whatever reason ,the relationship failed.
Some clients have expressed that this sense of loss was deepened when children were involved. It’s one thing to end a childless partnership knowing future contact with your ex would only be if you were foolish enough to believe you could get something from the dead embers. With children involved, a sense of hopelessness can be added to the feeling of loss when parents felt perpetually stuck having to deal with each other because of the kids.
All people and relationships have the potential to change. Now that the marriage is over, the focus can be on the children and their needs. Here are five things to keep in mind when starting this new family relationship that can help make co-parenting work:
1. Develop a clear parenting plan: planning ahead to cover time in and out of school, special events, vacations birthdays and other activities important to the parents and children creates an atmosphere of certainty and is reassuring to everyone. Pin down the day and hour of pick-up and drop-off times with a reasonable grace period if commute corridors are busy during the designated exchange times.
2. Keep the other parent in the loop: even if you are the primary custodial parent, share information with the lesser time share parent. Information on school events, special friends, and how the children are generally doing gives continuity to each parent and assists parents on being in tune with the children’s daily lives and activities.
3. Think before you talk: there was a reason you got out of the relationship — you did not get along. Old issues and anger can crop up at anytime but that does not mean those events have to control your communication and its outcome. If the other parent is driving the communication into unproductive territory, don’t return fire but take a moment to catch yourself before you respond. If what you are about to say would make you feel bad or embarrassed if someone you highly respect was listening in, don’t say it. Tell the other parent it would be better to talk at a later time when feelings are cooler.
4. Admit if you make a mistake: did you show up late for a pickup or drop off? Did you fail to return all of the items in the last exchange that was needed for the following school day? It won’t kill you to apologize. In fact, this approach can show you are bigger than what happened and that your focus is on getting it right for the children when you talk to the other parent.
5. Seek help: if the communication with the other parent is just too damaged, consider co-parenting counseling. This service provided by a trained counselor can help parents redefine their relationship so the focus is on proper and civil parenting. There may come a time you must return to court to address your disagreements. Always start with a consultation with a skilled family law attorney. Knowing your rights and the best legal strategy is the starting point on producing the best outcome when returning to the family law court.
The Law Offices of Arlene D. Kock are located in San Ramon, California. The firm practices primarily in the areas of family law and civil litigation. Ms. Kock is also a member of the LawGuru Attorney Network.