After a divorce or the end of a relationship, it can often be very difficult for ex-spouses or partners to be in the same room. Often one or both spouses will even make changes to their social lives so as to reduce the possibility of running into their ex. For couples without children, such decisions are their prerogative to make. Divorced or unmarried parents who share custody of their child or children, however, must make the commitment to cooperate with each other, not for their own sake, but for the sake of their children.
A shared custody arrangement means that both parents are expected to be active in decision-making and raising the child, regardless of the relationship between them. In most cases, the child will spend a considerable amount of time in the home of each parent allowing for separate, but significant parental interaction.
Parents who are able to cooperatively manage and implement scheduling and child-raising strategies offer their child the best opportunity to benefit from the stability they can provide. Successful cooperation between parents is referred to by many family and child experts as “coparenting.” A coparenting situation requires participation from both parents and the acknowledgment that, even though their marriage may be over, they continue to share the common goal of successfully raising their child.
One Child, Two Homes
As parents go their separate ways after divorce, it is possible that neither will stay in the marital home. This means that a child will need to adapt to at least one, and possibly two new locations. It is important that the child be more than comfortable, however; he or she will benefit most by feeling at home with either parent. Being made to feel like a visitor or an outsider can increase anxiousness and stress, leading to a number of other potential problems. Providing a child with his or her own room, familiar toys or items, and reinforcement that he or she is not just visiting can help him or her quickly adjust to the new reality
One Set of Important Rules
It is unlikely that both parents will maintain exactly the same list of rules in each house, and that is to be expected. However, consistency regarding particular, important rules can help a child better maintain appropriate priorities. Expectations regarding homework, TV or internet use, hygiene and bedtime, among others, are best kept as stable as possible for the child in both homes. When he or she realizes that both parents are working together in enforcing the rules, their importance becomes more clear, in addition to providing less opportunity for manipulation.
Two Communicating Parents
In any coparenting or shared custody situation, the key to continued success lies in the parents’ ability to communicate with each other and with their child. Unforeseen schedule changes and the evolving needs of the child are more easily addressed when lines of communication remain open. While even cooperative parents may, at times, have difficulty speaking in person or over the phone, email and text messaging can offer viable alternatives.
If you live in Illinois and are interested in pursuing shared custody of your child, contact an experienced family law attorney in St. Charles. We will review your case and help you provide the best future for yourself and for your child.