Part 2 of 3

In this new year, we are exploring new ways in which your co-parenting can be re-vamped if it isn’t working. While it is near impossible to force your co-parents to behave the way you would like them to, you can control how you respond to their behavior which is the focus of this three-part series. In doing so, you may just get a more cooperative and pleasant co-parent. Or, at least, have a better case if you need to establish or have to modify your custody arrangement. In Part 1 we explored: Joint custody; Not Reacting; and the BIFF style of communication. In Part 2 we will look at: the Importance of a Judgment; Being Reasonably Flexible; and Being empathetic.

  1. The Importance of a Judgment: If you already have a custody judgment, whether a Consent Judgment or a Judgment from a hearing in court, this is your co-parenting bible. In no uncertain terms – you do what this document tells you to do. If you and the other parent agree – in writing – to do something else, great. If there is no agreement or a disagreement, your judgment controls your actions. For instance, if the judgment says that the other parent gets the children at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, then that parent gets the children at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday absent a written (text/email) agreement otherwise. If you decide you would rather exchange the children at 7:00 p.m., and don’t have the approval, in writing, of the other parent, that may open you up to contempt charges with the court. The judgment is there to make sure everyone knows the rules and everyone follows the rules. Do not forget to follow those all-important “Co-parenting Guidelines”. These are the paragraphs that talk about communication, not talking about the other parent in a negative manner in front of the children, not using the children as messengers, etc. Some people call this the “play nice language” and it is there for a reason – to protect the mental health of your children. Take it seriously! Either party can be held in contempt for violating these orders just as fast as if they had withheld the children from the other party. In a nutshell, unless you have a written agreement otherwise to change the terms of your judgment (whether once or continuing) your judgment controls – know what it says.
  2. Be Reasonably Flexible. Be Empathetic: Now, although the above paragraph is a bit harsh, a bit of flexibility will help your sanity. If the other parent was able to score some un-gettable tickets to your child’s favorite show, it is during your time, and you have nothing planned – allow your child to go or at least suggest swapping days. If you were your child, wouldn’t you want to go? Don’t let them miss out on a great opportunity just because you want to stick to the schedule. As always, the focus is on, and should be on, making your children’s lives easier/better/less stressful while you and your co-parent navigate these waters. Being more flexible may allow your co-parent to do the same for you if they are in your position.If the judgment says that the children are to be exchanged at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday and your co-parent is running 10 minutes late, it’s not advisable to throw the book at them. If they have an issue consistently getting there on time it warrants a conversation, however. I assure you, there will be a day that you are late to an exchange, and having a little grace that you provided to them in your pocket won’t hurt. Even if they don’t reciprocate that bit of kindness, it is likely to be viewed favorably if a court is forced to review your case for a modification of custody since one of the “best interest” factors the court is obligated to review is “the willingness and ability of each party to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other party…” Using the Golden Rule (treating others and you would like to be treated) is a helpful tool in co-parenting as it will likely improve your child’s experience during this time, may help you to get better compliance from your co-parent, and/or may bolster your case should you need to seek a modification of your custody arrangement in the future.