The question is never if divorce will have an impact on your children, but rather if this impact will be minimal or significant Children can adjust to divorce with help. An important element that determines if there will be long term negative consequences on your child will be your ability to collaboratively co-parent with your ex-partner.
Collaborative co-parenting is a practice where parents agree to parent in a discussed, organised and agreed manner, even if they have to parent differing views on how to raise a child. For families of divorce, children often become innocent victims of the tension and resentment between the parents. Collaborative co-parenting can change that situation by providing parents with constructive tools to use in building positive child custody and visitation plans.
The collaborative co-parenting approach means finding a way to work with your co-parent with dignity and respect. What was once a personal relationship changes and becomes more like a business relationship wherein both parties set aside personal feelings for the benefit of the children. Collaborative co-parents learn to develop strategies for conflict management and to establish a stable routine for the children via a collaborative child custody and visitation parenting plan.
The backbone of collaborative co-parenting arrangements can be discussed with specialist counsellor and divorce mediators. When I work with divorced couples, I remind them that the Collaborative Co-parenting process focuses and assesses each parent around the best parent that they can be, rather than on hurting or scoring points against your ex-partner.
A collaborative co-parenting agreement is not legally enforceable it should be signed with honest intent. Copies of the agreement can be held by each parent, and shared with relevant family members, including older children if this is done in a supportive manner.
A Collaborative Co-parenting process has three areas of discussion. The first, and most importantly, is to agree on certain principles that parents are willing to adhere to. These principles provide a framework of you promising to be the parent your child needs you to be. The second discussion is logistics – such as how living arrangements are split, holidays agreed, ECAs discussed and decided. The third section is often the most contentious, is about how finances will be allocated in order to support the child. The arrangements are summarised into a collaborative co-parenting agreement to be signed by both parents.
The logistics and the finances need to be discussed within a framework that protects each parents, whilst stretching them to turn up as the best parents they can be. If you are struggling getting to an agreement, get help.
What I can easily share are some of the principles that I ask parents to consider when setting the framework of decisions. Ask yourself where you stand on the following topics – would you agree? If not, why not?
I agree to:
- Hold my children’s needs above my own territorial needs or desire for independence.
- I will take the adjustment required by divorce to rise to the occasion and be the best parent I can be to my children.
- My child’s emotional well-being and self-esteem are paramount and I will act in a manner that best supports my children.
- I will not over promise support to my child, and under deliver
- I will not use my child as confident, messenger, bill collector or a spy with my co-parent
- I will abide by the rules of fair and practical time sharing and will make a serious effort to honour this agreement.
- I will communicate necessary changes in the schedule of child care with my co parent in advance. Any changes in the schedule will always be discussed with the other parent prior to informing the children
- We agree to respect the other’s parenting style and discuss any concerns at agreed upon communication meetings
- I promise not to only do fun things with our child, leaving hygiene, homework and day to day care explicitly to the other parent
- We agree to make arrangements which can be understood by our child and are sustainable.
- We agree to clearly communicate to our children our respect for their other parent
- We will keep our child safe
- We agree to reinforce to our children that time with their other parent is important
- I will be mindful of my child’s need for a stable diet and sleep and not return them to their other parent over tired and poorly nourished
- We agree to work on our problems as individuals privately and not in front of the children. We agree to allocate an agreed designated communication time
- We will agree to communicate to our children that no new romantic partners will be introduced to them in meetings that have not been agreed by the other co parent
- We agree to speak or write derogatory remarks about the other parent to the child
- When we are with our child, we will be focused on spending quality time with that child, and not primarily engaged in another activity (drinking with friends, attending meetings) as agreed
- We agree that the child can display photos of both parents in their bedroom.
- We agree to collaboratively set behavioural guidelines of expectations of our children in front of step parents, relatives, etc.
- We agree that we will not consume alcohol at all/ become intoxicated in front of the children. Drug consumption at any time, prior to or during child care time is not tolerated within this agreement.
- We agree to only leave our children with agreed third party caregivers and with the other parent’s agreement
- We agree to both collaborate in school meetings
- I agree to honour our arrangements about financial support of children and will not withhold this support from the co-parent
These principles are designed around best parenting practices. Are you ready to be the best parent you can be, as you divorce?