Parenting is an ongoing journey, complicated to begin with and exponentially more so following a divorce. If you and your ex can agree to a co-parenting arrangement, you have already overcome one major hurdle. What happens when you and your co-parent disagree on the daily things, the types of items that are not covered by a court order? Continue reading for a few tips on how to work with a co-parent who has a competing co-parenting style, and reach out to a dedicated Englewood child custody and parental rights attorney for assistance with a New Jersey family law matter.
Start with the belief that both you and your ex want what’s best for your children. If you approach disputes with that fundamental truth in mind, it will help you see things from their perspective. Even if you believe their approach is wrong, it’s important to discuss the matter in a constructive, communal way. Discuss, don’t criticize. Reading someone the riot act, calling them an idiot, or suggesting that they do not care about their kids will never convince them to change their behavior and is likely to cause them to dig in their heels even more. The more you approach matters as task-focused collaborators rather than antagonists, the easier it will be to agree on the things that matter.
Agree on the Big Stuff
Do your best to agree on big-ticket items with your ex. These rules might include prohibitions on spanking, rules about the use of electronics, or punishments for lying, cheating, stealing, skipping school and other bad behavior. If you have different rules about bedtimes, or you keep your children on a different diet at home, that’s OK.
Try to set aside your feelings and consider your ex’s approach. They may actually have a good idea that you can employ with the kids in your home. A television curfew, an award system for completing homework, or encouraging certain extracurricular activities (e.g., volunteer work) might really be great for your kids. Anything that you “concede” builds your capital in the co-parenting bank, making it more likely that your ex will be flexible in other areas.
Your Children Will Adapt to Different Rules
Ultimately, you and your co-parent may have different rules and home environments. There may be different bedtimes, there may be different rules about playing video games, or about dinner and dessert. Understand that your children are able to adapt to different sets of rules in different environments and will be no worse off. They already know how to act at school, with friends, and at home, which all call for different social rules; they are perfectly suited to adapt to different rules at different homes.
Keep Disputes Between the Parents
After a divorce, it’s important to keep your issues with your co-parent between the adults. Do your best not to fight or argue in front of the children, and never use your kids as go-betweens for angry messages between the parents. Likewise, it’s important not to badmouth your ex to your kids. Children who are drawn into their parents’ fights inevitably wind up hurt the most by the situation.
If you discover that your ex is badmouthing you to your kids, take steps to deal with the issue. You might consider confronting your ex, discussing the matter at therapy, and even involving the court if the problem gets serious enough. Discuss the issue with your family law attorney to explore your options if it becomes serious.
Do Not Get Involved With Your Kids’ Disputes With Their Other Parent
In addition to keeping your kids out of your fights, you should stay out of theirs. Children may try to leverage the support of one parent against the other to get what they want. It’s important that you not become your child’s intermediary. Encourage your children to work out any issues directly with their other parent rather than bring you in as an enforcer. If there are serious issues that require your intervention (abuse, neglect, etc.), then take steps to get involved and protect your children.
Call for Seasoned Legal Help With a New Jersey Child Custody Matter
If you’re considering divorce in New Jersey or dealing with child support, child custody, property division, or other family law issues, contact the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at (201) 500-2151.