By Teresa A. Drexler
Attorney at Law
The Gasper Law Group
Separation and divorce is complicated when children are involved. Emotions run high and often the parties are angry and bitter with one another. It is often difficult to separate frustration with a spouse as a result of divorce and the exhaustion from suddenly becoming a one parent household. Attorney’s can help you get through the legal process resulting in a final divorce. If children are involved, an attorney can aid in preparing appropriate parenting plans and agreements that address issues with the children. However, once parenting plans and schedules are in place and the divorce is final, both parents still have to raise the children. If the children are very young, both parents must continue to deal with one another as it pertains to the children for many years. In many cases parents can resolve issues amicably and cooperatively. Other times the situation is hostile and becomes increasingly hostile as parties grow more impatient with one another. The importance of co-parenting during this time is significant.
Co-parenting involves sharing responsibilities and decision-making with the other parent while maintaining separate households. Co-parenting is successful only if both parents are willing to work at it. If both parents cooperate and help to instill a successful co-parenting environment, it is not only beneficial for the parents but ultimately it is the best situation for the children. Divorce is stressful on children but this stress can be alleviated when parents work together for the benefit of the children.
Children have a great need to feel loved and supported by both parents. When both parents have a healthy co-parenting relationship, the children receive the stability and security they need amidst a stressful divorce. Children can learn valuable life skills from watching parents successfully co-parent. Through positive behavior and example, parents can teach their children accountability, problem solving skills and how to cooperate with others. Parents have a tremendous opportunity to set a great example for their children when they successfully co-parent.
Successful co-parenting begins with a solid parenting plan. Parenting schedules, including pick up and drop off times, must be specific. Parenting plans should address everything from education, medical issues, holiday schedules, finances and decision making guidelines. Flexibility, however, is also key. Parents should be flexible with one another. Life is uncertain and unexpected events are bound to come up. If you are flexible when the other parent needs a change in the parenting plan, chances are the favor is returned. If you choose to be difficult with the other parent it is likely you will receive no favors.
An issue that commonly arises after divorce in regards to co-parenting is child rearing. With two separate households, schedules and rules are bound to be different. Parents often see this as a time to run the household “their way.” However, parents should work together to establish some degree of consistency between households. Consider a parenting plan that includes house rules, defined consequences and consistencies in schedules. Parents can agree on consequences (like loss of television) and enforce consequences at both homes when rules are broken. Both parents can agree on set homework times and bedtimes depending upon the age of the child. This cooperation shows the children that both parents are working together and helps keep children in a healthy, stable environment. But it does not stop there.
Under Colorado’s Parental Education Law, most courts require couples seeking divorce take a parenting class when children are involved. This parenting class teaches a variety of things such as how to avoid putting your children in the middle of a contested divorce and how to begin successful co-parenting. Parents should pay close attention in the class as there is a lot to be learned.
If you are truly dedicated to successful co-parenting, there are a variety of places that provide post-divorce co-parenting classes (see http://www.parentingafterdivorce.org/, http://disputepro.com/parenting/, http://www.coloradocenterforlifechanges.com/default.aspx; comprehensive list by judicial district at http://www.coloradodivorcemediation.com/family/Colorado-Parenting-Education-Lists/Colorado%20Parenting%20Class%20Providers.doc). Parents can continue improving on their parenting skills and learn additional skills to cope with more complicated issues that arise.
Naturally successful co-parenting requires both parents participate. If you find yourself in a situation where you are the only parent interested in co-parenting, you have an uphill battle. Don’t give up though. It is important to take the high road during this time for the sake of your children. You can still be a great example to your children and help them cope with the situation.
In the end, a good attorney can implement a comprehensive parenting plan that sets the foundation for successful co-parenting and can help parents create healthy relationships with their children after divorce. The Gasper Law Group, a family law firm in Colorado Springs, is dedicated to issues surrounding divorce and has the experience necessary to help you create a solid parenting plan.
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