Divorce Parenting is NOT Co-Parenting: How to Succeed at Joint Custody

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What is divorce parenting? What is co-parenting? If your marriage has ended, it doesn't mean joint custody has to end as well. Shared parenting has...

Common Reasons for Divorce?

There are many causes of why a couple eventually decides to dissolve a marriage, according to Shellie R. Warren she concluded that the top 10 reasons for divorce are as follows:

  1. Infidelity
  2. Money
  3. Lack of communication
  4. Constant arguing
  5. Weight gain
  6. Unrealistic expectations
  7. Lack of intimacy
  8. Lack of equality
  9. Not being prepared for marriage
  10. Abuse

While some of these circumstances can be common in marriages and some relationships can survive them, the reality is most marriages do not. Marriage is tough, and it is relentless work that requires lots of maintenance.

There are highs and lows, but in actuality, some marriages have more lows than highs and just can’t survive past certain things. The marriage might have ended, but it does not mean parenting jointly has to end as well.

Cohesive parenting in the middle of a divorce can be challenging. I have seen parents who were co-parenting easily while married but once the divorce was initiated everything changed drastically.

“As a parent, you want to execute what is best for your child and not try to punish or get retribution on your ex.”

You can be unified in your parenting after you are divorced, but this is a result of years passed the divorce and once things have settled down. However, in the midst of the divorce with legal and emotional factors faced regularly co-parenting may not be an easy option.

What is Co-Parenting?

Co-Parenting is when two people can put their differences aside and come to an agreement on creating parenting strategies for both households that will be impactful to the child or children involved.

It is an evolution of years of collaboration between both parties with the agreement that only the child’s best interest of psychological, emotional, physical and mental health is at the forefront.

Co-Parenting is evaluated regularly and is always changing based on the needs of the child or children involved.

What is Divorce Parenting?

Divorce parenting is an attempt to parent children while going through an intense emotional distress. There’s involvement of legal rules and proceeding that involves both parents. Parents during a divorce are sometimes unable to make choices that are at the base of parenting.

The collaboration is done with lawyer or mediators to decide what is best. Parental decisions can be restricted from the perspective of being hurt or wrong by the other spouse. Final agreements are with lawyers or the court.

There are certain pitfalls that you want to avoid, to successfully co-parent. As a parent, you want to execute what is best for your child and not try to punish or get retribution on your ex.

Avoiding Parental Alienation

Edward Kruk examined the intersection of shared parenting and parental alienation as a form of emotional abuse of children, noting how shared parenting acts as a bulwark against parental alienation.

Your ex-has the same amount of rights to the child as you do. An attempt to keep the child from one person is not beneficial, but spiteful.

A bad spouse does not equal an inadequate parent. You were okay with your spouse being around before there is no real reason why this should change.

Co-Parenting Benefits the Child

Dr. William Fabricius spoke on the benefits of shared parenting and increased father-child involvement on the mother-child relationship. His second paper focused on children whose mothers relocated, decreasing fathers’ parenting time, resulting in damage to the father-child relationship.

These children were shown to have more delinquency and drug and alcohol abuse, and greater incidence of depression and anxiety.

I wrote an article called “Father’s the Forgotten Parent” to highlight the importance of a father-child relation and how it can be overlooked. Having the father involved is not just advantageous to your child, but as a bonus, it will also enhance the relationship with the mother.

Sole Custody Is NOT Always Best

Sweden’s Malin Bergstrom presented the results of her longitudinal study of children in shared parenting arrangements, concluding that children in sole care have almost twice the physical and mental health problems as do those in shared care arrangements, which is now the norm in Sweden.

“Your ex-has the same amount of rights to the child as you do.”

Sole Custody is not always in the best interest of the child. In certain cases, such as abuse or neglect there is a need for one parent to have sole custody for clear safety measures, however in the absence of such it is not significant.

When the other parent is available plus active and wants to foster a positive, healthy parent-child relationship they need to be included.

When two people are divorcing, they may now feel that one parent is not capable of parenting appropriately, when this may not be the case.

What Are the RULES?

There are no specific rules to follow. Each situation is unique and comes with its challenges and strength, but the overall idea is to keep things positive and realistic.

You are now in a new reality and not necessarily by choice. Now that you are here make the best of it:

9 Rules to Make Joint Child Custody Work

  1. Speak no evil.
  2. It’s not about you.
  3. Be realistic about your own schedule and commitments.
  4. Choose a custody arrangement that accommodates your children’s ages, activities, and needs.
  5. A bad spouse doesn’t equal a bad parent.
  6. Find an agreeable way to communicate
  7. Pick your battles.
  8. Let your child feel heard.
  9. From time to time, review the arrangement and adjust as needed.

While the above nine rules by Kate Bayless might be difficult to maintain while going through a divorce it is best to remember rule #2: “it’s not about you” when it comes to parenting, it is all about your child and their well-being.

While divorce might be lengthy, being a parent is for a lifetime. In a case where you and your ex can’t agree, it is best to seek out help. Asking guide from your child’s therapist or a parenting coach will ensure advocating for the child’s needs and not the interest of one parent.

If you’re looking for more parenting tips, tricks, and advice, check out our book “Southeast Psych’s Guide for Imperfect Parents!”

Click here to read more articles by Bea Moise, M.S.!

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