Whether you are filing a custody suit in Dallas, Texas or another county in Texas, rarely is the situation when one parent will get the children ALL of the time and the other parent NONE of the time. Thus, the vast majority of custody cases are really about two parents sharing a child according to a schedule that works for the child under the particular circumstances of that child’s life. Most frequently, the dispute is over whether one parent or the other will have the Texas Standard Possession Schedule (frequently seen as about 40% of the time) or more and whether the other parent will have the rest of the time.  Parenting in these situations can be challenging, especially when the parents have differing styles and beliefs regarding discipline.

Deborah Serani in her article The Do’s and Don’ts of Co-Parenting Well provides some good pointers for handling co-parenting. Here are her “Do’s” for co-parenting. In the next part of my series on Co-parenting, I will provide her “Don’ts” for co-parenting.

      Do’s:

  • Commit to making co-parenting an open dialogue with your Ex. Arrange to do this through email, texting, voicemail, letters or face to face conversation. There are even websites where you can upload schedules, share information and communicate so you and your Ex don’t have to directly touch base. 
  • Rules should be consistent and agreed upon at both households. As much as they fight it, children need routine and structure. Issues like meal time, bed time, and completing chores need to consistent. The same goes for school work and projects. Running a tight ship creates a sense of security and predictability for children. So no matter where your child is, he or she knows that certain rules will be enforced. "You know the deal, before we can go to the movies, you gotta get that bed made." 
  • Commit to positive talk around the house. Make it a rule to frown upon your children talking disrespectfully about your Ex even though it may be music to your ears. 
  • Agree on boundaries and behavioral guidelines for raising your children so that there’s consistency in their lives, regardless of which parent they’re with at any given time. Research shows that children in homes with a unified parenting approach have greater well-being.
  • Create an Extended Family Plan. Negotiate and agree on the role extended family members will play and the access they’ll be granted while your child is in each other’s charge. 
  • Recognize that co-parenting will challenge you – and the reason for making accommodations in your parenting style is NOT BECAUSE YOUR EX WANTS THIS OR THAT, but for the needs of your children. 
  • Be Aware of Slippery Slopes. Be aware that children will frequently test boundaries and rules, especially if there’s a chance to get something they may not ordinarily be able to obtain. This is why a united front in co-parenting is recommended. 
  • Be boring. Research shows that children need time to do ordinary things with their less-seen parent, not just fun things. 
  • Update often. Although it may be emotionally painful, make sure that you and your Ex keep each other informed about all changes in your life, or circumstances that are challenging or difficult. It is important that your child is never, ever, ever the primary source of information.

Go for the high notes. Each of you has valuable strengths as a parent. Remember to recognize the different traits you and your Ex have – and reinforce this awareness with your children. Speaking positively about your Ex teaches children that despite your differences, you can still appreciate positive things about your Ex. "Mommy’s really good at making you feel better when you’re sick. I know, I’m not as good as she is." It also directs children to see the positive qualities in his or her parent too. "Daddy’s much better at organizing things than I am."     

 

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.