Divorced and New to coParenting
Dear Dr Jann,
My daughter’s father and I are newly divorced and we are trying to design an equally shared Parenting Plan for her. She goes to preschool in the mornings. We have no idea where to start. Do you have any suggestions?
Going through a divorce is difficult especially when children are involved. The best coParenting relationship is one that puts your child first. The first step for transitioning into successful coParenting and create a parenting plan is to answer the following questions:
Who was the primary caregiver or did both parents share in the child’s upbringing prior to the breakup?
If one parent was the primary caregiver, automatically expecting a child to immediately adjust to an equally shared parenting plan is asking a lot. Your daughter is used to her room and neighborhood and possibly pre-school. So, to upset what she is used to right after a break-up is not in her best interest. In those cases, a step parenting plan that slowly works into overnights with the parent who was not the primary caregiver would be recommended. If the parents shared parenting responsibilities prior to their break-up, then an equal custody parenting plan would be appropriate.
What are your work schedules like?
Any parenting plan takes the parents’ work schedules into consideration. A child starts school around 8 am. If a parent works the graveyard shift where he or she is not home at night or he or she must leave for work earlier than 8am, then overnights during the week may be impractical.
What is the distance between your homes?
For parents who live far away from each other, overnights during the week may be impractical. This may be disruptive to the child’s school schedule and does not give you quality time with your child as a lot of time is spent commuting to and from the two homes.
What is the distance to your child’s school from both homes?
If at all possible, parents should try to live in the same school district so they can pick up and deliver their child from school and the child is not in the car for hours at a time before or after school. Again alway thinking of your child’s best interest first!
How does this look from your child’s perspective?
It may be difficult to come to an agreement with your ex, however, if you look at it from your child’s perspective, coming to an agreement might be easier. Your child wants to feel safe and loved, always keep that in mind. You may not like your ex very much but your child loves both their parents and so putting yourself in your child’s shoes might help you make a more rational and objective decision.
What boundaries do you want to set?
Transitioning from a marriage dynamic to a co parenting dynamic can be quite challenging. Make sure you and your coParent set clear boundaries with one another and your child. This could range from pick-up and drop-off commitments, communication preferences (call, text, email, etc), who will be in charge of medical appointments, who will take the child for haircuts, etc. Communicating and setting boundaries about what you expect from one another is key, especially in the early stages of divorce.
What resources are available to help you better coParent?
There are many services out there to help you create a parenting plan. You can hire a mediator, get help from family members, utilize family court, or use a coParenting app. Whichever you choose, you have an abundance of professionals by your side, ready to help you through this process. The quicker you can come to an agreement, the more beneficial for your child as they will begin to adjust to their new normal.
The goal is to design something that doesn’t take your child away from either parent (providing that there are no serious issues, like domestic violence) for great stretches of time—and work on your ability to problem solve with your coParent so that the transitions from house to house are as stress-free as possible.
Lastly, remember to keep your child’s lifestyle as close to it was before the separation as possible.