How an Amicable Divorce is the First Step to Effective Co-Parenting

Dad and daughter smile together in the sun.

I have seen the same thing over and over again. As a divorce and custody attorney, I am part of many different types of parenting situations, but one particular type of divorce case has a very distinctive flavor. Those are the cases where the parents fight over every inch of parenting rights, continue to fight throughout the case, and then periodically go back to court for the next decade. These types of cases are not rare, have predictable causes, and are always sad to see.

Effective co-parenting begins with an amicable divorce, and there's no easier way to realize that than to examine the deleterious effects of a contentious one. 

Children always know

Even though most divorce and custody courts go to great lengths to keep children separate from any controversy, children almost always become aware of the hostilities. 

The principle of protecting children from contentious divorce proceedings is even written into the law in many jurisdictions. The state of Florida, for example, requires a specific court order before minor children are allowed to be brought into the building for a divorce proceeding.

But these protections, however detailed, are never fully effective. Children are smart about what goes on around them. They pay attention to what people say and how people act, especially when it comes to two of the most important people in their lives: their parents. For their part, parents are usually pretty bad at keeping things a secret, especially when strong emotions are involved. 

So no matter how many safeguards are put into place by the courts, many children become aware of legal hostilities regardless.

An awareness of hostilities between parents can translate into lifelong, challenging behavior in children. Children's responses to conflict between their parents are complex. Their reactions may even be stronger than the conflict they are responding to, making already difficult parenting into impossible parenting.

Waste of family funds

In a contentious divorce, money that could benefit children instead goes to attorneys and court costs. Kids start doing without family trips, clothing, toys, and other goodies. Most people would agree that sounds “wrong” and only irresponsible people would do that. But the reality is that many parents would rather spend money on fighting and do without niceties for the kids. 

They fight at all costs and border on destroying themselves and their families. In life, sometimes you must stand up for your rights. But many people take that to the extreme and fight over trivial matters at all costs. In the end, the ones who lose are the children.

Preserve a positive future

In a perfect world, the adults would split up in a friendly or semi-friendly way and avoid fighting over minor things. Money would be preserved and could be later spent on the kids. Family ties would be preserved. Everyone would continue to recognize the children have two parents and extended family on both sides. And the kids would heal sooner. They would eventually deal with the “split” but would be spared the theater of watching a decade of hostility.

Fast forward to the future. Eliminate a decade of hostility, dirty tricks, and going to court. Eliminate a lifetime of spending money on attorneys. By the time the children are finally grown, both parents can still look forward to spending quality time as a family. And when the children are married, both sides of the family can attend the ceremony while being able to look each other in the eyes.

Parents must compare one present and future with the alternative present and future.

In an amicable divorce, the kids are relatively untouched, grow up in a healthy environment, and have their emotional needs met. Money goes where it should – to support your family. And no one must look forward to a lifetime of retaining attorneys.

Raising children will never be easy. Being a child will never be easy. But an amicable divorce makes it easier to work on the important things.  For many people, an amicable divorce is the first step to a lifetime of effective co-parenting.

Author's Bio:

Howard Iken is the Managing Attorney at Ayo and Iken PLC and he specializes in divorce. Ayo and Iken PLC can help those in the Florida area looking for a seminole county divorce attorney


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.