Divorce is a difficult phase for any couple and the complexity of child custody adds to the woes. Parents must ensure their conflicts don’t hamper their child’s physical, emotional and mental well-being.

The gravity of the situation can be understood from a report in The Hindu,  “Karnataka High Court initiates suo motu PIL to involve psychologists on child custody issues in matrimonial disputes between parents”. It’s needless to say the child is the most affected party in a divorce.

Hence it is important for parents to make the transition easy for the child and for themselves by setting boundaries but being extra cautious when it comes to co-parenting.

What is co-parenting?

Co-parenting is the arrangement of sharing the duties of bringing up a child by the separated parents individually through regular communication, care, socialization, financial assistance, emotional support, and physical availability. While going through the process of divorce either mutual or contested, parents need to make a decision whether they are willing to co-parent their child under the age of 18 years. If both parties are in consensus with the Co-parenting option, the court shall agree to the same and give orders accordingly.

However in other cases where the parents cannot come to an amicable agreement on the issues of child custody, the court based on the material facts presented before it, decides on custody, visitation rights, and child support. While making this decision the welfare of the child is considered to be paramount. The judge/s also speaks to the child to understand the needs of her/him.

Co-Parenting Tips

Though parents may have separated ways, for the child nothing changes. The upbringing of a child in our society needs both the parents’ presence in their lives physically as well as emotionally.

Conflicts between the parents would definitely cause an unpleasant experience etched in the tender mind. Taking cognizance of signs of anxiety and depression is the first step toward course correction if needed.

Co-parenting can seem to be strenuous for the spouses but keeping the future of the child into consideration should be the topmost priority. Being courteous to each other may seem an uphill task but maintaining a level of normalcy is essential especially if the child is at an impressionable age.

To make the first step smoother we bring to you some co-parenting tips that can help to strategies ahead.

1. Keep Emotions at Bay

It may be a daunting task to forgive and forget. Investing in a relationship that ultimately falls apart isn’t a very good space, but the emotional upheaval of the parents can create severe dents in the psyche of the child.

The best way to deal with it is to have a courteous stance whenever exes share a common space. The common goal of the child’s well-being should be the only point of contention.

2. Never Argue in front of the Child

Though you may have done this before the bitter divorce, it’s best to avoid it after the divorce. Each argument or fight can create a sudden sense of panic attack/anxiety or stress for the child. The child might even feel that he/she is responsible for the divorce.

The best way is the silent way at the start and slowly moving on to being courteous with time.

3. Communicate

Though this may seem a bit difficult and might even be the reason for the divorce it is important to communicate to reach a consensus about the way forward.

Communicate effectively to avoid conflict and going back in the loop of pointing fingers. Try to respond rather than react and approach things one day at a time.

4. Discuss child routine and timelines

Define mutually agreeable timings that work for both w.r.t to picking up and dropping the child. Work around these arrangements to leave no scope for conflict. If the mother is the primary custodian the father can make visits in the evenings in set time frames or on weekends to help set a smooth routine for the child.

The schedule of the child with respect to school timings and co-curricular activities must not be disturbed while exercising visitation rights.

5. Work-Life balance

If both the parents are working arrangements have to be made to ensure that the child gets enough quality time with both individually. Make enough time for the child during the mornings or nights so that the child doesn’t feel left alone.

6. Arrive at a Common ground

The initial four to 5 months might be the toughest phase where both the parents and the child come to terms with the new arrangements. Children can crave a time when both parents are available with them at the same time.

Give yourself time and finally fix a time and spot preferably outside in a park where both of you can be physically present for the child together.

7. Set the same Rules

The most common point of conflict that arises in co-parenting is the disciplinary rules that one parent sets for the child that the other parent breaks. Be on the same page when it comes to setting boundaries for your child.

Respect each other’s decisions or discuss alternatives for a consensual decision. Never try to gain brownie points from the child by splurging on extravagant gifts, or snacks. While you may win the battle you might lose the war.

8. Take Important Decisions Together

As the child grows you may need to make important decisions to his/her education or medical needs. Keep your ex in the loop of things so that you can make the right decisions as a team. Hiding information related to these key decisions can regenerate instances of anger, hate, and low trust.

Divorce is a tremendously difficult decision and co-parenting with the hurt and heartache might seem impossible at first. However, keeping the best interest of the child at hand co-parenting amicably is the responsibility of the parents. Focus on your child and his/her well-being above all.

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