For many divorced parents, the thought of having to share parenting responsibilities with the person who has hurt you emotionally and/or financially may seem like an impossible challenge. However, even though your relationship as husband and wife is over, your relationship as mother and father continues for as long as you and your children are alive. With mother’s day, father’s day and school graduations quickly approaching now may be a good time for you and your ex to refresh and/or improve on your co-parenting skills for the benefit of your children.
Co-parenting does not mean that you have to be friends with your ex. However, it does require both of you to cooperate and communicate so that you can effectively resolve your children’s issues. Additionally, as difficult as it may be to set aside your ill feelings, it is important to encourage your children to have a healthy and positive relationship with their mother or father.
Successful co-parenting also requires you to pick and choose your battles. Many times you may want to control what goes on when your children are spending time at your ex’s residence. However, this can result in high conflict and add unnecessary stress to your life and your children’s life. Unless your children are in danger or are being hurt in some way it is best to let go of the small issues that you cannot control when they are in the care of their mother or father.
If you are having trouble co-parenting with your ex there are ways for both of you to improve on your skills. For example, you may want to consider attending co-parenting classes or hiring a parenting coordinator. In New Jersey, a parenting coordinator is a qualified neutral individual who is agreed to by the parties or appointed at the court’s discretion. The court may order the appointment of a parenting coordinator on its own or on the application of either party. Typically, both parties will share in the cost of working with a parenting coordinator.
Parenting coordinators are used to facilitate the resolution of day to day parenting issues that arise when parents are separated. One of the most important goals when working with a parenting coordinator is developing effective parenting skills so that both parties can resume child-rearing without the need for outside intervention. However, parenting coordinators cannot replace the trial court and address enforcement issues. Further, the trial court does not have the authority to require parents to follow a parenting coordinator’s recommendations without fully assessing the issues and making an independent fact finding.
At the end of the day, there are many ways to improve on your co-parenting skills. However, it is up to you and your ex to consciously make the effort to set aside your differences and cooperate with each other so that your children grow up in a socially healthy environment.
Michelle Ringel focuses her practice on matrimonial law, including divorce, child custody, alimony, child support, and parenting time matters. Her practice is located in Obermayer’s Cherry Hill office. She can be reached at 856-857-1423 or at Michelle.Ringel@obermayer.com.