A Family Law Solicitors Guide to Co-parenting After a Separation or Divorce
When you split up from your partner it can be hard to know where to start to sort out and agree on childcare and parenting arrangements. In the worst-case scenario, you can ask the court to decide on co-parenting by applying to the court for a child arrangement order. In this guide, our family law solicitors offer tips on sorting out co-parenting after your separation or divorce.
Online and London Family Law Solicitors
What is co-parenting?
Co-parenting can be an emotive term. Some parents think it means equal or shared parenting and therefore get very anxious about discussing co-parenting and defensive about their role as a parent and primary carer. That’s understandable in many ways as a separation or divorce can be a very emotive time. Other parents want to negotiate co-parenting as part of the divorce financial settlement as they see the children as their ‘bargaining chip’ to get the family home or a bigger share of the pension. Family lawyers say co-parenting and the parenting arrangements for your children need to be kept separate from financial settlement discussions.
Co-parenting is not necessarily equal parenting. You can co-parent and only see your children once a week or once a fortnight or month, because of the geographical distance between your homes or because you have to travel extensively with your work. Co-parenting is about working together to parent your children after your separation or divorce.
Some parents think co-parenting is parenting in a similar way to how you looked after your children during your relationship but it doesn’t necessarily mean that. Your separation or divorce can be a wake-up call for both of you to look at how you are parenting and work on how you can best co-parent together but in different households. It isn’t uncommon for family lawyers to be told that a husband or wife is closer to their ex now that have split up because they now make a conscious effort to communicate over the children and co-parent as they feel able to do that now they both agree their relationship is over.
Co-parenting problems can occur in any family from time to time but co-parenting can be difficult in situations where, for example, one partner has been subjected to domestic abuse or one parent has a narcissistic personality disorder and will not accept that any style of parenting other than their own is the right one.
In other family situations, co-parenting problems can be triggered by a specific issue, such as:
- One parent wants to relocate overseas with the children leaving the other parent in the UK and feeling marginalised and cut off from their children
- A parent meeting a new partner or getting remarried
- A parent having another child with a new partner so upsetting the family dynamics and routines
- A child experiencing health issues such as an eating disorder or a child questioning their gender
- A child saying that they dislike a parent’s partner or his or her children
- One parent getting a new job that means the family will need to move house making a change in contact arrangements necessary
- A parent losing their job and experiencing financial hardship or worrying about the cost of living crisis. Financial concerns can impact on how you are feeling and your relationship with your co-parent. For example, it can be hard for you if your ex-partner isn’t worried about heating bills but you are cutting back and the children are questioning why things are not as good at your house or are asking why you can't buy them the latest trainers or games
Tips on co-parenting
Our family lawyers’ tips on co-parenting include:
- Think of things from your child’s perspective – you may want a mid-week overnight contact visit but if you live 1.5 hours from your child’s school is such an early school start best for your child? You may not want to see or think about your ex-partner again but does your child want you to discuss the fun things they have done with your ex-partner during their contact visit?
- Get help – if you are struggling it is best to get professional help. That may be from a family law solicitor, family mediator, counsellor, or another family professional. Getting the right help can help you reach a compromise and avoid you needing to apply for a child arrangement order or respond to an application made by your ex-partner
- Be practical – parents can fall out about the basics so think about handovers, school uniforms (who is washing it), who is helping with the school homework, the communication (sometimes there are complaints about daily texts and in other cases complaints about lack of communication) and house rules (bedtimes, screen times, homework rules, food, and diet)
- Think long term – while you may be struggling to just get through the week because of your work and childcare commitments it can be best to think long term so you reach an agreement over sharing school holidays, birthdays, Christmas, and other special or religious occasions so you and your ex and the children all know what the arrangements are and you can plan accordingly
- Be flexible – whilst you and your children need stability and routine there are times when you need a bit of give and take over the parenting arrangements. For example, swopping contact dates so the children can see their grandparents whilst the grandparents are visiting your ex-partner
- Know your rights- whilst you need to listen and be flexible over parenting arrangements you do need to know your rights so your ex-partner doesn’t walk all over you. If your ex won't compromise and, for example, won't agree to a reasonable amount of contact and co-parenting time, you can apply to the court for a child arrangement order. This type of children law order specifies the time a child will spend with each parent. The name ‘child arrangement order’ (in place of custody and contact) is meant to make parents feel of equal value and engaged in co-parenting their children (even if they do not each spend the same amount of parenting time with their children)
Do you need children law legal advice?
- Child arrangement order applications
- Specific issue order applications
- Prohibited steps order applications
- Child abduction
- Relocation orders – moving overseas with a child or objecting to a move
- Adoption – including international adoption advice
- Surrogacy and parental orders
- School fee orders
- Child support
Online and London Family Law Solicitors