Robert G. Smith, PLLC

Communication and consistency may help post-divorce co-parenting

While New York parents who have divorced may struggle to remain civil with their ex-spouses, it is in the best interests of their children if they commit to working together in parenting, particularly in joint custody arrangements. Working as an effective team in making decisions about their children requires parents to communicate calmly and cooperatively and learn to compromise regarding minor issues.

When co-parenting after divorce, parents may have a tendency to bicker about every disagreement, no matter how minor. Frequent bickering might foster a need to win in arguments and may interfere with parents' ability to come together to make major decisions. Showing a good faith effort to be respectful in all communication can help parents develop cordial relationships that are beneficial when conflicts arise. Ensuring that both parents are informed of and involved in decisions about children's financial situations, academic lives and health care needs lets children know that both of their parents are committed to their well-being and growth. Having these discussions in private may keep children from feeling pressured to pick sides.

Many parents try to win their children's favor by undermining their ex-spouses' rules, methods of discipline or schedules. However, children who do not live with consistent structures or boundaries may become confused because they may be unsure what to expect from either parent. They might act out or develop other behavioral issues. Some flexibility can be healthy, but children who have radically different routines at each parent's home may struggle to adjust having two homes.

Although it might be best for parents to work out disputes between themselves, disputes that arise from substantial changes in circumstances may require a judge's intervention. Family law attorneys advocate for parents' needs and children's best interests and may be able to help parents petition for child custody modifications.

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