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Coparenting: How detailed should your dealings with your ex be?

In normal (Euclidean) geometry, by definition parallel lines do not meet.

Is the same thing possible with romantic breakups? After all, when you and your ex go your separate ways, not meeting anymore may seem like a welcome prospect.

But this is difficult to do if you are raising a child or children together. In this post, we will discuss ways of relating to the other parent in a coparenting relationship that are most likely to be effective for a particular situation.

Level of conflict

Courts still sometimes award sole custody to one parent. In the old days, that parent was typically the mom, with dads merely getting visitation rights.

These days, however, there is a strong presumption for shared parenting, also called coparenting. We discussed that in our January 21 post.

Our point of departure in this post, then, is a coparenting plan in which your kids will be splitting time - probably 50/50 - with you and your ex. How detailed should that plan be?

Generally, the greater the level of conflict, the more detailed the plan should be. If the conflict level is high, you may even want to think of your parenting plan as a parallel parenting plan.

"Parallel parenting" isn't a legal term. It refers to a coparenting arrangement in which the parents have agreed to limit direct contact with each other. Such an agreement seeks to prevent conflict between the parents while still allowing each parent to develop close relationships with the kids.

How to make it work

So how do you work effectively with your ex to raise the children you share while minimizing your dealings with each other?

Of course every situation is different. But there are some basic principles to use as a starting point in crafting a plan that works for you and your family.

Lead with the heart - Make sure your kids know that both you and the other parent love them and are committed to their wellbeing.

Be consistent, but patient - It can be difficult to go from one set of rules and routines in one parent's household to a different set in the others. Be patient during those transitions. But do be consistent about developing ways of doing things that are your own.

Limit communications with your ex -Never use your kids as messengers to the other parent; that isn't fair to the kids. But if it's too hard to interact with your ex by text or phone, use email to keep it more formal and respectful.

Be open to change - Your children's needs will evolve significantly over time. And the strained relationship you have with your ex may evolve as well, as anger and disappointment diminish.

With so much at stake, it's also very important to get knowledgeable legal counsel. You and your ex may now be on parallel paths that intersect only about your children. But a skilled attorney can help you connect the dots and create a workable solution for the future of your family.

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