Co-parenting after split begins during the divorce process

Divorce can be a stressful time no matter the situation. If children are involved, however, that stress can ratchet up considerably. Co-parenting amicably - or at least functionally - during and after divorce can be difficult. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize conflict and raise healthy, well-adjusted children even if divorced.

Begin with parenting plan

The first step to co-parenting is to have a thorough parenting plan, which will be outlined during the divorce process. A parenting plan will decide custody matters. Custody can either be sole or joint between the parents. If one parent has sole physical custody, it is likely the court will award visitation rights to the other parent, provided that the other parent has not had a history of abuse or there is not some other reason to deny visitation.

Physical custody involves the residence in which the children reside. Legal custody involves decision-making for the child, such as education, religious background and medical care. Both physical and legal custody can be shared between parents.

Stay focused on the children

While it's easier said than done, it is important to put emotions aside when dealing with an ex. Instead, both parents should focus on the children. It may help to consider the relationship as a business partnership, with the business being the raising of children.

When dropping off or picking up children be prompt. Stick to the parenting plan first agreed upon in divorce. If unable to keep to the schedule, communicate that to the ex-spouse.

Keep all conversations centered on the children. Be restrained and listen to the ex's concerns. Make requests instead of statements, as that is less confrontational.

Consistency

Try to maintain similar rules for the children in both households. While parents do not need to have exactly the same rules, having approximately the same guidelines regarding appropriate behavior will help the children adapt between households. Similarly, try to keep children on approximately the same schedule, such as bedtimes and when the children must complete homework.

While consistency is helpful, life circumstances do change. If one parent needs to move, for example, he or she will have to go to court to get approval for the move. In addition, if one parent is seeking more parenting time, he or she must modify the court's child custody order.

An attorney can help

While co-parenting with an ex can be difficult, it is not impossible to have a working relationship even if the marriage ended badly.

Parents who are considering divorce should speak with an experienced family law attorney to discuss child custody matters, child support and how best to navigate divorce.