After a divorce, the thought of coparenting can be daunting. It is also not uncommon for differences in parenting styles to be cited as a contributing factor to divorce. This can make the prospect of having to coparent with your former spouse even more stressful. You are not alone. Many newly divorced parents report feeling anxious and nervous about coparenting.
It does not help matters that the media portrays the ideal coparenting relationship as one where ex-spouses are best friends who are in constant contact and always agree. This puts an incredible burden on divorced and separated parents, many of whom feel pressured to live up to this unrealistic expectation. In fact, coparenting relationships rarely look like those we see in movies and television.
Keep reading as we take a look at some common misconceptions about coparenting and provide some helpful tips for developing a healthy coparenting relationship with your child’s other parent.
Myth #1: You Have to Be Friends with Your Former Spouse to Be a Good Coparent
This is one of the most anxiety-inducing misconceptions about coparenting. Very few people would describe their former spouse as their friend. While coparenting requires you to stay in contact with your child’s other parent, it does not require you to be friends or even friendly with them. Setting a goal of becoming friends with your former spouse is not only unrealistic, but it may also be unhealthy for you mentally and emotionally.
Instead, focus on developing a solid working relationship with your coparent. And take the time to consider and set important boundaries. For example, define how and when communication will occur and identify off-limits topics. Often, coparents find it easier to work together when they aren’t overly involved with their former spouse’s personal life. Staying focused on the children and what you can do as parents to support them should be your top priority, not forcing a close, friend-like relationship with your ex-spouse.
Myth #2: If You Don’t Come to an Agreement, You’ve Failed
When it comes to coparenting, you often hear that compromise is crucial to developing a strong coparenting relationship. And while this is true, compromise doesn’t necessarily mean that you and your child’s other parent agree all the time. It also doesn’t mean that you always meet in the middle. Often, compromise means being selective about the things you push back on, colloquially referred to as “choosing your battles.”
Sometimes, you and your former spouse will have to concede an issue to the other parent. When approaching coparenting problems or disputes, you will have to consider what is important to you and what is not. You will also have to think about what matters in the long term. In some cases, this may mean that you let the other parent make the final decision on a relatively small issue, even if it’s not the decision you would have made.
It is also important to remember that if you and your child’s other parent can’t agree on something important and have to return to mediation or court, you have not failed as parents. As a parent, you are invested in making the best decisions for your children, and when you and your coparent don’t see eye-to-eye, you sometimes need help from an outside source, whether that’s a neutral mediator or the courts. There is nothing wrong with this. Often, seeking unbiased or third-party help from the courts or a mediator is the best option.
Myth #3: Having a Custody Order & Parenting Plan Means There Will Be No Issues
When going through a divorce or separation, the courts will issue a custody order (in Texas, visitation with the non-custodial parent is legally established through a possession order). Additionally, a parenting plan will be filed with and approved by the courts. While these orders outline important aspects of parents’ rights and responsibilities post-divorce, they do not cover everything. They are also not a guarantee that issues won’t arise in the future.
Over time, circumstances can change, and the child’s needs may change. Coparents may find aspects of their custody order and parenting plan inadequate to deal with certain issues. When dealing with a coparenting dispute, turning to your custody order and parenting plan is a good first step. However, if you do not find the answers you are looking for, and you and your coparent cannot come to a resolution on your own, you should reach out to a lawyer for guidance. It may be time to request a modification of your original order.
If you are struggling with a coparenting issue, reach out to Hunt Law Firm for guidance. Our attorneys are highly experienced, and we are prepared to help you.