What is Co-Parenting?

patrickcrawford | October 18, 2023

Even when two people have divorced, they still have a duty to work together as a team to help raise their children. This is known as co-parenting. 


For divorcing or separating couples that had children, those parents have to discern how they would each help in their child’s upbringing.  


If you are recently divorced, keep reading to find out tips for successful co-parenting and how a parenting plan can be an effective tool in the process.


Statistics on Divorce and Children

The model of the traditional family is becoming scarcer. In the United States, about 50% of children will have parents who have divorced or separated. Of this 50%, 16% will live with a step-parent, step-sibling, or half-sibling. 


Children of divorced parents are almost twice as likely to live in poverty and engage in risky sexual behavior as they get older. That’s because parents who get divorced are more likely to be promiscuous. No matter a family’s socioeconomic status, if a child sees a parent engaging in risky sexual behavior (like having multiple sexual partners), the child is more likely to think this behavior is acceptable.


Some studies suggest that the education of a child whose parents are divorced is also affected, citing an 8% lower probability of completing high school, a 12% lower probability of attending college, and an 11% lower probability of graduating from college.


Child Custody Arrangements in Maryland

While there are several forms of child custody in Maryland, it is important to understand the difference between legal and physical custody. A party who retains legal custody will have decision-making authority and will be able to make long-term decisions for the child. 


Conversely, physical custody involves how much time each parent or caregiver will have with the child. While a child may live with one parent (i.e., custodial parent), the other parent may have visitation rights. 


In many cases, parents or caregivers may have joint legal custody or shared physical custody. A co-parenting plan takes joint custody or shared legal custody a step further by retaining a similar sentiment as when the family was whole. The co-parenting plan will still honor the divorce decree but can remove the hostility that takes hold in the termination of some marriages.


What is the “Best Interests of the Child” Standard?

The court will consider the “best interests of the child” before making any custody decisions. The court realizes that custody decisions affect more than a child’s physical health; it will also have an impact on their mental and emotional well-being.


Each family is dynamic, so a judge will take into account the time and energy that each parent can devote to their child. A family’s goals for their child will also be considered, and a judge will do his or her best to determine the best custody arrangements given the circumstances.  


What is Involved in Co-Parenting?

Divorce is a messy process, and further conflict only puts further stress on your child in what is already a grueling process.


Co-parenting is a lifestyle choice that allows parents to spend time with the child as a family. It puts the child first, putting the former couple’s differences aside. The child is able to enjoy the company of both parents, giving the child a sense of stability.


Successful co-parenting involves effective communication, cooperation, and planning between divorced parents. If one parent is unwilling to work with the other, this only ends up hurting the child. Since coordinating schedules can be challenging, patience is key in co-parenting. 


Some helpful tips for having a positive co-parenting experience are:


Keeping the lines of communication open

When both parents communicate, whether it be with one another, with a guardian or caregiver, or with their child, everyone is on the same page regarding expectations. 


Ongoing communication also ensures that the child has consistency, whether it be in what behaviors are acceptable, what is expected from the child in terms of grades in school, or even coming to an agreement on bedtime.


Help the child plan ahead

It puts a child at ease to have a plan when they are visiting the other parent’s home. Doing things like making a packing list and checking off the items once they are packed can help a child stay organized and feel less overwhelmed by the transition. 


Keep routines consistent

Your child will feel safe and secure when there is consistency in the schedule. For example, your child will feel more secure knowing that dad visits on Thanksgiving. 


Make a plan for which parent or caregiver your child will spend certain holiday breaks and vacation weeks with, and stick to it.


Make the most of your time together

Nobody has endless amounts of time to spend with their child, so it is important to spend quality time together. That means turning off the TV, putting down the phone, and enjoying each other’s company.


What is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a written document that provides guidance on how parents and guardians will raise their children and make major decisions. When a divorce involves the custody of a minor child, parents will receive parent plan documents at their first court hearing. A parenting plan will also be required if any party requests a modification to an existing custody arrangement.


There is no “one size fits all” parent plan. A judge knows very little about your family, so courts prefer that parents work together to devise a parenting plan that works for their family. 


A parenting plan will address topics that are commonly disagreed upon, especially when parents are sharing physical or have joint legal custody.


A parenting plan will provide your family with the following benefits:

  • Reduced emotional stress and costs
  • Consistency
  • Predictability
  • Can help prevent future conflict


If you are in the midst of trying to develop a parenting plan with your spouse, a child custody lawyer can help you navigate the process.


An Annapolis Child Custody Lawyer Looking Out for Your Child

Emotions run high during a divorce, and parents may not be in the right mind frame to decide on a co-parenting plan. Even so, do you want to leave it to a judge to make such a personal decision that affects your family’s welfare?  


If you are in a custody dispute, you need Attorney Patrick Crawford to defend your rights and look out for your child’s best interests. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation and to find out how Patrick can help you and your family.

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