Separation and/or divorce are obviously difficult times for two people. Separating and/or divorcing with children in the mix is a whole other issue. Navigating the co-parenting waters will be tricky, but the sailing will be much smoother if you follow these simple co-parenting tips:
- Do not post nasty, cryptic posts on Facebook/Twitter/Other Social Media about the other parent: If you need to vent about the other parent or about your separation, do not do this on social media sites. Nobody but your closest friends or family should have to read that the children’s “father is a deadbeat dad who doesn’t pay child support!” or the children’s “mother is crazy person who is poisoning the kids by feeding them hot dogs!”. Keep your thoughts about your ex off social media.
You never know if your Facebook posts will end up in front of a Judge hearing your case one day. It will be a blow to your character and may damage your case if your Facebook posts tear apart the other parent and makes you look like a difficult person with a vicious personality.
- The war of the emails/text messages: You may think your furious email/text message exchange, complete with violent name-calling, finger pointing about irrelevant issues, and threats towards the other parent are private now, but just wait until a Judge gets a hold of them in Court documents. Of course, serious situations may call for a sternly written email. Just remember to stick to the facts and avoid filling the email with words you wouldn’t want to hear coming from your own children.
Tip: Write your text messages and emails as though a Judge will be reading them one day. If that is not enough to stop you from writing scathing messages solely designed to berate, insult or threaten the other parent, write your messages as though they will be published in tomorrow’s newspapers. After all, most family law court documents are public record, ready to be viewed by anyone who may be interested.
- “You were supposed to return the children at 7 PM and it is 7:10 PM!”: If the other parent is generally on time to drop off the children, and the children are dropped off late only once in a while, let it go. Chronic lateness is, of course, a problem and needs to be addressed because no parent should have to sit around and wait for the children and put their lives on hold so you can run your errands instead of being on time.
Tip: Don’t be late dropping off or picking up the children. Your children will learn from you that timeliness is not important. And sending a text message to the other parent to inform them that you are running late because of traffic/flat tire/child deciding to go to the bathroom at the last minute will certainly diffuse a situation before it even starts.
- “No, it’s my weekend with the children. You can’t have the children for your family reunion/wedding/etc. on my time.”: This one will likely come back to haunt you when you try to ask the same from the other parent. Children benefit from being involved with both sides of the family – think about how hurt they will feel if they are excluded from a family event. Maintain a flexible approach to your children participating in these events and you will likely see a positive shift in the way the other parent communicates with you in the future.
It should always go without saying neither parent should speak ill of the other parent to, or in front of the children. You may not be with your ex-spouse/partner anymore, but you are bound to them for the rest of your lives through your children. If you both want to be sitting and smiling in the front row at your child’s graduation/wedding/other major event, keeping civil heads today will ensure smooth sailing in the future.