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The Rules on Co-parenting

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The rules on co-parenting should, at least in theory, be the same as you adopted for your children prior to your separation or divorce. Life is rarely as simple as that and often what starts out a co-parenting ideal after your separation or divorce can turn into a bit of a nightmare.

It may not just be your ex-partner who is creating the issues with the rules on co-parenting; your children may also struggle to cope with them. In this blog we look at the topic of co-parenting and how to make co-parenting work for you.

London children law solicitors

If you need advice on co-parenting arrangements after your separation or divorce or need legal representation in court proceedings for a child arrangements order then the specialist children law team at OTS Solicitors can help you. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or click here and complete our online enquiry form.

Why are you planning to co-parent?

Prior to getting into the fine detail of the rules on how to make co-parenting work for you and your family, it is worth taking a step back and asking ‘why are you planning to co-parent?’

The question ‘why are you planning to co-parent?’ can provoke some very interesting and illuminating replies. Some parents are very honest and give reasons for co-parenting such as:

  • Co-parenting is my right as a parent
  • I love my children and I want them fulltime but I will settle for co-parenting
  • I won't have to pay child support if the children spend an equal amount of time with me and I co-parent them
  • I want to stay in the family home and there is more chance of my doing that if I am co-parenting the children as they need a roof over their heads whilst with me
  • We both work full time and neither of us has the time to fully parent the children on our own
  • My ex has issues as a parent and needs help. Whilst my ex won't agree to my having custody he/she will agree to co-parenting the children
  • I want my children to spend as little time as possible with the new partner of my ex.

It is worth examining the motives behind why you want to co-parent before looking at the rules on co-parenting and how to make it work for you because:

  • Although you may want to co-parent as you see it as your right, is co-parenting practical if you and your ex live on the opposite sides of London? How will your children cope with the daily commute to school? Can you make co-parenting work by living nearer to your ex-partner?
  • If your ex has issues with parenting (such as battling alcoholism, addictions or mental illness that have an impact on his/her ability to parent) is it better to say that the children should live you as the primary carer because that is what is best for them?
  •  What do your children want? They may not want to be co-parented but instead live with one parent and have contact with the other parent as that fits in better with their rugby, football , swimming or other after school and weekend activities and seeing their friends
  • Does your work schedule allow for co-parenting? If you are travelling overseas for work or constantly having to attend late meetings or evening events how will co-parenting work in practice?

These are just some of the questions about co-parenting that are worth asking yourself before you go onto look at the rules on co-parenting your children with your ex-partner

What do you mean by co-parenting?

Co-parenting is one of those terms that means different things to people, depending on who you ask. Some parents say co-parenting is:

  • An equal division of the children’s time between two parents comprising a week with each parent in a two week cycle or three and a half days of parenting time every week or a more complex co-parenting schedule of four nights parenting in week one and three nights parenting in week two; or
  •  Spending time with the children (whether that is alternate weekends with the children or every Sunday) but on those occasions when you are seeing the children you co-parent through sharing the same parenting rules, for example, on bedtimes, restrictions on sugar intake or time spent playing computer games

It is helpful to have an idea of what both parents mean by co-parenting as sometimes they are poles apart in their expectations. On other occasions all a parent wants is communication, information and respect and that can be relatively easily achieved through family mediation , solicitor discussions or the drawing up of a parenting plan.

London children law solicitors

For advice on co-parenting arrangements after a separation or divorce or representation in child arrangements order proceedings the specialist children law team at OTS Solicitors can help. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or click here and complete our online enquiry form.

The rules on co-parenting

London divorce solicitors will tell you that there are ‘no rules when it comes to the rules on co-parenting’ because every family is different.

In some families the move from living together as a husband, wife or partner to co-parenting children together but in separate households is pretty seamless. That can either be because:

  • The same rules on parenting are followed in both households , with no changes in the original household routine or
  • There is good communication and post separation or divorce co-parenting rules are agreed and even recorded in a parenting plan.

Generally speaking it is harder to seamlessly transition to parenting together to co-parenting in different households where:

  • There has been an acrimonious divorce
  • You can't reach a financial settlement
  • Either you or your ex-partner (or both of you) have met new partners who may or may not have children of their own and so there is a need to fit in with other people’s routines
  • There is a lack of trust or communication over the co-parenting arrangements either because one of you isn’t fully committed to them or wants them to not work
  • There are practical considerations, such as distances between households or complex work schedules to work around
  • You have significantly changed the parenting arrangements from when you were living with your ex-partner so, for example, primary care by one parent has now become a shared care arrangement with equal co-parenting.

How to successfully co-parent

A few of the key points to successfully co-parenting are:

  • To look at the co-parenting arrangements from your children’s perspective. Whilst you may want to spend three and a half days every week with the children is that what they want? If the children are not old enough to express an opinion, look at the situation objectively and ask whether the contact schedule is meeting your needs or the needs of your children. Are your needs the same?
  • Co-parenting generally works where parents agree to a plan and are both committed to making it work. So, for some families, that means alternating days or weeks with each parent. An outside observer might think that those co-parenting plans would be confusing and disruptive to a child but if both parents are fully committed the co-parenting can work, however complicated or bizarre the parenting arrangements may appear to others
  • Co-parenting isn’t about equality of time and it isn’t about excluding anyone, other than the parents, from looking after the children. There is still a role for grandparents, nannies and au-pairs. In an ideal world you will share help and support. Some families even share pets who move households with the children
  • Co-parenting isn’t something that is sorted out and can then be ignored. Ongoing communication is vital to make it work. For example, a change of job and new work location , the arrival of a new partner and the addition of a new child to the household, a child suffering an accident whilst being cared for by one parent,  can all result in issues over co-parenting unless there is good ongoing communication
  • It is easy to blame an ex-partner for the co-parenting not working. For example, the children may not be completing homework whilst they are staying with your ex-partner or may be returning home tired. That could be your ex-partner’s fault but, depending on the ages of your children, it could equally be your children paying one parent off against the other. Sadly, that scenario is common as children will report that they have already done their homework or that their mother/father allows them to stay up later in the other household. That is why regular communication between co-parents is essential
  • The specific co-parenting arrangements may need to change with time. What works with a toddler may not work with a school age child. New co-parenting plans may need to be made if a child joins a weekend sports team or amateur dramatics company. That may mean different co-parenting arrangements if you have more than one child
  • Watch out for trigger points such as new relationships or second marriages or the arrival of more children.

What happens if we can't co-parent?

For some couples co-parenting doesn’t won't work for them and therefore co-parenting doesn’t work for their children. This can be tricky to deal with when one parent firmly believes that the co-parenting is working well, at least from their perspective.

In an ideal world, both parents will recognise that the co-parenting isn’t working out and will want to sit down and reach a new agreement. That could involve drawing up a new parenting plan together, going to family mediation, or making an application to court for orders such as:

If parents can't reach agreement over the co-parenting arrangements for their children then ultimately a family law judge can decide if child care should be split equally or if one parent should be the main carer and the other parent should have regular contact. These scenarios are covered by the judge making a child arrangements order.

If parents can't reach an agreement over a specific issue, such as the school that the child attends or the religion that the child follows, then the court can be invited to make a specific issue order. If you want to prohibit a parent taking a step, such as preventing your child’s hair being shorn or stopping taking them from going mountaineering, then you can apply for a prohibited steps order.

Whenever the court is asked to make an order over the arrangements for children the family law judge will assess what children court orders they think is in your child’s best interests. Most parents prefer to try and make their own arrangements to avoid a decision being imposed upon them.

If you are at the stage of separating or divorcing and don’t know where to start in sorting out a co-parenting arrangement or need more information to understand how such an arrangement will impact on child support and the financial settlement it is best to take early legal advice from a specialist children law solicitor before finalising any co-parenting plans.

Equally, if you fear that your co-parenting arrangement with your ex-partner is breaking down it is best to take legal advice before changing the co-parenting arrangements unilaterally (resulting in your ex-partner starting court proceedings) or you launching an application for a child arrangements order without first having information and advice on the likely court orders a judge would make for your children. With specialist legal advice, looking at your best options, you may be able to avoid a child arrangements order application or , if not, your application will be fully prepared and argued to best achieve the parenting solution you are looking to achieve.

London Children Law Solicitors

For advice and information on co-parenting arrangements after a separation or divorce  or representation in child arrangements order proceedings or sorting out a financial settlement then specialist family and children law team at OTS Solicitors can help you reach a resolution.

Call us on 0203 959 9123 or click here and complete our online enquiry form.

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