Taking co-parenting to a new (better) level
by: Julie Lassiter, Office Manager St. Thomas Legal
Parents, even after you are no longer married, or were never married… You have a child together! It’s important to make that child your parenting focus, and to understand that getting along for the sake and betterment of your child is vital. But, how is that possible? One answer: communication.
What are the best ways to communicate? Texts and emails can be misread or misconstrued. If possible, face-to-face scheduled meetings with the goal of making decisions together, would be ideal. In this blog post, we’ll address common situations we hear when mom & dad agree to co-parent and cooperate together.
Do you feel like you’re not in “the know”?
Do you feel like you’re constantly surprised by things that are coming up in your child’s life? Is mom not communicating? Is dad not returning texts or calls? Both sides feel like they are the only ones trying… it is time to fix this broken record of the past and upgrade the machine. In other words, let’s come up with a new method to work through parenting together.
Set up a time for mom and dad to meet without the kids.
This is the time to discuss schooling, lunch accounts, extracurricular, sports schedules, dances, important family events, collaborative birthdays, vacation schedules, Summer camp, college, savings account, and so much more.
Talk in person, when possible.
When is the last time you read a text message and took the tone or flow of a typed message personally… last week, last night, Five minutes ago? It happens all the time. Communicating via text message, email, can be great and easy, but that type of conversation can also take away your ability to read the reaction of your child’s parent. Maybe the time you’re sending the text has been after a big fight with someone else or even your child, the noncustodial parents do not always know the best time to make a phone call or text. So it is time to schedule the meeting, face-to-face where mom and dad can alleviate so much of the back-and-forth, or even having the child as the messenger.
WARNING!! WARNING!!!Remember: Never make your child the messenger! Your number one goal in co-parenting is to communicate about your parenting plans to help your child, never to make them the “middl man”.
Do not tell your child to tell his father or her mother something that should come directly from the father or the mother. There are no good reasons to put your child in the middle. We all know. Monkey in the Middle is a kids game, and it usually ends with someone crying. That’s not what you want, and that is not the best way to get your message across. It is time to wise up and take control of your communication.
In every Family Law court proceeding where there’s a child, mother, and a father…there is a parenting plan. And In said parenting plan there is a note; the note states that neither the mother nor the father will discuss the legal proceedings with the child. PERIOD. Stick to this. Putting your child in the middle is confrontational; they can’t be involved like an adult, communicate like an adult or process this like an adult can, so don’t place the grown-up struggles on them.
Set up a “standing appointment” and make he best use of your time.
Make quarterly appointments to meet with your child’s parent, that’s once every three months. We’ve found that this regularly scheduled meeting isn’t so often that it will be burdensome, but often enough that big decisions will need to be made. Respect each other’s schedules and work together to make space in your calendar for this important meeting. This is a great way to get on the same page as your child’s other parent.
Here are a few tips to make this meeting possible and set appropriate expectations:
- Set a time that works for both parents
- Set a time limit (30-45 min)
- Each parent pays for their own meal or drink
- Use the attached checklist to make sure all items are discussed
- If not yet on good terms, invite a neutral party/mediator to help keep the meeting focused.
- No neutral party… see ** below.
- Remember child custody and child rearing is not about money… back child support should be left out of the conversation – it is not productive.
- The older your child gets, the more involved they may want to be in the decisions about their life, schedule, or upcoming events. Once mom and dad have met a few times using this method, invite your child come along.
Consider inviting a neutral party.
Attorney Peter Lassiter is a mediator and Guardian Ad Litem, he would be happy to assist in a meeting where parents can come together and talk through items of concern. Even his legal assistant could sit in with the parents to keep the meeting on task and focused.
Be willing to revisit this method and make sure it is working for each party.
Parents have complicated history with each other. Often times, New relationships might be put-off or concerned about such meetings; however, put those concern at ease by possibly inviting the new husband or wife to come along after both parents have agreed that would be beneficial.
We’re here to help.
Questions about this blog, article or our office? Feel free to contact us directly 314-623-1693 or email Julie, Office Manager.
Getting an attorney involved in your matter may or may not be best for your situation. Our firm is always here to help facilitate and assist clients with communication or offer suggestions to help resolve your current matter. Contact us today to see how we can help you.