9.7Susan M. Hais

With more than fifty percent of marriages ending in divorce and a growing trend of unmarried adults having children, the topic of co-parenting is a family and legal topic that is gaining more attention. A common misconception is that co-parenting is the same thing as joint custody wherein the child lives half-time with each parent. In fact, co-parenting is a process in which two un-romantically involved parents agree to work together to raise a child. In an ideal world, all children would have access to and support from both parents. For success to be achieved in co-parenting, several factors should be considered.

Are you able to put aside your personal differences for the benefit of the child?

Many parents who separate are able to set aside their differences and focus on the health and well-being of the child. This includes the ability to communicate reasonably and rationally with an understanding that you and your partner know one another well enough to truly accept that each other’s decisions will put the well-being of the child first. It means that you both accept equal responsibility for the child, even if your physical custody of the child is not equal. If you and your ex have opposite views on parenting, have a tendency to “fight things out,” or do not agree on basic values, this is likely not an option for you. However, if your history indicates that you can maintain strong communication with honesty and respect, it is a plan to consider.

Are you able to evaluate and accept your own strengths and weaknesses with regard to a shared schedule?

No one is perfect, and that includes you and your former partner. In order to establish an effective co-parenting plan, both parties should address each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and accessibility. For example, if you are the parent who has always taken the child to school, worked endless hours on homework, and attended every school event, you are likely the ideal candidate for the child to reside with on school nights. If you are the parent who works sixty hours a week or an nontraditional work schedule, you must be honest about the strain that puts on being accessible to your child. If you are willing to give up some time with your child, or take on more time with your child, in order to provide the most quality time for your child, co-parenting may work.

Are you able to spend time around one another without stressful interactions?

Co-parenting means that you want to offer stability and cooperative decision making for your child. This means you are not putting your child in a position of choosing which parent attends events and activities that are important in the child’s life. Ideally, both parents are involved. If you are too angry or unresolved to see your former partner at musical recitals, basketball games, or school plays without stress, co-parenting would likely be challenging for you. If you can accept that co-parenting will require you to spend time in the company of your ex, it may be an option.

Establishing a parenting plan is never an easy task. Co-parenting may very well be a suitable option for your circumstances.  Before making any permanent decisions, it is important to seek legal advice. Hais, Hais & Goldberger are available to provide you guidance in developing the right parenting plan for your needs.