Your bag is packed, the date is set, but as you walk out the door, you wonder: how am I going to help my kids? How does CoParenting work between two homes?
CoParenting Doesn’t Start At Divorce
No one talks about it, but all parents have CoParenting relationships. While we live in the same home, we coordinate schedules, share responsibilities, make decisions about where we live and how we discipline- together. Sometimes, this goes really well. Most of the time, though, because the skills of teamwork and conflict resolution are really difficult when you really care about the issue, CoParenting in one home isn’t easy.
CoParenting After Divorce
But what happens when there are two homes? Communication becomes more logistically difficult and emotionally wrought. It takes a lot of work to disconnect two lives, financially, emotionally, and psychologically. So separation and family transition take a huge toll on the basic trust needed for the teamwork in CoParenting. Add to that the conflict inherent in most family transitions and you have a recipe for a contentious few years.
3 Steps To Protect Your CoParenting Relationship
I know, you just walked out the door and never want to see this person again. But you will. Your shared family, the kids you love, will make sure of that. So let’s protect the one aspect of your relationship that will remain: Your CoParenting Relationship.
Step 1 Choose the method of divorce that gives you the greatest control and the least conflict.
Many newly separated people don’t realize how many options they have for getting a divorce. Each situation presents its own issues, so consult a well trained lawyer to find the right one for you. In my experience, there are 3 basic ways to get a divorce:
- Litigation-the one where a judge sets the timeline, and makes the final decisions and the process is very public. This one includes something called discovery, where everyone competes to be the best and to show the other person as the worst.
- Mediation-the parties sit down with a third person [and most of the time their lawyers] and hammer out an agreement. This typically has a time pressure of trying to get it done quickly and can be done at any time during a litigated divorce. Discovery may be a part of this option as well.
- Collaborative Divorce-the parties each have a lawyer, and some neutrals like a mental health professional and a financial professional, who work in an interest based negotiation to find the best future for the family. This process gives the parties more control over the final product, their schedule, and their privacy. Discovery is not a part of this option.
As a mental health profession who has worked with divorcing families for 15 years, discovery damages the CoParenting relationship in nearly every case. Avoiding that process can increase your chances of a good CoParenting relationship and a stable agreement.
Step 2 Communicate well.
Divorce includes a lot of change and stress. During this time, lots of emails, texts and phone calls can become extremely emotional and counterproductive. Read books on communication [I recommend Bill Eddy’s BIFF: Quick Responses to High-Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns.] Then apply what you learned. Be brief, informative, friendly, and firm when you communicate. Make sure you put dates on the times when you need replies. When you get a communication from your CoParent, don’t just hit reply. Take a bit to breathe and think about the best way to communicate.
Step 3 Maintain a business relationship with your CoParent.
By far, this advice has helped my client’s parents the most. Reminding yourself that you are no longer managing the other parent’s life and emotions changes how you respond to them. Remembering that most communications will be limited to business arrangements of finances, coordinating schedules, and communicating events can help you not become emotional.
So I’ve given all this great information, but really, it’s all very difficult to implement. Let me give you some resources to find just the right support network to get through what you need. For any legal advice, a collaboratively trained lawyer will understand all your legal options and can help you pick the right divorce option for you. Many of them practice in litigation as well. Here are a few links to find collaborative divorce attorneys. [Please remember, I am not an attorney and am not giving legal advice.]
Maybe your family needs some support on an ongoing basis. My experience as a counselor says that any person in a divorcing family needs support. Acorn has trained therapists who can support you through parenting education classes [Children in the Middle], counseling for kids, and counseling for the adults. All our counselors are trained in helping families with two homes. Schedule online or call 940-222-8703 to find a counselor to fit your schedule.
Christy Graham, MA Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and Registered Play Therapist Supervisor has been serving Denton County since 2001. She participates in several practice groups and coalitions that advance the practice of collaboration and providing a quality life for children effected by divorce. Email her with any specific questions and if she can’t help you, she may be able to connect you to someone who can.