One of the most difficult parts of being a co-parent in child custody cases is communicating with the child’s other parent. You both want the same thing, a great life for your child(ren). You don’t want a bunch of drama with your ex or with the child’s other parent. That’s why people frequently put off divorce or approaching a child custody attorney to pursue their rights because it feels like a confrontation rather than peacefully co-existing for their child. However, communication in child custody cases is necessary, and no matter how hard you try, you cannot avoid communication with your child’s other parent.
4 Tips for Communication in Child Custody
Since communication in child custody is going to be happening anyway, here are a few things to keep in mind about communicating with them to keep it positive, mission-focused, and collaborative.
#1 – Start With What You Are Noticing
Start by telling the co-parent about the issue you are noticing, and figure out a plan together. For example, if your daughter, Beth, comes home from school with a sudden addiction to chess and asks to join the chess team, but the chess team meets on the other parent’s parenting time nights, you should first be contacting the other parent to let them know that this is something Beth wants to do. Then suggest an alternative night for their parenting time, or ask that they pick her up from chess if they don’t mind allowing her to go on their parenting time night. The more communicative and open you are about these issues, and the more flexible you are willing to be, the less likely it is to turn into a fight over one parent’s perception that the other is trying to interfere with their parenting time and thus, becoming an issue.
#2 – When There’s a Disagreement, See if There’s a Compromise
If you are a parent who wants your child to receive standard vaccinations and immunizations and the other parent doesn’t, see if there is a way to meet halfway. This can be a conversation about the immunization schedule or, perhaps, a conversation with the child’s pediatrician to see whether medical advice could alleviate their concerns. Then, if that happens and there is an agreement, you’ve saved yourself an unpleasant experience and a legal battle over who gets more power over the child in question, and you’ve also saved your child the experience of having their parents go through a court process over a simple disagreement.
#3 – Don’t Attack the Other Parent
It can feel like the other parent is attacking you when they object to reasonable requests or do things that deny you your time with your child. One of the most important things to remember about parenting cases is that reasonable minds can disagree. That doesn’t necessarily make it a personal insult unless you make it one. Avoid attacking statements, accusations, etc., when talking with the other parent about an issue with the children. No cheap shots, no pettiness. Stick to the issue and what can be done to help. You are both on the same team – the team dedicated to promoting love and long-term encouragement and success to your child.
#4 – When the Conversation is Over, and There’s No Resolution, Don’t Lash Out – Ask For Help
You and your co-parent are not in this alone. Sometimes, grandparents or aunts and uncles can provide guidance and advice. If that doesn’t resolve it, pick someone neutral to the issue, like a child’s therapist, schoolteacher, principal, pediatrician, or other professional to help formulate a plan for how to make things better for your child.
Let’s say, for example, that your child is having difficulty in math class at school. You want to enroll your child in math tutoring, but the other parent does not think the issue is so bad; tutoring is required – only consistency on homework and consistency in preparing for tests. Someone who could help you resolve this issue is your child’s teacher, who does not care one whit about whose plan is right and whose plan is wrong, but instead, what will likely produce the best chance of improvement for your child. In this example, try to set up a three-way meeting with the child’s teacher to learn what they recommend for how to make things easier in math. Then, if there’s a consensus after that meeting, you do not have to ask the Court to intervene.
Even if your case has already started, these communication tips are good advice even during parentage or custody disputes. Unless there are serious concerns over the other parent’s fitness, it will never reflect negatively on you that you are willing to speak politely, encouragingly, and collaboratively with your children’s other parent about their best interests. A good attorney can help steer your communication to be polite and collaborative and not devolve into a full-on argument or dispute requiring Court resolution.