Tips for Divorced Co-Parents Before the School Year Begins

For parents with children, summer is often a time to relax and recharge before another busy school year begins. One of the best things you can do for your children who are traveling between two homes is to use the summer time to work with the other parent to prepare for the upcoming school year.

  1. If you have a different schedule in the summer vs. the school year, be sure to have a clearly defined “school year” placement schedule and “summer” placement schedule in your legal paperwork. That way, both parents know definitively when to switch from one schedule to the other. A suggestion: “the school year will be defined as one (1) week before school begins, not including the first day of school, until one (1) week after school ends, not including the last day of school.”
  2. Depending on how old your children are and how your children are doing in school, discuss strategies for how you will stay on top of homework, studying and assignments at each of the households. While it is great if parents could be on the same page with all of this, many parents who have separated “parent” differently. For example, in one home it may be the rule that all homework must be done right after school before you can play outside, etc. Whereas, in the other home the rule may be that you can play outside right when you get home from school, but you cannot watch any TV after dinner until all of your homework is done. While it would be best to have the children have the same routines at both homes, that may not be achievable. So, it is important that the children at least have the same expectations (i.e. homework must be completed before bed) at both homes and that the parents are committed to be on the same page for that big picture goal.
  3. Make sure that you decide how involved your children will be in extracurricular and/or school-related activities before the school year begins. Many parents in Wisconsin have joint custody, which means you have equal rights to make major legal decisions, including decisions about school, for your children. Therefore, it is important to connect with the other parent before school/activities begin to make sure you are on the same page with how involved or uninvolved your children will be after school and on the weekends. This is particularly important when one parent wishes to sign a child up for a sport that may have practice every day and tournaments/games on weekends. That almost always means that some of the scheduled activities fall over the other parent’s time, which needs to be approved by that parent. By working this all out ahead of time, you protect your children from conflict or from having to be involved in a disagreement between the parents where ultimately one parent becomes the “bad guy” to the children. The “bad guy” is usually the parent who is not in agreement with the activity the child wants to do- even if there are valid reasons for disagreement.
  4. Prepare early on for how you will successfully spare the school staff and coaches from uncomfortable encounters with you and the other parent. For example, if one parent cannot or does not behave appropriately around the other parent, discuss early (and privately) with your children’s teachers that each parent will be scheduling their own parent/teacher conference. If one parent cannot or does not behave appropriately around the other parent at your child’s soccer game, divvy out the games as soon as the schedule comes out and plan to attend only games that the other parent will not be attending. In an ideal situation, ex-spouses will be able to be around each other and behave appropriately for the sake of their children. However, this is not always the case. So, it is important to strategize ways to avoid putting your children or their teachers/coaches in uncomfortable situations.

 

If you wish to speak with an attorney about co-parenting strategies and helpful ways to address these issues in legal documents, please call our office at 414-258-1644 for a free ½ hour consultation with one of our skilled attorneys.

Tips for a Better Co-parenting Relationship After Divorce

For couples with children, divorce does not end a relationship but instead changes its focus. Although they no longer relate to one another in the context of marriage, in order to provide the best possible care for their children, divorced parents must learn to forge a new relationship as co-parents. The following tips may help smooth the transition for divorcing parents and help them provide a stable, healthy environment for their children.

 

Foster mutual respect

 

Particularly in the immediate aftermath of a painful breakup, when divorced spouses may still be dealing with strong and difficult feelings toward one another, co-parenting can seem like a daunting task. However, regardless of what your feelings may be toward your ex, kids need a strong and loving relationship with both parents. Therefore, it is important to promote and encourage a strong relationship between your children and the other parent. Resist the urge to be competitive, and take care not to vent your frustrations or speak disparagingly of your ex in front of your children.

 

Communicate

 

Another important part of a successful co-parenting relationship after djivorce  is keeping the lines of communication open between yourself and the other parent. Communicating frequently and openly will help both parents stay in the loop about the children and help create continuity between households. In addition, regular communication between co-parents helps nip misunderstandings and miscommunications in the bud, preventing them from growing into larger conflicts that may be disruptive to parents and children alike.

 

It can be helpful to set regular times to touch base with a co-parent about things like school, homework, scheduling, holiday plans and health issues. If speaking face to face is too difficult, particularly at first, try touching base by phone, email or instant messaging. With time and patience, collaborating with your ex on parenting issues will most likely become easier.  See our blog on using Our Family Wizard as an effective tool.

 

Establish boundaries

 

As important as communication is for successful co-parenting, it is just as important for you and your ex to establish reasonable boundaries and show respect for one another’s privacy. Tempting as it may be, avoid grilling your kids for details about your ex’s personal life after divorce.  Also resist the urge to micromanage or criticize your ex’s parenting skills — even when he or she does things in a way that you would not choose. If you make an effort to choose your battles and keep things in perspective, your ex-spouse will be more willing to extend you the same courtesy.

 

Minimize conflict during the divorce process

 

Couples with children and others who wish to minimize the negative impact of divorce often benefit from a process known as collaborative divorce . Unlike traditional divorce litigation, which is fundamentally adversarial, collaborative divorce is based on cooperation and communication between the spouses, with a shared goal of reaching a mutually agreeable outcome. At the beginning of the collaborative divorce process, both spouses sign a contract that states they agree to resolve the divorce without resorting to litigation.

 

For couples who are interested in collaborative divorce but are not necessarily ready to sign a contract, cooperative divorce offers a similar solution. The process of cooperative divorce is essentially the same as collaborative divorce, except that the spouses retain the option of going to court as a last resort.

 

If you have any questions regarding divorce, please contact our office at 414-258-1644 to schedule a free initial office consultation or visit our website for more information.