Creating a Successful Co-parenting Routine
For many parents, life after divorce involves having to quickly adjust from being legal adversaries to co-parenting their kids. This can be challenging, especially when there is residual tension from the divorce. The good news is that there are things you can do that may make it easier to work with your ex. By creating a successful co-parenting routine, you can establish parameters that will benefit you and your children.
Select the Right Schedule
During your divorce, you and your ex are going to consider various ways to divide your placement time. For some families, a 50/50 placement schedule will be workable. This could mean alternating weeks, or alternating every few days in a 2-2-3 or 3-4-4-3 pattern. For others, a shared placement schedule, where parents each have at least 25% placement time, may be a better arrangement. A shared placement schedule can be organized in a variety of ways. For instance, you may want a 30/70 schedule during the school year and a 60/40 schedule over the summer. You may also want to create a schedule that changes as your kids mature. In some cases, the kids might do better having one parent as home base, while a parent with a busy work/travel schedule might have weekday dinners and alternating weekends. The home base parent is then awarded primary placement, and the other parent receives visitation of set days and times (with as much flexibility as the parties need and can agree to).
When choosing your schedule, it's essential to be mindful of your children's ages and needs. Younger children depend more on routine and structure. Therefore, going back and forth every few days between homes may not be the best choice for children in this age group. When kids are middle and high school-aged, alternating days or weeks may interfere with peer relationships and extracurricular activities. Every family is unique, and it's crucial to consider what will work best for your children as you develop your parenting time schedule. You and your attorney can review your parenting time options and create a schedule that will support your children’s well-being. By considering potential issues beforehand, you can plan for your children’s development and avoid issues down the road.
Creating Clear Expectations
It's essential to be clear in your expectations as you and your ex get used to your new co-parenting dynamic. If possible, set aside time to meet with your ex and establish ground rules when it comes to raising your children and maintaining their routine. You can agree, for example, to call one another if you are going to be late for pick up or drop off. The two of you could also discuss adapting your placement time for certain special occasions. Your divorce documents will establish the rules, but it will be up to you and your ex to put them into practice in a way that works.
When co-parenting communication breaks down, parents can get frustrated, and children can lose their sense of structure. Ambiguous texts and vague emails can create misunderstandings that can quickly escalate to conflict. Further, these incidents can make it much harder to develop a positive co-parenting dynamic. One way to avoid this situation is by making sure your interactions with the other parent are clear.
Additionally, kids draw their sense of security from knowing what to expect and how their parents behave towards one another. Your children need to feel like they can rely on you both to communicate appropriately and work together to support them and their routine.
Be Patient and Flexible
Adjusting from living under one roof to sharing placement in two households will take time. Even when parents are on the same page, things don’t always go perfectly. When mistakes happen, it's important to be patient with yourself and your ex. Additionally, it's crucial to remember that your parenting time schedule won't always fit you, your ex's, or your kids’ circumstances. There are probably going to be times when it may work better to switch days, or for one of you to pick your kids up later or earlier. Being flexible when possible can minimize stress on your family and help you build a better relationship with your ex as you navigate your co-parenting routine.
Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law is a trained Wisconsin attorney, Collaborative Attorney, and Mediator. She has extensive experience assisting clients before, during, and after Wisconsin divorce cases. She can help you understand your options and find the right resources. Call us today to set up a consultation so we can take a "first look" at your situation.