Going through a divorce is never easy, especially when children are involved. In times like these, it becomes essential to create a co-parenting agreement that promotes the well-being and stability of the children. A well-crafted post-divorce co-parenting agreement gives kids clarity and structure, which will in turn help them thrive.
Here are 6 vital elements that contribute to a successful post-divorce co-parenting agreement:
1. Embracing Custody and Visitation Arrangements:
At the heart of any co- parenting agreement lies a clear and heartfelt plan that outlines custody and visitation arrangements. This involves determining whether joint custody or sole custody is most suitable and defining the physical and legal rights of each parent.
Taking into account the child’s age, developmental needs, and the ability of each parent to provide a stable and nurturing environment is key. Fifty fifty is not always best, nor its it always possible. Remember as well that it is always about quality, not quantity This is the time to think outside the box. Does one parent travel all week for work? Is one parent not emotionally able to have fifty fifty custody? If you keep the kids’ best interest in mind at all times when deciding the parenting schedule, you will never lose.
2. Nurturing Decision-Making Harmony:
The co-parenting agreement should address decision-making authority concerning things such as the children’s education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities. It should provide clarity on how major decisions will be made.
Will they be made jointly or by one parent? What method will the divorcing couple use to resolve disagreements on decisions? Both parents should ensure that the decisions are made in the best interest of the children, and both should feel like their opinion is heard and that it matters. If you are having trouble putting the kids needs first, be sure to get yourself the support you need to process through all of those residual feelings so that this becomes easier.
3. Creating a Culture of Communication in Co-Parenting:
It’s not always easy to do, but maintaining healthy communication between co-parents is vital for the well-being of the children. The co-parenting agreement should include regular check-ins, shared calendars, and protocols for sharing important information about the child.
Despite anger, resentment and hurt feelings, respectful, open communication fosters healthy children. And believe it or not, it’s healthier for you, too! I often encourage parents to think of their co-parent as a co-worker, someone with whom you are in the business of raising your kids. This is, of course the most important job either of you will ever have!
4. Supporting Each Other Financially:
The co-parenting agreement should address child support. It should include the amount of support, the frequency of payments, and how changes in circumstances will be handled. Additionally, the agreement may outline the sharing of other expenses, such as medical bills, educational costs, and extracurricular activities. Clearly defining financial obligations helps ensure that the child’s needs are met by both parents, and can prevent conflict caused by unexpected expenses and circumstances.
5. Resolving Conflicts with Compassion:
Even with the best intentions, conflicts can arise between co-parents. Including a clear understanding of how disputes will be handled can help prevent the need for post-litigation (returning to court.) The co-parenting agreement may specify mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods, providing a structured process for resolving differences and promoting cooperation between parents.
6. Embracing Flexibility and Growth:
As children grow, their schedules, activities, hobbies and even their personalities start to change. It’s important to be flexible and open to adjustments needed. For example, a child might get onto a high school sports team, which practices every night, leading to one parent not having as much parenting time.
Also, from my experience, when kids get to be pre-teens and teens, they want to spend less and less time with parents and more and more time with friends. While this is very healthy, normal behavior, the change can be disappointing and hurtful to parents. So, it’s up to the parents to change with their childrens’ changes, and come up with a new parenting schedule. I encourage parents to intentionally review the parenting plan once a year given the changing developmental and circumstantial changes that happen for all of us.
In closing, being a parent isn’t easy, let alone being a single parent. A solid, strong co-parenting agreement is a huge help in single parenting after divorce. Be thoughtful about it, and remember that there are no right or wrong decisions in crafting a co-parenting agreement; only decisions that are best for the children and best for each individual parent. Remember that when you have a really good co-parenting agreement, everyone in the family benefits from it.
Rita Morris, M.A., LMHC is a Certified Life Coach, a Parenting Coach, a veteran therapist, and a mom of two. Rita, who holds a Masters degree in education and who has been a practicing psychotherapist since 2003, specializes in helping men and women during and after divorce with coparenting through strategies to ensure their children thrive. Rita also has a concentration in helping parents with kids who have ADHD and anxiety disorders. Learn more on her website.
Like this article? Check out, “5 Tips for Co-parenting with Someone Who Hurt You”