If you are considering divorcing your spouse and you are a parent, you are probably worried how you will raise your child after the divorce. If you and your spouse plan to share parental responsibilities, as is recommended by courts when it is in the best interest of the child, you will have to find a way to effective co-parent with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse. This can be much more difficult than it looks. While it is up to you to find the specific co-parenting arrangement that works for your unique circumstances, there are some guidelines which can help you overcome some of the struggles of parenting your child with an ex-spouse.
Make a Specific Parenting Agreement
If you have a cooperative spouse, it is much better to make parenting decisions together rather than forcing the court to allocate parental responsibilities, previously called child custody. In the parenting agreement, or parenting plan, make sure to include joint decisions regarding:
- Parenting time (physical custody of the child) schedule;
- Special schedules for holidays, school vacation, and birthdays;
- Transportation arrangements;
- Religious or cultural influences in the child’s life;
- Household rules and discipline;
- When a parent can introduce a new romantic interest to the child;
- Babysitting/childcare arrangements, including the right of first refusal;
- Summer camp or other sleepover opportunities;
- Healthcare/vaccinations; and
- Academic expectations.
This list is by no means exhaustive and many parenting plans include considerations not listed here. Illinois courts require divorcing parents to submit a parenting plan. If the parents cannot agree on a plan, the court will make decisions regarding parenting time and the allocation of parental responsibilities for them. The purpose of a parenting agreement is not only to satisfy the court, but to get big decisions on paper so that parents have less to figure out after the divorce.
Co-parenting is especially difficult for parents who had a high-conflict divorce. However, even if the end of the marriage was amicable, there will probably be at least some conflict when figuring out how to co-parent. In order to minimize this conflict, experts have a few suggestions. First, parents should choose their battles. There may be times that you have to compromise with the other parent and other times that something just is not worth the fight. Another way to minimize conflict is to make a pact with the other parent not to speak negatively about each other to the child. It can be tempting to badmouth an ex, but doing so only serves to alienate the child from both parents.
If you plan to divorce, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney to discuss your available options. Call 630-377-7770 for a free, no-obligation consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. today.