In the 1980s and 1990s, it was “normal” in divorce cases for the children to end up living with the mother and for the father to see his children one evening a week and every other weekend. However, in recent years much has changed, especially in forward thinking California, the first state to enact “no-fault” divorce.
Today, California, along with many other states has determined that children are much better off when both parents play an active role in their lives. By an “active role,” this means more than a father seeing his children every other weekend and once a week; it means almost, if not equal responsibility in raising his children.
Under the modern method of child custody in California, co-parenting fathers may have the children the same number (or almost the same) of overnights as the mother, and they are playing more of an active role in their children’s lives, for example, they’re bringing their children to soccer and dance, and taking them back to school shopping.
Most of Today’s Moms Are Employed
Unless a couple was rather wealthy before a divorce, the majority of divorced mothers these days have full-time jobs. Since it “takes a village” to raise children, more (and more) divorced couples are relying on each other to tend to their children’s daily needs. For example, if “Billy” needs a ride to basketball practice but Mom is working the nightshift at the hospital and it’s Dad’s day off, Billy’s father can take him to basketball practice while his ex-wife is pulling a 12-hour shift at the hospital. This is the most logical solution.
As in the example above, it’s not uncommon for today’s divorced parents to have two completely different schedules, and with two parents working full-time, simple logistics require them to coordinate their schedules and calendars so the children’s needs are adequately met. Essentially, divorced couples are co-parenting out of necessity, not always by choice.
Recognize the Silver Lining
If you’re like a lot of spouses, the idea of coordinating with your soon-to-be-ex on a regular basis may not sound appealing; however, it’s important to see the silver lining. Even if you cannot stand being in the same room as your husband or wife, it’s important for you to see that co-parenting is highly desirable; it makes everybody’s lives easier.
We found that for co-parenting to work, spouses should actively seek divorce mediation or a collaborative divorce, both of which encourage couples to have a positive divorce. If you want to succeed at co-parenting, divorce litigation should be avoided if possible. Experience has taught us that when a couple cooperates from the beginning, it paves the way for a successful co-parenting relationship.
When a couple is angry and bitter and drags each other to court for every little thing and they try to have equal parenting time, they likely won’t find themselves working as a “team” and every interaction may be stressful and strained. Nobody wins in this scenario, and it’s not fair to the children to watch their parents constantly fighting over them.
If you have minor children from your marriage and your spouse is a loving parent, we do not recommend an adversarial divorce. Instead, we highly recommend divorce mediation or a collaborative divorce, especially if you’re going to be seeking a co-parenting arrangement.
Making Co-Parenting Work
Through experience with our own clients, we have found that the following factors help make a co-parenting arrangement work well:
Living Close to Each Other
When a couple has children, living close to each other makes everything easier, especially if the parents can both live in the same school zone. Even though it’s possible to live apart and make things work, it’s still a lot harder when you factor in all the extra driving, which taxes everyone’s patience.
If the children can remain in the same school, attend the same church (where applicable), and continue seeing their friends and taking part in the same extra-curricular activities, all of this helps promote stability, which is what children need during and after a divorce.
Even if parents don’t like each other, it’s important that they remain in “good communication” with each other. For instance, they need to inform each other if there’s a change in their schedule, and keep each other updated on school schedules, extra-curricular activities, birthday parties and the like. If it relates to the children, they should keep each other informed.
Being Flexible With Each Other
“But it’s not his day with the kids.” We hear this a lot. So what if it’s the summer and your ex-husband got the day off and he wants to take the kids to Disney Land? Even if it’s not his day, what’s the harm in him taking them to the amusement park? Occasionally, someone might want the kids when it’s not their day, or they’ll want to take the kids out to celebrate their new promotion. It’s not a big deal to be flexible with each other once in a while, even if it’s not reflected in the Parenting Plan.
Ex-spouses must understand that it’s important to help each other out and be flexible on occasion, especially if it’s a reasonable request. For example, if a mother is called in to work because her co-worker didn’t show up and her ex-husband is available to take the kids, he shouldn’t say, “Hire a babysitter!” That would just be unfair to his ex and the kids.
Accepting Each Other’s New Partners
A lot of divorced parents remarry; how a new husband or wife acclimates to the family has much to do with the ex-spouse’s attitude toward the new mate. The best way to encourage peace at home is for each spouse to be respectful toward the new stepparent and ask their children to be respectful of him or her. If children have issues with a stepparent, it’s nearly impossible to successfully co-parent, and the children ultimately suffer. It’s perfectly normal for an ex to feel jealousy towards their ex’s new husband or wife, but they must manage those feelings and keep them hidden from the children.
Are you on the brink of divorce and looking for a Los Angeles divorce lawyer to represent you? If so, contact Claery & Hammond, LLPtoday to schedule a free, confidential consultation.