While getting divorced means moving on from your marriage, if you have minor children, your divorce will not be the end of your relationship with your spouse. Regardless of the custody arrangement, you choose, and regardless of the terms of your parenting plan, you and your spouse will need to continue to communicate and make decisions with your children’s best interests in mind.
For some spouses, it is in everyone’s best interests for their post-divorce interactions to be limited. However, for many, it is possible to maintain a healthy relationship post-divorce. While this can take various forms, one option that is becoming increasingly popular is “co-parenting.”
What is Co-parenting?
Coparenting is an arrangement in which divorced parents continue to work together to raise their children. The parents make many decisions together, work together to manage their children’s schedule, jointly attend games and recitals, and in many cases celebrate birthdays and holidays together as well. It requires a big commitment from both parents; and, in order for co-parenting to provide as positive an experience as possible, both parents must be not only willing to participate, but must have a desire to do so.
What Issues Do Parents Need to Address in Order to Co-parent After Their Divorce?
In order to co-parent after their divorce, parents must develop a comprehensive parenting plan during the divorce process. While co-parenting requires flexibility, it requires a solid foundation as well. With this in mind, when developing a co-parenting plan, divorcing parents in Illinois should address considerations such as:
1. The Children’s Residential Schedule
While you and your former spouse will be spending a significant amount of time together with your children, you will still each return to your respective homes at the end of the day, and your children will only be able to go with one of you. Developing a residential schedule that works for everyone is a key component of establishing a workable co-parenting arrangement.
2. The Children’s “Home Base”
In many (but not all) co-parenting arrangements, children will spend roughly equal amounts of time at both parents’ homes. When this is the case, one home should still be designated as the children’s “home base.” This is more of a practical designation than a legal one, and it simply refers to where the children’s belongings will be stored when they are not in use. Designating one parent’s house or apartment as a home base can also provide children with a sense of stability.
3. Adopting Consistent Rules at Home
When co-parenting, divorced parents should adopt consistent rules at home, and they should consistently enforce these rules as well. This will provide added stability, and it will avoid either parent being viewed as “the strict one” in the family.
4. Privacy, Social Media, Phones, and Driving
As children age, so do their needs and desires. Even if they are not relevant now, divorcing parents should still consider issues such as privacy, social media, phones, and driving if they will become relevant in the next few years. With co-parenting, divorced parents have the flexibility to modify their arrangements as necessary, but laying the groundwork during the divorce process can help ensure that the parents are on the same page and are unlikely to run into conflicts in the future.
5. Birthdays, Holidays and Vacations
While co-parenting arrangements often mean spending birthdays, holidays, and vacations together, this does not necessarily have to be the case. With regard to vacations, in particular, divorced parents who choose to co-parent will often choose to take some vacations together while scheduling others separately.
6. Time with Grandparents and Other Family Members
While you and your spouse may be comfortable with co-parenting, the arrangement may seem unorthodox to the other members of your respective families. With this in mind, it is a good idea to discuss your plans with your family in advance, and you will want to be sure to set clear expectations for visits with your children’s grandparents and other family members.
7. Consistency with School and Activities
In addition to maintaining consistency at home, it is important to maintain consistency with regard to school and activities as well. Getting to school should not be an issue from either parent’s home, and both parents should be in agreement regarding the activities in which their children will participate.
With more-traditional custody and visitation schedules, divorcing parents will typically establish specific transportation responsibilities during the divorce process. With co-parenting, however, transportation responsibilities will often be more fluid, and the parents will need to be prepared to accommodate and adjust as necessary. With that said, it will generally make sense to discuss transportation and establish some guidelines during the divorce process as well.
9. Parental Communications
In order to co-parent effectively, you will need to be able to communicate openly with your former spouse regarding your children. Various aspects of communication can be addressed during the divorce process, from when communication is necessary to how and when you will communicate.
10. When Joint Decision-Making is Required
In many instances, each parent should have the ability to independently make decisions during his or her independent parenting time. However, there are various issues for which joint decision-making should be required. Some examples of these issues include those related to healthcare, education, discipline, and extracurricular activities.
11. Conflict Resolution
While conflicts should be relatively rare in the parenting context, it is important to be prepared in the event that a conflict arises. When developing a co-parenting plan, divorcing parents can – and should – discuss methods of conflict resolution and commit to a plan that they can execute if and when necessary.
12. Helping Your Children Understand Coparenting
Finally, co-parenting arrangements can be confusing for children, and divorcing parents who choose to co-parent need to take this into account. When discussing your divorce with your children, it will be important to explain what co-parenting means – and doesn’t mean – for your family.
Are You Interested in Coparenting After Your Divorce? Learn More from Gurnee, IL Family Lawyer Deanna J. Bowen
Deanna J. Bowen is a Gurnee and Lake County, Illinois divorce lawyer who represents spouses before, during, and after the divorce process. If you have questions about co-parenting, we encourage you to call 847-623-4002 for a free and confidential consultation.