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How to co-parent effectively after a divorce

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP September 1, 2019

Divorce is a process of division. Couples split. Marital assets are divided. And in many cases, spouses take separate paths after the divorce.

However, parents of minor children find it much harder to cut ties with their former spouses. Colorado courts determine decision-making and parenting time in the best interests of the child, and that typically means a balanced parenting time schedule. In short, if you have young kids in Colorado, you’re still likely to see your former spouse often.

Your kids need you both to work together

Divorce is hard on children. Studies have often shown that children of divorce will act out and suffer from a variety of negative emotions, including guilt, anxiety, anger and depression. However, children are also resilient, and most will recover from the divorce within the first couple years. However, as you might expect, the ways parents act will have a profound effect upon this recovery. Children fare best when both parents can play an active, healthy and supportive role in the children’s lives.

This means that one of the best things you can do for your children is learn how to co-parent with the other parent. HelpGuide, an evidence-based mental health website, shares some useful tips:

  • Focus on parenting for the kids: This may sound simple enough, but it means putting aside your pain and anger. Keep your interactions with the other parent transactional and business-like. It also means showing the other parent respect and finding ways to release your emotions that are outside of your relationships with your children.
  • Practice clear, child-focused communication: You will still need to communicate with the other parent, so you want to focus on what your children need, rather than belaboring your conversations with emotion. Try sticking to the facts and making polite requests. Be sure to listen when it’s the other parents turn to speak. Share what occurred with the children during your parenting time, and ask for updates from the other parent.
  • Respect each other’s boundaries: You and the other parent will want to be as consistent as possible with your rules, discipline and scheduling. Even so, it’s unlikely that you’ll keep the exact same standards. You’ll want the other parent to reinforce your authority to set the rules for your home, and you should do the same. Don’t talk negatively about the other parent or their standards and rules, but do try to address important differences away from your kids.
  • Make a routine of your transitions: Especially when the divorce is still fresh, children can struggle with transitions from one parent to the other. They may feel they’re about to lose the parent they’re with, even while they look forward to seeing the other. Prepare your children for the transition in advance by reminding them the day before. The more familiar the transitions become, the less they’ll scare your kids.

The good news is that studies show when both parents find ways to raise their children with minimal conflict, children of divorce can do just as well as children with both parents at home.