Co-parenting and Your Child’s Extracurricular Activities

If you are entering into a co-parenting arrangement, one area you will need to consider is how to handle your child’s extracurricular activities. The tips below will give you ideas to address in your co-parenting plan.

First, who decides what activities the child will participate in? If you have an uncooperative ex, he or she may refuse to consider any activity that you are in favor of. You may decide to make one parent completely in charge of extracurricular activities while the other parent handles another area such as medical concerns. If the child is older, you may be able to let it be his or her choice. Although, a difficult ex may be successful in talking the child out of something for spite or because he or she doesn’t want the hassle.

Transportation to the event will need to be arranged. Will each parent be responsible for transport during the time the children are there? What about out-of-town games or weekend-long events? Be sure to specify what will happen if the child does not get taken to the event. When kids are little, they may be able to get by with missing some games or practices. As they get older and especially if they are participating on elite teams or competitive events, being late or absent can result in being benched or other missed opportunities.

If your relationship with your co-parent has a history of violence or ugly confrontations, you will also need to specify expected conduct during the events. Will both parents attend each event or will only one be able to attend? Is there a distance apart that each party should remain since you may not want to sit next to someone you fear? What happens if a parent conducts themselves inappropriately with coaches or teachers?

Since extracurricular activities are important you will need to address how they will be chosen, transportation, and other expectations to ensure that your child gets to participate in his or her chosen activities with a minimum of conflict from the other parent.

Co-parenting – What is Parallel Parenting?

If you are developing a co-parenting plan or are in a child custody battle, you may hear the term parallel parenting. This can be a good solution for some situations.

Parallel parenting means that each household functions independently of the other household. Often, co-parenting plans try to place boundaries on homework, food, extracurricular activities, bedtime, etc. In parallel parenting, each parent determines what the limits will be a their home without participation from the other parent.

If your co-parent is generally cooperative and willing to do what’s best for the kids, then you can probably negotiate to have similar expectations in both of your homes. But, if you have a co-parent that is mentally ill, abusing substances, or completely inflexible, parallel parenting can be the way to go. These types of people are often inconsistent at best or worse, do things that they know you would hate like plying the kids with junk food and letting them stay up all night watching objectionable television programs.

They are likely to ignore anything you put in the co-parenting plan, and the thought of being in contempt of court doesn’t phase them. You will save yourself a lot of headaches if you concentrate on providing a stable environment at your home, and stay out of what happens in the co-parent’s home unless there is neglect or abuse going on.

You may think that parallel parenting sounds like a stressful situation for the kids since they have two different sets of expectations. However, research has shown that kids are do much better adjusting to the rules of two different households than to being in a situation of constant conflict.

Parallel parenting can be a good solution for high-conflict divorce situations. You may need to seek support for handling the emotions of ‘letting go’ of what happens at the co-parent’s home, and for helping your children cope with the situation.

Are Co-parenting Classes a Good Idea?

You may hear the term co-parenting classes as you go through a custody battle. Are these a good idea?

First, you may be required by law to attend these classes as many states mandate them. In this case, you will definitely want to attend the class. If you aren’t required by law to take the classes, your judge can still order you to go in which case, you will again have to attend.

But what if you don’t have to attend a class? Know that if you have a co–parent with mental illness and/or substance abuse issues, a class probably won’t be effective for your situation, since your co-parent most likely blames you for any problems and takes no responsibility. The advice in classes is generally directed toward typical families, which means that some of it will be useless while other advice may actually cause even more conflict. You might find some helpful advice for helping your children or handling your own emotions. If you take the initiative to take a class when it is not required, this could help you appear more favorably to the court as you are trying to address the conflict even though the class probably won’t do much for that in actuality.

If attending such a class is brought up, be cooperative about attending and do your best to fit it into your schedule as quickly as possible. This will show the court that you are making the effort to work with the court and the other parent.

You may not want to attend the class at the same time as the other parent if you fear violence or drama. An option accepted by some courts is Internet co-parenting classes which may be more convenient and will keep you away from your co-parent.

Many people report finding co-parenting classes beneficial. As long as you keep in mind your that your situation is different from many and weigh the advice for dealing with co-parents carefully before acting upon it, you should pick up some helpful hints and possibly even appear in a better light to the court.

Co-parenting Plans – Tips for Holidays

One topic that you will want to address in your co-parenting plan is holidays especially since a lot of emotion can surround these days. You will want to have the plans for these days clearly defined so your child will know what to expect and so that you can plan ahead to make the most of the time that you do have with your child.

Be sure to specify times that the children will be dropped off and returned. For example, a child returning at five o’clock on a holiday may still give the other parent some time with the child to celebrate. A nine o’clock return time pretty much guarantees that the other parent will not have any quality time with the child on that day.

If a parent is to get the kids for Christmas, what does that mean? Is Christmas Eve included or should that be defined as a separate holiday? Someone who thinks creatively may even try to say that Christmas includes the holiday break time. To avoid misunderstandings, include the specific days and times that each holiday will encompass in your parenting plan.

Other special days that you may want to include in your co-parenting plan include Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. You may also want to address birthdays – both the child’s and each parent’s. Another possibility is religious holidays or days with special significance to your child or either parent.

School holidays are another potential area of conflict. Spring break, holiday breaks, and summer breaks may be times that the parent that has less parenting time may want to spend with the child. If you have primary residency, make sure that you get at least a couple weeks of time with the kids during these periods for vacations.

By being specific about the plans and times for holidays in your co-parenting plan, you will save headaches and misunderstandings on down the line along with making life easier for your child since he or she will know what to expect.

Types of Child Custody

If you are in the middle of a divorce or breakup that involves children, you may be wondering what child custody options are available.  Several types are discussed below, but know that some states do not grant every type.

Physical custody determines where the child will reside.  Parents with joint physical custody each have the children in their home approximately half of the time. This could possibly be one week with one parent and the next week with the other parent or three and one half days of each week with each parent.   Sole physical custody means that the children live with one parent  but they may have visitation with the other parent.

Split custody means that one parent has sole physical custody of one or more of the children while the other parent also has sole physical custody of at least one of the children. Judges don’t grant split custody often, as they commonly like siblings to live together in the same home.   This type is more common with older kids such as when one child may want to attend a school in the other parent’s school district.

Another type that isn’t common is Bird’s Nest custody.  In this type, the kids live in the same house all of the time, and the parents take turns living with the kids, usually one week on and one week off. The kids get the stability of living in the same home, but the parents may have difficulty with this arrangement if one or both choose to remarry. And, both parents have to maintain their own residence plus the residence with the kids. Bird’s Nest custody arrangements require a high level of communication and cooperativeness from both parents in order to be successful.

The second major category is legal custody which determines who has authority to make decisions on behalf of the children. If both parents have legal custody, then both parents must share in the process of making decisions. But, there can be various provisions such as one parent has complete control over educational issues while the other parent is in charge of medical care. Joint legal custody is the popular option with the courts.

With sole legal custody, one parent has full authority to make all decisions on behalf of the children. But, this parent will probably still be required to share information about the children such as medical treatment and school records.

When the court renders its decision, the type of custody awarded does not necessarily remain in place until the children are grown. Some parenting agreements state that there should be a review at pivotal points in the child’s life such as entering elementary school or high school. If there is child abuse or neglect, a change could be granted. And, either parent may decide to ask the court for a review although state law might prohibit a parent from filing for a custody change for a specific time period after the last review.

Think carefully about which custody option would be the best for your children, and then what would be best for you, personally. You’ll need to discuss your specific situation with your lawyer. Unless your ex is mentally ill, violent, or a substance abuser or you have some other mitigating circumstance, you are not likely to receive sole legal custody. But, you may be able to address some of your co-parenting concerns through a parenting agreement. Keep your children’s best interests in mind, and seek the best situation to meet their needs.

Email Communication for Co-parenting Relationships

Communication is vital in co-parenting relationships. Find out why email may be the best way to communicate.

Email provides a paper trail of what was said. Often, people are in a hurry or there are many distractions. Or, you may think that you told your co-parent something, but you actually forgot. With email, the other parent can read the information at his or her leisure. And, since the communication is in writing, it can serve as a reference for them to review at a later time if needed. If your co-parenting relationship is problematic, be sure to print off any emails sent and received including the detailed sender information and file away in case you need them for court evidence at a later time.

Email also saves time as you can say what you need to and then hit the send button. If you make a phone call or try to discuss an issue in person, other topics may be brought up that prolong the discussion.

If your shared parenting relationship is conflicted, email can take the personal element out of the equation. Your co-parent can still be nasty or even abusive in emails, but not hearing the words in person lessens their effect. You may experience fewer urges to perpetuate the conflict when the person that is the object of your ire isn’t right in front of you. Also, it’s easier to be businesslike when your words are are in writing and potentially available for others to see. You also have a chance to read the email and carefully consider your response instead of feeling pressured to respond immediately. This one thing can reduce the conflict level in the relationship.

Another advantage is that email can serve as proof that you provided documents to the co-parent. For instance, you may be required to send copies of report cards or medical visits. If you email them, you now have proof that the documents were sent.

If your co-parent is abusive, you can forward emails to your attorney or a friend for screening instead of reading them yourself. They can let you know any relevant information, and you aren’t subjected to the abuse.

If your co-parent is malicious, get a separate email address for correspondence with him or her. Then if you get spammed or signed up to objectionable sites, you can abandon the email address.

Email is often the preferred communication method when parents who are co-parenting have difficulty with personal interaction. There still may be some need for co-parents to talk in person such as in emergency situations. But, parents in co-parenting situations who use email when possible save time and stress along with establishing a verifiable communication trail.

Child Discipline in Co-parenting Situations

If you are co-parenting your children, discipline can be a different story than if you are living with the other parent. How can you effectively discipline your children when you are co-parenting?

If your relationship with the other parent is cooperative, the co-parenting plan can be a good place to specify what should take place when a child misbehaves. For example, you may say that timeouts or loss of privileges should be used to maintain consistency between the households.

Spanking or other forms of physical punishment should be avoided whether you believe that the practices are acceptable or not. Since the other parent is not in the home, they can easily misconstrue a simple swat on a padded behind into physical abuse. A vindictive parent may even send a child protective agency knocking on your door. If you are undergoing a child custody battle, using physical punishment can reflect badly on you.

Logical consequences are one effective form of discipline that is acceptable to the courts. An example of a logical consequence is if your child breaks your window, then the child must pay you for the replacement cost out of his or her allowance money.

Another acceptable form of discipline is denial of privileges. If the child does not follow the rules, then he or she doesn’t get to do an enjoyable activity such as playing outside for a certain period of time.

Be sure that the consequence is appropriate to the misdeed performed. You may get really angry when you see your child behaving like their other parent. Don’t take this out on the child since it is not his or her fault.

While you want to teach your child appropriate behavior, be sure to consider the possible repercussions of the consequences that you give. Even if you think your co-parent would never try to take you to court, circumstances can change and misunderstandings can easily arise.