Child custody disputes are emotionally challenging for both parents and children whether in a divorce, paternity or modification context. If you are able to construct a positive co-parenting relationship, you and your children will benefit. While this is not earth shattering news for any parent, this advice is much easier for a Florida child custody attorney to express than for parents in the midst of a nasty child custody case to carry into practice. Relationships break up for a reason so it can be a serious challenge to prevent the animosity and bitterness that caused the deterioration of a marriage or parenting relationship from impacting your interaction with the other parent. There are significant reasons to find ways to develop a positive co-parenting relationship including the following:
- Cost: Parents that work constructively to agree on a stable lasting parenting plan can avoid expensive litigation.
- Emotional Benefits: The stress and anxiety for you and your children will be considerably less.
- Stability and Predictability: Positive co-parenting relationships reduce the need for post-judgment modification and enforcement proceedings.
- Positive Outcomes for Children: A recent study confirms earlier studies that children whose parents resolve child custody issues amicably avoid a decline in math scores and social functioning common to children involved in high conflict custody disputes.
Experienced West Palm Beach child custody attorney James S. Cunha understands that it is easier to recognize the value of a constructive co-parenting relationship than to actively participate in this type of constructive interaction in the midst of hostile feelings toward the other parent. Our West Palm Beach family law firm works diligently to structure parenting plans that set our clients up for successful co-parenting relationships. Because it can be difficult to avoid animosity and cooperate in a positive way with the other parent, we have developed this three-part series of articles that provide advice on constructive co-parenting strategies.
Never Use the Children as a Communication Tool: Because a parent may feel negatively toward the other parent, which makes communication a challenge, it can be tempting to simply relay messages through your children. Virtually all child therapists agree that this is a practice that should be avoided. When a parent uses a child as the mechanism for conveying messages to the other parent, the child is placed squarely in the middle of parental disagreements. The child may feel personally responsible for negative attitudes expressed in the message or hostility toward the message from the recipient. Adult disputes should be handled between adults not children. Mr. Cunha and his legal team often tries to pre-empt such issues by specifying appropriate communication methods that will work for a particular set of parents. There are more options for communication than ever before with email, text messaging, video chat and cell phones. Careful consideration of how information will be communicated between parents during a divorce or paternity case can prevent serious problems later.
Avoid Derogatory Comments About the Other Parent: We understand that the other parent may be extremely aggravating and negative, but the other party remains your child’s parent. It is very difficult for a child when a parent makes derogatory comments about the other parent in the child’s presence. Researchers who study the impact on children of a parent consistently denigrating the other parent have found that this can lead directly to low self-esteem for a child. This practice also may force a child to feel the need to take sides in a child custody dispute and can have the impact of alienating the child toward the other parent. Florida family law judges take an extremely dim view of parents who make derogatory comments about the other parent, which may result in an unfavorable parenting plan.
Volunteer Important School, Medical and Dental Information: If the children live with you during the school week, you should be proactive about sharing school information with the other parent. Report cards, progress reports, disciplinary notices, awards and achievements should be shared with the other parent without a formal request from the parent. Important medical and dental information should also be provided to the other parent. The more the other parent is provided with such information and included in decision-making about academic and medical decisions the more you will promote a positive co-parenting relationship. If you find that you are back in court on a custody modification hearing later, this type of voluntary information sharing generally will be reviewed positively by a Florida family law judge.
These are just a few examples of ways to promote a constructive co-parenting relationship with the other parent of your child. Constructive co-parenting with a parent with whom you have had a failed romantic or sexual relationship is never easy. However, we invite you to read Part II and Part III of this series of articles for strategies to make a difficult situation more manageable.