Co-parenting Cooperatively

Co-parenting Cooperatively

Co-parenting Cooperatively

Co-parenting is an extremely important aspect of any divorce agreement, but can be difficult to negotiate. In many cases, children benefit from the ongoing involvement and emotional support of both parents. Mediation allows divorcing couples to work cooperatively on their divorce agreement in the best interests of their children, And it can even allow divorced ex-partners to improve their co-parenting relationship. When you can’t avoid seeing your ex-spouse after the divorce, the collaborative nature of mediation can help minimize animosity down the road and improve the co-parenting relationship.

By Ehsan Ali and Alnoor Maherali

Disclaimer: this blog is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should consult an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.  

At Venn Mediation, we help people reach agreements and resolve disagreements about separation and divorce. We know that mediation can be part of the solution and we help our clients find their optimal outcomes and achieve quality results. As mediators, we strive to understand each person's perspective and help the former couple to determine their best terms of settlement. While divorce is a complicated and often thorny process, mediation helps people negotiate, communicate and better understand their options in resolving their separation. 

When children are involved, courts require that any divorce settlement include a co-parenting plan. A co-parenting plan may include visitation schedules, descriptions of how parents will communicate to and about the children in the future, and expectations regarding care for the children. When these discussions are supported by a neutral third party, like a mediator, parents can take control of their lives and make better joint decisions on how best to raise their children. Mediation offers a way for parents to consider their children’s needs as well as their own, all while staying consistent with legal requirements. A co-parenting agreement can help keep kids out of the divorce process and can give them the security of knowing that both parents love and care for them.

Within the discussions related to the co-parenting plan, the most critical question that a mediator will help a couple to determine is that of custody.  And custody is best understood in two categories; physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody is where the children will reside and with whom they will spend their time. And legal custody is who will make the decisions about the children’s upbringing. In both cases the custody can be solo or joint. And neither category may be an easy matter to settle. Though these discussions can be tough, a benefit of mediation is that a mediated outcome is only possible where both parents agree. If no such agreement is possible, the former partners may end up with an outcome imposed upon them by a judge or fought over - often bitterly -  by their lawyers.  

Physical Custody - An important aspect of physical custody is the co-parenting schedule. One aspect of the schedule involves the “regular schedule,” how the days in a week or a month are divided up between the two households. And another aspect of the schedule are the “special days”; holidays, vacations, birthdays, and any other days of significance. A mediator will walk the couple through a typical week or month to see where the children will spend most of their time, as well as the days in a year and help them to negotiate where the children will spend those special or particularly important days.

Legal Custody - Aspects of legal custody can include which extracurricular activities the children will be involved in, religion, health and medical matters, and other related questions.  Co-parenting plans can also include direction on time spent with relatives, guidelines for travel, agreement on information sharing, and even protocols for the introduction of new significant others. The important thing is that these aspects of the plan are discussed collaboratively during the mediation and that the goal is an agreement that both parents can be happy with.  This kind of agreement translates into a better partnership between people previously at odds - and as a result a more secure and harmonious environment for the children.

Communication - A critical, but often overlooked aspect of the co-parenting plan is that of communication - both how the parents will communicate with each other as well as to the children about each other. The second aspect is especially important as research has shown that children benefit when each parent is supportive of their children’s relationship with the other parent. In many cases, each parent will desire this kind of co-parenting set up, but think that a civil relationship with their ex-partner is impossible.  Though both parents care deeply about the children, their sometimes mutual dislike for each other can spill over into their relationship with the children - creating a toxic dynamic.  Mediation sets guidelines for effective communication, and allows parents to achieve a healthy, sustainable co-parenting relationship even when they don’t care for each other personally as a result of the divorce. And co-parenting plans can evolve over time as the children age, and as each co-parent’s needs, circumstances, and schedules change. So most mediated divorces include a provision or suggestion to return to mediation if and when circumstances change. 

For high-conflict divorces, mediation helps to take the children out of the middle of the fight and works to increase effective communication among co-parents. If you or someone you know is going through a separation with children and seeks a more effective process, give us a call. We are based in New York but are experts in online mediation and can work with people anywhere. Divorces can be difficult but divorce discussions don’t have to be. We would love to help.

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