To-Do List for Co-Parents
Divorcing or separating from your co-parent is one decision that comes loaded with dozens of other choices waiting for you to make. Many of these other decisions have to do with your children and how you will continue to parent them once you are no longer married or living together. To make co-parenting after divorce less confusing or difficult, here is a to-do list of things to consider.
Find the right family lawyer.
No two divorces are the same; however, having the right representation for you is always important in any legal situation. Hire a family lawyer who has plenty of experience in child custody cases. Also, consider how you want to go about working your case. For example, if you and your co-parent are in a non-contentious situation and hope to settle your case outside of the courtroom, consider hiring a family lawyer who is trained in collaborative divorce. A lawyer who has experience in such an alternative to divorce litigation can help you navigate your case while remaining outside of the courtroom.
Enlist help from other family law professionals.
Hiring a family lawyer is a good place to start, yet co-parents may find it useful to get help from other family law professionals such as a mediator or parenting coordinator. These other professionals can help you to do things like work out your parenting plan agreement and enforce it. Mental health practitioners, like a family therapist, can also be a great help to both you and your kids. They can teach healthy strategies to help everyone work through the emotional turbulence of this challenging situation.
Write down what you want out of your parenting plan.
Your parenting plan will lay out all of the agreements you have come to regarding how you will co-parent from here on out. It will set out your plans for regular parenting time, holiday custody, child-related expenses, decision-making for the kids, and more. It will even lay out particular rules for things like how the kids will go between homes and specifics about how the kids will be contacted when away from one parent. Before you get started with it, write down what you would like in your parenting plan, and share this information with your lawyer. It's possible that you might not get everything you want in your parenting plan, but it is good to discuss this with your lawyer so that they can help you to negotiate with the opposing counsel on these items when drafting your plan.
Decide what you are willing to negotiate.
Even in the most amicable divorce or separation situations, there may still be points of contention that you will need to get past. While you may be able to settle on most of what you wanted out of your parenting plan, it's also possible that your co-parent has an agenda of things they want and are steadfast about getting them. To prepare yourself for these moments, decide on a few things you're willing to bargain on and how you will propose them. Being ready with a few trading points to bring up during parenting plan negotiations. This will help to encourage the process to keep going forward instead of getting behind due to tense disagreements. Always discuss these points with your lawyer before offering them in negotiations, as your lawyer might have particular suggestions that you may want to consider first.
Have a plan for how to tell your kids.
Dealing with the legal aspect of your situation and writing your parenting plan is essential, but other more personal matters deserve just as much care. The way that you talk to your kids about your divorce or separation can have an enormous impact on how they handle it moving forward. Sometimes, kids see it coming; other times, kids have no clue that their parents were even considering this. Either way, the news is always hard for kids to take in, so it is important that you have a plan for how to tell them. As co-parents, talk to your kids about it as a team. Present the news as a united front to portray to your kids that even while you aren't going to all live together, you are still a family. Give them as much information as you can about things like where they will live, when they will see each of you, how they will spend holidays, etc. This is an important conversation that you may even be feeling nervous to have. Prepare yourself by having some answers ready for your kids as well as putting yourself in the right place emotionally to stay as strong as you can during this tough talk.
Commit to communication.
It can be a complicated task to raise kids across multiple homes, especially when you ended it on a rather contentious foot. No matter how your marriage ended, committing yourselves to communicate as co-parents is so important for the sake of making co-parenting easier on everyone, kids included. Using software like the communication tools offered by the OurFamilyWizard® website can impact the way that co-parents communicate for the better. OFW® has parenting time calendars, expense and payment tracking tools, file storage space, messaging capabilities, plus other features that help to ease the stress of discussing important child-related topics for co-parents. Family courts across the United States and Canada frequently order the use of OFW® in contested cases, yet many other co-parents choose to sign up on their own with a view of improving and simplifying communication across homes. Create an account and move your family towards making a communication commitment.
This to-do list for co-parents only includes some of the things that you should focus on during this busy period. There are many of these checklists out there, and it is a good idea to review several of them to ensure that you cover all of your bases as you work through your case and transition into co-parenting. Also, speaking with your family lawyer and other family law professionals will also help to ensure that you are taking the right steps towards resolving your case and maintaining the well-being of your children as you acclimate yourself into co-parenting.
NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.
Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.