So, you made it through the divorce process in one piece, and you can finally take a deep breath.
Then, it hits you like a ton of bricks.
You are now in a new relationship with a person you would prefer to never lay eyes on again. You are now co-parenting with the enemy. How is this going to work?
It is not uncommon for cases with children to return to court multiple times on post-decree issues. Many times, the issues that prompt the return to court are somewhat trivial in the grand scheme of things. Unfortunately, however, one or both parents have decided that they must “win” no matter the cost. Winning, of course, does come at a cost, which can include hurting the children, and even tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
While it is, at times, tempting, don’t talk yourself into believing the following co-parenting myths.
5 Co-Parenting Myths You Should Know
1. “What happens at my house stays at my house.”
This could not be further from the truth. One of the easiest ways to sink a co-parenting relationship is to fail to relay information relating to your child. While no one expects you to provide a minute-by-minute account of the child’s day to the other parent, you should at least let them know when your child last ate and bathed and if there were any issues while at your house (e.g., the child was disciplined for breaking rules).
Perhaps the bigger issue when it comes to communication is providing updates relating to schooling and medical issues. Oftentimes, if a parent takes the child to a doctor’s appointment, they will not provide an update to the other parent afterward as they believe that he or she can simply call the doctor and get the same information. Not only is this unduly burdensome for the doctor’s office, but it creates an issue that could easily be avoided. It is perfectly acceptable and takes little time to type out an update to send via text or email, and it helps to avoid unwanted strife.
2. “My ex is out to get me.”
We know this one could actually be true, but it is important to approach each situation with some perspective and a vision of the bigger picture. It can be easy to want to “get even” with the other parent when he or she does something to purposely get under your skin. In most cases, this results in a never-ending game that no one wins. Additionally, you never know if the other parent is attempting to bait you or set you up for future litigation.
3. “I’ll take away their parenting time if…”
Repeat after me: “My child is not a weapon to be used against my ex.”
This is one of the most common co-parenting myths parents allow themselves to believe. You cannot withhold court-ordered parenting time from the other parent because they did not pay their child support, or they refused to consent to your request to accommodate a change in the schedule. When taking matters into your own hands like this, you may be setting yourself up for trouble. Ultimately, though, your children are the ones who suffer most in these kinds of situations.
4. “It’s important for my kids to know about legal matters that involve them.”
Wrong. Your child should have no knowledge of any court proceedings, including any final court orders. Ideally, the most your child should know is when he or she will be at your house versus the other parent’s house. Children do not need to know who is paying child support, why the court order is the way it is, or how you truly feel about the other parent. Children should be allowed to be children for as long as possible.
5. “My ex and I need to agree on everything regarding our children.”
Pick your battles. In co-parenting relationships where animosity and emotions are high, little disagreements often result in objectively unreasonable blowups. For example, if you eat organic whole foods at your house and the other parent feeds your child chicken nuggets, you are not going to get a court order to ensure the other parent follows your nutrition plan (unless your child has a medical condition that would warrant such an order). Instead, it’s better to acknowledge and accept that your parenting styles are just different.
Certainly, there will be instances when returning to court on a post-decree motion would be advisable (e.g., you’re being blocked from obtaining any information, poor communication is preventing decisions from being made, etc.), and it is best to seek legal advice for your specific case and facts. As every situation is different, never feel as though you cannot contact an attorney to learn about your potential legal options.
A version of this blog and other useful information regarding divorce and family law can be found at www.trolingerlaw.com.