Contested family law cases involving children are without a doubt the most emotionally charged cases I deal with. Even once the final orders are entered, there have been times when client’s still struggle with the fact that they must deal with the other party for essentially the rest of  their children’s lives.  There have been several times where long after a case has ended a client has asked me for advice on how to deal with the other parent. This week we’ll go into five tips that can help turn a co-parenting nightmare into something more manageable.

1. Proper Communication: Open and respectful communication between co-parents is essential. Even if you cannot stand each other, discussions should focused on the children’s needs. Don’t waste your time speaking harshly or trying to one up each other as parents. Be cordial, be succinct, and stay on topic. It takes two to argue. If the other parent is trying to goad you into a fight, don’t engage. Be the more mature person. Let them know the pertinent information regarding the children and keep it moving.

2. Stick to the Plan: There is a reason that your final orders include a possession schedule. If you’re in a less than amicable co-parenting situation, you aren’t likely to agree with the other party on things like extra time or swapped weekends. Sticking to the schedule listed in your orders can help alleviate any potential miscommunications or disagreements that could arise. Having this structured plan in place can reduce conflict and confusion for both parents and children.

3. Be Flexible: On the other hand, flexibility can go a long way towards improving your co-parenting relationship. Now I’m not saying that you need to give in to every single thing the other parent asks for, that isn’t reasonable. But if they were to ask you for an extra half an hour of possession so that they can go to dinner and a movie with the children, there’s no need to get up in arms about that. Also, sometimes life happens for better or worse. Schedules may need to be adjusted from time to time due to work commitments, family visiting from out of town, funerals, or other unforeseen circumstances. Being flexible (to an extent) can go a long way to smoothing over a rough co-parenting relationship.

4. Respect Each Other’s Parenting Style: This is a tough one for most to come to terms with, but you cannot control how the other parent decides to raise the children during their possession time. In most cases they have the same rights to raise the child as you do. If you have a no sugar rule in your home, you cannot enforce that in their home. If they say no television after 8:00 pm, they can’t keep the children from staying up to watch Saturday Night Live with you during your weekends. You both have equal rights on how to raise the child in your home, and you both need to respect those rights. Once you adopt this mentality it can eliminate several problems.

5. Keep Children Out of Conflict: You may dislike or even hate the other parent, but your children should never know that. Your children are half you, and half the other parent. Negatively speaking about their mother or father in front of them can and will cause psychological harm. There is a reason courts often include the injunction to keep parties from disparaging the other parent and their families in front of the children. It does nothing but cause harm.

In conclusion, the most important thing to keep in mind when co-parenting is that you are to act on behalf of the child’s best interests, not your own. Too many times I have seen parents making decisions that best benefit them or spite the other party. It is very simple; put the children first at all times.