Annapolis Child Custody Lawyer

Co-Parenting Tips for Parents Who Share Custody

patrickcrawford | September 18, 2019

When two parents are getting divorced, it can be easy for negative emotions to take center stage. However, if you allow your negative emotions to continue throughout your divorce and afterward, it can have an emotionally adverse effect on your child.

Child custody will be a major part of any divorce case when the spouses have children, and many parents in Maryland will share custody of their children. The law believes that shared custody will foster meaningful relationships between the child and both parents, which is believed to be in the best interests of the child in most situations. However, when two parents are unable to co-parent in a healthy manner, shared custody can be overly stressful and difficult for everyone involved. 

Research shows that successful and cooperative co-parenting fosters healthy relationships within the family, and can increase the success and emotional growth of the child. The following are some tips for parents who share custody to co-parent in a healthy and successful manner.

Communication is Key

Even two parents are living apart, it is even more important for them to stay in open communication with one another. Shared custody schedules can be confusing, especially at first, and you never want someone to miss a pick-up of your child. Your child may already be feeling alone and confused. In addition, a divorce can make a child feel insecure and unstable, since their schedules and home life have been turned upside-down. If your child does not know who is going to pick them up or take them to sports practice at a given time, it can only increase their insecurity.

On the other hand, when two parents show a united front – even through a divorce – it can keep the child feeling secure, and help their life seem less tumultuous. In many situations, this requires constant communication and cooperation between the parents. If one parent has an emergency and cannot make a scheduled pick-up, the other should be willing to compromise and pick up the slack. This type of teamwork is the basis of healthy co-parenting.

Never Argue in Front of Your Children

When divorce is impending, spouses are likely arguing and disagreeing on a regular basis. As you live apart and begin to share custody, a child can easily feel caught in the middle between their parents. When parents constantly fight in front of the child, the child may feel pressure to “choose” a paren, which can be a highly unhealthy situation. 

On the other hand, if you separate and your child witnesses you and your spouse working together, it can set a great example. You can demonstrate to your child that it is possible to set aside differences and cooperate, even after conflict. This can help them move on to resolve conflict in a healthy manner in their own lives.

When in Doubt, Refer to the Parenting Plan

When you set out your custody arrangement, you will need to complete a detailed parenting plan to be approved by the court. This plan should address all imaginable situations that you might face during your shared custody. A parenting plan may address:

  • Your basic physical custody and overnight schedule
  • Any additional visitation
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Religious activities and upbringing
  • Holiday schedules, including birthdays
  • Schedules for spring break, summer vacation, and winter breaks
  • Whether you need consent to take the child on vacation out of state
  • How the parents will communicate regarding the child

If you have any questions or disagreements about the schedule, you should first check the parenting plan for guidance. Often, the plan can resolve the matter without any escalating conflict. 

Be Patient

Shared custody between separated or divorced parents is a very different situation than everyone living under one roof together. It can often take time for either the parents or the child to fully adjust to the new situation. If someone is struggling, try to be patient. This can be especially true for your child, who may be acting out more or getting in trouble at school. Instead of coming down hard on them, understand that these changes in their life are difficult, and their reactions might be normal.

The same goes if the other parent makes a mistake when it comes to the custody schedule. They are likely not used to trading off parenting time, and it is easy to forget about an event, obligation, or pick-up. For the first few weeks, go easy on them if they make a mistake. If the problem continues, schedule a conversation to discuss the matter and try to find a solution.

Have a Support System

Going from a two-parent household to a one-parent household can be challenging, especially on top of the end of a marriage. In order to be the best parent you can be for your child, you might need some additional support – both emotionally and practically. Reach out to family, friends, or even other parents at your child’s school. See who is available to help take care of your child when it is your night on the custody schedule, but you have an important work event. Also, if you are frustrated, talk to a friend instead of taking it out on your ex-spouse, which can increase tension and hinder your co-parenting.

Co-Parenting Can Start with an Out-of-Court Custody Agreement

While co-parenting develops after a divorce, you can lay the foundation for successful co-parenting during the divorce process. Specifically, try as much as possible to cooperate and compromise when it comes to your child custody arrangement. If you can talk it out in negotiations or mediation, it can often result in an arrangement that works better for both of you. 

On the other hand, if you and your spouse refuse to compromise, the matter may go to court. Battling it out in court often involves personal attacks or arguments, which can further drive a wedge and increase animosity between you and your spouse. This type of tension is not the right foundation for healthy co-parenting. 

It is important to seek help from an attorney who understands your goals of co-parenting and helps you reach an agreeable resolution with your spouse when it comes to child custody and other issues in your divorce. This can help put you, your ex-spouse, and your child on the path to maintaining healthy family relationships long after the divorce is final. Even if you cannot agree right away, there are methods of encouraging cooperation and avoiding litigation whenever possible.

Contact an Annapolis Child Custody Lawyer for Assistance with Your Case Today

At the Law Office of Patrick Crawford, our goal is to resolve child custody matters as effectively and amicably as possible. This can help you move forward in the best position for you and your child. In order to seek a favorable outcome in any type of child custody matter, it is important to have the right legal representation and guidance. Understanding the law can help you have realistic expectations and engage in meaningful and productive negotiations or mediation. 

The goal of our Annapolis child custody lawyer is always to protect your best interests and those of your child. Contact us online or call (410) 216-7905 to discuss the many ways we can help in your child custody and/or divorce case.