Toronto divorce lawyers are aware that there are many different reasons why couples decide to end their marriage. Some divorces are acrimonious and others are amicable. Nonetheless, when children are involved, all divorces become a little more complicated. Although your marriage is over, your family is not.
Co-parenting can be a difficult endeavour, but can be made easier with strategic planning.
1) Communicate with the other Parent.
Talking to your ex-spouse may be the last thing you want to do. Thinking of him or her may illicit feelings of anger, resentment, guilt or sadness. However, as a parent, your feelings must come second to the best interests of your children.
In the early stages after a divorce, it may be best to write your ex-spouse an email, instead of speaking over the phone or in person. Using email allows you to organize your thoughts in a clear and concise manner, without having to worry about the emotional turmoil attached to seeing or speaking with your ex-spouse. Ask your Toronto divorce lawyer for tips on using neutral, business-like language in your writing.
When communicating with your ex-spouse use a respectful and civil tone. Some tips to remember are:
- Listen and acknowledge what your ex-spouse is saying. This is as difficult for them as it is for you.
- Do not make demands. Do make requests.
- Keep all conversation on the topic of your children to avoid conflict.
- Remember that such communication must be productive and goal-oriented, have a plan of what you would like to say before meeting or speaking with your ex-spouse.
- While it is important to stay neutral; don’t be afraid to ask your co-parent for his/her opinion or for advice on a particular matter.
- Relax and compromise. Co-parenting is a life-long journey. Creating staunch and spiteful stances will not be helpful to anyone.
2) Create a Co-Parent Calendar
Although it is tempting to set up a plan on your own and simply hand it over to your spouse, this is not the most effective method to co-parent. Use template tools online to create a calendar – either digital or hardcopy. Fill in dates and times that you cannot negotiate on, such as “Grandma’s Birthday Party.” Suggest flexible dates and times that you wish to have your children. Finally, ask the other parent to do the same. A Toronto divorce lawyer will advise you that this may take some time and collaborating, but the final results are well worth it.
Creating a Co-Parent Calendar is the first and most essential step to parenting successfully together. There must be a mutual promise to stick to the plan as closely as possible, not only for the convenience it provides to each parent, but also for the stability and consistency it provides to the children. Parenting plans can be created month to month, or on a more long-term basis. The format is not fixed and will be dependent on a number of factors. Consult with your Toronto divorce lawyer for matters in relation to child custody dates and child support issues.
Be flexible! Although constancy and reliability are important, some times “things come up.” Your ex-spouse may unexpectedly have to work over the weekend, there may be a family death, or personal illness. For serious and emergency situations, allow the other parent some slack. It is essential that this be a clear point between the parents.
Whatever parenting arrangement you choose, you need to consider what is in the best interests of your children. If you cannot agree on a parenting arrangement, a judge must decide for you on the basis of the child’s best interests.
3) Set Parenting Rules
Establishing when and how it is appropriate to cancel or detour from the calendar is an example of a parenting rule. Discuss with the other parent some basic ground rules for the new structure of your family. Toronto divorce lawyers are very familiar with the positive benefits of mediation and collaboration. For example, come to a decision about:
- a common curfew and bedtime that your children will abide by in each household;
- what clothes, toys, etc will travel between households, if any;
- if clothes travel, who will be responsible for the laundry;
- a generally similar system of discipline;
- who the child’s emergency contacts will be if either parent is unavailable; and
- how to exchange information such as bills, report cards, letters, or simple verbal messages.
To elaborate on the last point, do not use your children as messengers for verbal, written or official correspondence. Although this may seem neutral and convenient, your children do not and should not carry the burden of your separation. Be responsible and thoughtful of how documents and messages will be exchanged with the co-parent. A Toronto divorce lawyer may be able to provide you with some creative and practical options.
4) Make all major decisions together.
Show respect to your co-parent by making decisions about the children together. Consult the other parent about smaller issues as well, such as letting your child get highlights or his/hers ears pierced. If you support the other parent’s involvement in an active and positive way, it is likely he/she will do the same.
Creating a healthy relationship with your co-parents will ultimately benefit the child. Moreover, it will reduce the likelihood you and your ex-spouse will end up in a legal battle over matters related to your children.