Regardless of how amicable or acrimonious the divorce was, once the divorce is final your role as a divorced co-parent begins. Co-parenting gracefully is something that takes time to grow into, but you will know when you get there. You will be interacting with your former spouse on a regular basis when you pick up the kids or when they drop them off, at birthday parties and other family events into the future, and you would be smart to find a way to make those interactions as smooth and drama-free as possible. When you model successful co-parenting, it will do wonders for your child.
Joint custody requires team work, and for both parents to place the highest priority on providing the best care for the child. It is up to each of you to make sure that your divorce does as little damage to your child as possible. Making the commitment to be all-in, to keep your promises to your child, to make them a priority, and to be at least cordial to your former spouse is the first important step on the road to successful co-parenting.
Here are a few tips to guide you through the initial, sometimes rocky first stage of co-parenting and managing joint custody after divorce:
Agree to make decisions with the child’s best interests in mind. What is convenient for you and what makes you feel comfortable does not matter now. What is important is that the decision-making process and the outcome best serves the child’s best interests. Get comfortable with the concept of compromise for your child’s greater good.
Stick to the custody agreement. In Maryland, joint custody is also called shared custody, and it means that both parents share physical custody of the child in a way that makes sure that the child has consistent contact with both parents. The parenting plan which includes the custody agreement has the force of law, so violating it has legal consequences. If you both agree to follow the visitation schedule, and the duties and responsibilities assigned to each parent it would make life go smoother for everyone.
Keep the past in the past. Resist the urge to keep trying to seek revenge or re-visit old hurts and disagreements. Now the only purpose of your relationship is to raise a child together.
Develop a new relationship with your former spouse. If the divorce was ugly, adopt a new kind of relationship. If it helps, consider your spouse as a business partner and make sure that all your interactions and communications are limited to the topic of your child.
Take a co-parenting class together. Co-parenting is hard. Learning how to manage it from parenting professionals will help ease some of the stress you might be feeling.
Communicate clearly and openly with your co-parent. Come to an agreement on how you will communicate about the child. If you must change a pick-up or drop-off time, communicate that as soon as you know about it to your co-parent. Do not send messages back and forth between the two of you through your child.
The transition from being a family in one household to being shuttled back and forth between the households of divorced parents is disruptive to the child’s foundation in life. The more you can work together to create a new kind of stability, the better your child will adjust to life after divorce.
At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, we guide you through the challenging process of deciding child custody and getting on with your life after divorce. We encourage you to contact us or call us at 410.921.2422 to schedule a consultation in our Annapolis office to discuss your case with an experienced Maryland divorce attorney today.