Lessons from the Superbowl on Co-Parenting

A court will look to many factors under RSA 461-A:6 when making an initial determination of parental rights and responsibilities. Provided that each parent is capable of providing a safe, loving home, one of the most important factors that will be considered is the ability of each parent to support the relationship of the children with the other parent. Three specific factors under the statute read:

  • "The ability and disposition of each parent to foster a positive relationship and frequent and continuing physical, written, and telephonic contact with the other parent, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent."
  • " The support of each parent for the child's contact with the other parent as shown by allowing and promoting such contact, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent."
  • "The support of each parent for the child's relationship with the other parent, including whether contact is likely to result in harm to the child or to a parent."

Following the Patriots amazing Superbowl victory (Yayyyyyy Pats!!!!), I came across an article commending actress Bridget Moynahan, Tom Brady's ex-girlfriend and the mother of his oldest child, for her gracious congratulatory tweet sent out while her son was celebrating on the field with his dad, stepmother and half-siblings:

Christine Coppa, the article's author and a single mom writes about the difficult journey a parent must go through to come out on the other side a supportive co-parent. She observes:

Moynahan has “moved past the bitter parts that most breakups create, and onto accepting their relationship as a unique family,” relationship expert Amy Spencer, author of Meeting Your Half-Orangeand Bright Side Up, tells Yahoo Parenting. “Her son should be damn proud of his dad, and that tweet is a beautiful sign that Bridget wants to support her son that way.”

Supportive co-parenting allows the child to see her parents as a team rather than as opponents, and that is critical to their adjustment and development. As mentioned above, it can also be the decisive factor for a court when determining residential responsibility. There are numerous resources available to assist parents in the co-parenting journey. Here are some of my favorites:

 

An eclectic mix of Christmas, court closings and co-parenting

My blog posts are usually topical - focusing on one subject at a time such as relocation or guardian ad litems. Today I am going in a different direction though, as I have a couple of items to post about. My post is inspired by the wonderful blog at the Massachusetts Divorce Law Monitor by Attorney Nancy Van Tine, who always posts an interesting mix of food for thought. So here goes:

  • Remember that the New Hampshire courts are closed on Thursday, December 23rd and Friday, December 24th for a furlough day and for the Christmas holiday.
  • Holidays can be a stressful time when trying to coordinate who will be present during holiday celebrations. I love the post by Deeshaw Philyaw titled If You Invite His Ex-Wife to Thanksgiving Dinner. It is based on the children's book, If You Give a Pig a Party by Laura Numeroff.

Stay safe and warm and have a very, merry Christmas!

Co-parenting tips from a single dad

I seem to be blogging a lot lately about co-parenting issues. In a search today on google for co-parenting communication ideas, I came across a blog titled Dad's House: Dating & Parenting by a Single Dad. David Mott recently posted Co-Parenting - How to Deal with an Ex. As a single dad who has been co-parenting his children with his ex for nine years, David offers tips on co-parenting. They are basic rules of engagement that should be followed in any co-parenting relationship, and are the rules that are offered throughout the blogosphere and by parenting experts across the country. David lists the following rules:

  • Do what’s in the best interest of your kids

  • Don’t talk down to each other

  • Do treat the co-parenting as a business relationship Don’t fight in front of the kids

  • Do use email

  • Don’t badmouth the other parent in front of the kids .

  • Do communicate 

Arguments, fights, blow-ups and disagreements will happen in every relationship, especially parents who have split up. (probably for good reason). However, if both parents can follow the rules of engagement, maintain a business like tone and keep lines of communication open, your kids will be healthier and happier for it. In the end, David reminds, focus on co-parenting and practice the basics.

If you would like more information regarding basic co-parenting concepts and rules, single mommy and daddy blogs abound with similar tips.  Jennifer Wolf gives similar advice in planning coparenting meetings at Tips for Succesful Co-Parenting Meetings. Aside from blogs, check out the Co-Parenting Surivival Guide: Letting Go of Conflict After a Difficult Divorce by Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeffrey Zimmerman, the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension's Co-Parenting After Divorce.

Coparenting your children

One of the most important things that parents in separate households can do for their children is cooperatively co-parent. Successfully co-parenting allows both parents to be involved in a child's day to day life. I recently came across a useful article published by the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension titled "Co-parenting after Divorce."

If you are currently going through a divorce or parenting case, take the opportunity to discuss your parenting rights and responsibilities, and the roles that each of you will play. Work those discussions into your parenting plan. The article provides a detailed chart with questions about household expectations, education and moral upbringing, peers and social considerations and health care decisions that you and the other parent can use to start the discussions.

Additionally, consider the road that you and the other parent do not want to go down. One of the most important aspects of co-parenting is keeping the children out of the middle. The article points out that:

Problems may develop if parents send messages to each other through their children. Problems also arise when a parent talks negatively about the other parent. Children may feel guilty and unsure of their parents’ love when they’re caught in the middle.

If a parent asks about a former spouse, children may report that things are fine, even if they’re not. Or children may say things to make one of the parents feel bad. Again, don’t use your children by putting them in the middle. If you want to know something about your ex-spouse, ask that person yourself. 

Explore these behaviors that you and the other parent agree you will both avoid, and work any agreements into the parenting plan as well.

 Finally, remember that you and the other parent probably will not agree on every issue. 

Accept that you and your ex-spouse may differ on key parenting issues. Try to work on finding common ground, especially on the most important issues. Communicating about a few issues is better than not having communication at all.

Co-parenting tip: Schedule a weekly parenting call

After going through the divorce process, for many couples the last thing that they want to do is have regular contact with their ex-spouse. However, for divorcing couples with children, it is extremely important to maintain communication to effectively co-parent your children. Successfully co-parenting means that both parents will maintain an active, stable role in their children's day to day lives and that the children will be happy and healthier for it.

One technique that parents may try is scheduling a weekly parenting phone call. Instead of several phone calls a week that occur at inconvenient times and break down into arguments, focus communication into one business-like phone call per week. Unless there is an emergency, wait to discuss all issues at the parenting call. The parent with the children should make the phone call to insure that the children are out of ear shot, such as after bedtime.

Plan an agenda for the call, including the following topics:

  • Discuss the upcoming parenting schedule
  • Discuss the children's extracurricular activities and school schedules
  • Discuss academic issues such as homework and report cards
  • Discuss any behavioral issues
  • Discuss any general concerns