Co-Parenting After Divorce - The Best Advice For You and Your Kid 

Co-parenting after divorce can be challenging. We all know that. 

What most people want to know is what is the best co-parenting after divorce advice? We say that the best thing you can do for your children is to stop being in conflict with the child's other parent. We always tell our clients that your  kids will get over the fact of your separation. What they will not get over is the fact of their parents remaining in conflict. Most of the research says that when parents are in conflict, it is very costly to kids' well-being.

Let's look at the situation relating to Jasper and Julia. Jasper and Julia are 15 and 12 years old. Their parents, Lawrence and Linda, separated when Jasper was 8 and Julia was 5. At a trial more than seven years ago, Lawrence and Linda fought over the parenting plan for their kids. Linda won the trial and has most of the parenting time and parenting responsibilities of Jasper and Julia. Lawrence gets parenting time with Jasper and Julia every second weekend and half of all school holidays. 

Unfortunately, despite there being a trial, Lawrence and Linda are still in constant conflict about the actual scheduling of time between the two households. Because Linda continues to resent her marriage to Lawrence, she fails to accept that her children have a tight bond with their father. 

Unfortunately for Jasper and Julia, they know their parents remain in conflict. They know not to share with their Mom when fun things happen with their Dad. They are not able to keep photos of their Dad in their Mom's house. They know not to talk about their Dad and his extended family in front of their Mom. 

Because of the tension between their parents, Jasper and Julia are still robbed of part of the enjoyment that their childhoods deserve.

The good news is that most parents behave better than Jasper and Julia's. Most parents want what is best for their kids and get it on an intuitive basis that their kids should be entitled to love both of their parents. They should be able to do so without shame and reservation. 

Lawrence and Linda are so embroiled as to who is “right” in their conflict, that they often do not realise how the actual conflict itself hurts their kids. Jasper and Julia don’t care who is “right.” They care that their parents are still fighting despite their divorce many years ago. 

Co-Parenting After Divorce

At Hemminger Law Group Westshore, we deal with tonnes of questions from our clients about co-parenting after divorce. Although we are obviously not experts in the psychological effects of divorce and how to best protect your children, we do have some pretty strong views about the way things should go. 

We know kids should feel free to love both their parents. We know that kids should feel at home at each of their parents’ home. We know that kids should be able to keep their special things with them rather than having what a particular parent purchased remain at that parent’s house. We know that kids should enjoy special holidays without being transported long distances to satisfy their parents on special days (like Christmas, for example). 

Below is a very helpful guide we came across years ago for people who are co-parenting after divorce. We are grateful to have permission from the author, Lois Nightingale to re-print it here (and hand it out to our clients). 

As we hear, love is not only a feeling. Love is behaviour. When clients have questions about co-parenting after divorce, this guide does a really good job of helping them “get it” concerning what children need, and what children should be entitled to despite their parents separating or being separated. 

Although parents will ultimately make mistakes when co-parenting after divorce, we think that continued effort can help parents move forward in a positive way that is great for their kids. 

The Bill of Rights of Children:
A Guide to Loving Your Children Responsibly

When co-parenting after divorce, we invite parents to remember that kids should have the right to: 

  • Continue to love both parents without guilt or disapproval (subtle or overt) by either parent or other relatives.
  • Be repeatedly reassured that the divorce is not their fault.
  • Be reassured they are safe, and their needs will be provided for.
  • Have a special place for their own belongings at both parents’ residences.
  • Visit both parents regardless of what the adults in the situation feel, and regardless of convenience, or money situations.
  • Express anger and sadness in their own way, according to age and personality (not have to give justification for their feelings or have to cope with trying to be talked out of their feelings by adults).
  • Not be messengers between parents; not to carry notes, legal papers, money or requests between parents.
  • Not make adult decisions, including where they will live, where and when they will be picked up or dropped off, or who is to blame.
  • Love as many people as they choose without being made to feel guilty or disloyal. (Loving and being loved by many people is good for children; there is not a limit on the number of people a child can love.)
  • Continue to be kids, i.e. not take on adult duties and responsibilities or become a parent’s special confidant, companion or comforter (i.e. not to hear repeatedly about financial problems or relationship difficulties).
  • Stay in contact with relatives, including grandparents and special family friends.
  • Choose to spend at least one week a year living apart from their custodial parent.
  • Not be on an airplane, train or bus on major holidays for the convenience of adults.
  • Have teachers and school informed about the new status of their family.
  • Have time with each parent doing activities that create a sense of closeness and special memories.
  • Have a daily and weekly routine that is predictable and can be verified by looking at a schedule on a calendar in a system understandable to the child. (For instance: a green line represents the scheduled time with dad, and a purple line represents the scheduled time with mom, etc.)
  • Participate in sports, special classes or clubs that support their unique interests, and have adults that will get them to these events, on time without guilt or shame, regardless as to which parent registered them for the activity.
  • Contact the absent parent and have phone conversations without eavesdropping or recording.
  • Ask questions and have them answered respectfully with age-appropriate answers that do not include blaming or belittlements of anyone.
  • Be exposed to both parents’ religious ideas (without shame), hobbies, interests and tastes in food.
  • Have consistent and predictable boundaries in each home. (Although the rules in each house may differ significantly, each parent’s set of rules needs to be predictable within their household.)
  • Be protected from hearing adult arguments and disputes.
  • Have parents communicate (even if only in writing) about their medical treatment, psychological treatment, educational issues, accidents and illnesses.
  • Not be interrogated upon return from the other parent’s home or asked to spy in the other parent’s home.
  • Own pictures of both parents that they may proudly display in either home.

Dr Lois Nightingale, PhD has written the Bill of Rights of Children in order to assist families in understanding how conflict between parents can affect children after the separation. 

The Bill of Rights of Children, in our view, assists parents when co-parenting after divorce in returning the focus of parenting back to the children and in seeing the potential conflict from the child’s perspective. 

She is the author of the book, My Parents Still Love Me Even Though They’re Getting Divorced, a story/workbook for children and parents facing divorce. 

Written by Val Hemminger, lawyer at Hemminger Law Group Westshore