When you get married or you start a relationship, you don’t do so with the idea that it’s all going to end. You go in with hope, love and openness with each other. You explore deep into the soul of the person that you have fallen in love with, and it becomes almost necessary to ensure that you both will end up together as a couple no matter what happens. The thing is, not everything works out and while being together with no children makes for a relatively easy break (heartache aside), when children are involved, things become a little more difficult.
The first thing to know is that it doesn’t matter what the other person has done. No, really, before you swear at the blog on your screen, it really doesn’t matter what they’ve done when there are children around to witness the fallout. You could hate the person for what they have done to you, but the fact remains that your children are still 50% that person and 50% you – hating that person means that your children will see you hating on a part of them, and that’s something that you really want to avoid as a parent. Instead, you want to ensure that sharing custody of your children works, and for that you need to be friends.
Before you go and see a family lawyer, you need to talk. You need to be able to communicate without a match of thrown insults and hurt. You have to be able to work together and talk together because like it or not, you’re tied to each other for the next 18 years and beyond. You’ll have track meets and engagement parties, college graduations and grandchildren ahead of you and you want to ensure that this is as easy for your children as much as it’s easy for yourselves. You loved each other once; draw on that for strength if you must and take these six ways to make sure that sharing custody doesn’t kill your friendship with each other. Co Parenting can be done well – and you’re going to see how.
- Collaborate. You’re going to want to see a family lawyer together, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t work together on the finer details of parenting. You still have to be a team, and that means coming to a mutual agreement that works for everyone. It means being able to talk about how to handle big events and what kind of space you need from each other to heal. Working together on this is the only way to prevent as many hurt feelings as possible, but for this to work, you have to agree to have a common goal.
- Remain respectful. To each other, about each other to others, about each other in front of the children, there needs to be a level of respect. This other person is the parent of your child, so treat them with the respect that deserves. The best way to do this is to treat them as if they were a colleague; collaborate as if you work together, which you have to do. Diffuse tension before it escalates anywhere and you’ll find it so much easier to get through this break.
- Make a plan. Entwine your calendars, people. You have children on one schedule and you each have your own schedules to accommodate. Communication is key and notice is a must, so make a plan as to who has the children and when, and add in occasional days where you can all be together so that the children don’t have to feel torn between you. This is especially important at school events.
- Make it make sense for the kids. What you believe should be a fair split isn’t always what’s reasonable. Children are not assets or a timeshare; they’ve been used to you both together, so you have to make it make sense and keep their world as stable as possible. If your kids are old enough, allow them some input. They need to have their feelings heard when their worlds shift, and then you can both discuss what the children want most.
- Get a therapist. You do not need relationship therapy, but if you know that your breakup was a heartbreaking time, you do need a chaperone of sorts to get through meetings where you discuss your children. You can do this with a lawyer, but a therapist can help to give you coping tools and ways that you can break down what’s happened and how you can move through it going forward.
Give yourself some room. A relationship needs space to grieve when it’s over. Allow each other that space and try to make this breakup as tidy as possible.