Visitation and Co-parenting After Divorce
One of the most difficult parts of coparenting can be navigating visitation after divorce and parenting time. Often one parent will feel like they’ve gotten a raw deal or less than their “fair share.” You and your coparent need to develop your parenting plan together if possible. Coming up with a plan together can ensure that you both have a say and “buy in” to your agreement. When negotiating visitation, there are some things you should keep in mind:
- The nature of your coparenting relationship,
- Whether the two of you communicate well,
- Be as flexible as possible,
- Respect your coparent’s time.
Consider Your Coparenting Relationship
When you’re developing a visitation schedule, you should consider the relationship you have as coparents. How much conflict do you and your ex have? If the two of you already have a good relationship or can at least communicate without hostility, you can likely make any schedule work for both of you. But if the two of you have a contentious relationship, you may need to place many parameters around your visitation schedule. You may want to choose a neutral location for pick-ups and drop-offs or have one parent drop off at school and the other pick-up, to avoid seeing each other.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
How well do you and your coparent communicate? Are you good about keeping one another in the loop or asking about plans? If not, now is a good time to learn. You’ll both want to be in the loop on all communications regarding your children, whether it’s parent-teacher conferences, sports schedules, or medical appointments. Make sure that open communication becomes a standard part of your new coparenting routine. If you’ve had problems keeping one another in the loop in the past, consider creating a shared calendar or using a coparenting app.
Flexibility is Key
Things happen, and sometimes you’ll need to adjust your coparenting schedule on the fly. One of your children may get sick and need to stay where they are. If you live too far apart, an important school or sporting event may call for an adjustment. Maybe you’ll want to adjust the schedule if you’re moving or plan a special vacation. If you can be flexible with your coparent, they will be more likely to be flexible with you.
Respect Your Coparent’s Time
Once you have a custody order in place, both of you should follow your parenting plan. And flexibility can be wonderful when it’s a two-way street. But what happens when your coparent doesn’t respect your time or tries to sabotage the arrangements?
Some things your ex may do that indicate they don’t respect your coparenting status or visitation time include:
- They make plans for your kids during your parenting time without consulting you first,
- Trying to change drop off times, or change visitation days with no notice regularly,
- Making major decisions for the kids concerning their health, education, or living arrangements without consulting you, and
- Withholding visitation in retaliation.
As tempting as it can be to retaliate against an ex who tries to interfere with your plans and custody time, don’t ever use your parenting visitation schedule as a weapon. As contentious as your relationship with your ex may have been, your children shouldn’t be in the middle of that conflict. Remember to:
- Treat your coparent with respect,
- Be kind,
- Don’t put your kids in the middle,
- Keep your coparent in the loop,
- Always give advance notice,
- Make decisions jointly as much as possible,
- Respect your children’s plans, and
- Respect your coparent’s time.
It’s good to be as flexible as possible, but both parents should respect the other’s boundaries and relationship with the children.
You may also want to read Setting Agendas for Your Kids with Visitation and Co-parenting or listen to Divorce Dialogues’ episode “Crafting a Parenting Plan That Puts Kids First”
We are here to help
Going through a divorce with children is never easy. But keeping the lines of communication open, staying flexible, and respecting your coparent’s time can make everything go more smoothly for you and your children. If you and your partner are considering a divorce or separation, or if you’re already in the middle of the process, it’s always a good time to consider a cooperative and gentle approach. Give our team a call to see how we can help.