When you and your partner decide to divorce or go your separate ways, it is an emotional time that can be especially difficult if you share children together. Establishing a custody arrangement that works for you, your co-parent and your children (if they’re old enough to have a say) can be challenging. Though the thought of splitting time with your children between you and your co-parent is likely upsetting to you both, it can be even more devastating for your children, as it is a huge transition to adjust to. Custody results in both a physical and emotional divide, and this can be hard for both parents and children to accept. If you want to limit some of your custody-related issues, utilizing effective strategies for successful custody arrangements through co-parenting communication can help you do just that.
Below are some helpful and effective strategies for co-parenting communication.
Establishing Open Lines of Communication
Adjusting to limited time with your children can be a struggle. This is especially true when you’re co-parenting with someone who tries to leave you out of the loop on what’s going on with your children. Establishing open lines of communication with your ex can give you peace of mind and show your children that the two of you are still able to interact even though the circumstances of your relationship have changed. Remember that healthy communication doesn’t have to be in-person either, which is a perk of available technology.
Below are a few of the ways you can establish these lines of communication:
- Active listening & empathetic understanding
Despite your reasons for divorce or separation, you and your co-parent share the most important common ground: your children. It’s important that you approach communication with your co-parent with empathy, rather than looking or waiting for something to jump down their throat about. It’s also important that you’re ready to listen when they have something to share in regard to your children. If you listen actively, and empathetically, it is more likely your co-parent will do the same.
- Regular check-ins and updates for ongoing communication
If it is your turn to keep your children, providing your co-parent with updates or regular check-ins as to what’s going on with them is extremely important, especially if you plan to take them out of town or on a vacation. It’s helpful to think about when the roles are reversed. Would you appreciate being updated on your children’s lives? If so, you should be willing to do the same.
- Setting ground rules for respectful conversations and interactions.
If you and your co-parent aren’t on great terms, but want what’s in the best interest of your children, it’s important to set some ground rules for when you know you’ll be communicating or interacting, particularly in front of your children. As adults, you set the tone. Your children can pick up on tension or bad blood, and it affects their mental well-being. Be respectful and set your expectations for respect in return.
Effective Communication During Custody Transitions
In addition to open lines of communication, it’s crucial that you also communicate effectively during custody transitions. You and your co-parent should not only be on the same page when it comes to your custody arrangement, holiday schedule, etc…but you should also always abide by what’s been planned and speak up if there is a need for change.
- Planning ahead for smooth transitions and exchanges
Planning the month, day, and time for any custody transition is necessary for you and your co-parent but also for your children. It is important that you limit interruptions to their life as they’re already getting used to a huge transition. You can even plan ahead for any physical or verbal exchanges between you and your co-parent if necessary, so neither you nor your child is surprised at the time of the transition.
- Handling unexpected changes or emergencies gracefully
Even if you and your spouse plan out your shared time to a T, things happen and you might find yourself needing to call on your co-parent for an adjustment at some point. If you know that a change needs to be made to your custody arrangement, it is important to discuss this with your co-parent as soon as possible, so you can determine a solution together.
Collaborating on Parenting Decisions
One of the most difficult aspects of custody to navigate is decision making. If you and your co-parent have decided to share custody, it is important that you’re on the same page about who is the sole decision maker, or if that duty will be shared.
- The importance of joint decision-making for major parenting choices
It is likely that one parent might think they know their child better than the other, but if you’ve decided to decision-make together, you need to abide by the guidelines you’ve set. Regardless of what decision needs to be made, whether it’s about your child’s education, health or something else, communicating with one another before making any permanent decisions can improve the custody arrangement for everyone.
Seeking professional guidance when needed (mediation, counseling)
If you and your co-parent struggle to communicate effectively or make decisions together, but can agree that the wellbeing of your children is top priority, there are other strategies you can take advantage of, like seeking professional guidance. Involving a neutral third-party might be the best way to streamline effective communication.
Mediation can help facilitate conversations that would have otherwise seemed impossible to have. It also creates a safe environment to hash out details or a custody arrangement with your co-parent.
Individual or co-parenting counseling is another option you have to work on your co-parenting skills alone or together. There may also be a need for your child to have counseling to help guide them through this change.
If you and your co-parent want to make a hard situation easier on yourselves and your child, using these effective strategies for successful custody arrangements and communication can help you do so.
How Equal Justice Law Group Can Help
At Equal Justice Law Group, we understand that determining custody arrangements can be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do, but we want you to be able to see past the stress and the worry so that you can plan the best possible future for your child. Our child custody attorneys can help you establish an arrangement that works. Call today for a free consultation and learn about your next steps.