Just because your divorce is final doesn’t mean that you’re done with your partner. If you have children, you’ll have to interact with them at least somewhat for as long as you raise your kids, barring unusual circumstances. Sometimes we get a client that thinks they can cut off all contact with their kids from their spouse, but in Florida law, there is no concept like full custody.
Florida instead uses something called time sharing. Florida courts believe that both parents should have contact with the child for the benefit of the child. This means that newly divorced parents need to transition into a new role called co-parenting.
Co-parenting, or cooperative parenting, is exactly like it sounds. Both parents work together for the benefit of the child even though there are no more romantic or marriage ties between the two parents. It can be very tough to do. An acrimonious divorce can make the idea of working with your former spouse seem like a terrible idea. Yet, for the good of the child, these barriers have to be overcome.
No one is born with the skills of co-parenting. It’s something that has to be learned by both parents. It’s much like starting a business together, only the business is raising a child rather than earning a profit. There are classes that you can take to get experience with co-parenting, like the free one offered online at FSU.
The courts will help you create the basics of your co-parenting plan as part of your time sharing agreement, but there are additional steps you can take so you can complete your co-parent role successfully with your partner. First, parents should always provide each other with any relevant information about what is going on with the child. That information must be accurate, complete, and timely. To do otherwise is unfair to the child. Always provide information to the other parent that you would expect them to give to you.
If there is a withholding of information it’s not usually out of malice. For instance, both parents could take their child in for immunizations before school starts. However, because they didn’t communicate the child then received the immunization twice. That’s not just added expense, but it could also harm the health of the child.
When interacting with your former spouse, treat it like a cordial business transaction. Be respectful, state your needs and your case clearly, be brief, and stay focused on the needs of the child. If interacting with your ex is so problematic that you can’t see how to do it in person, try using texts, email, or phone. If necessary, restrict the window of time you permit each other to speak with one another and stick with it. Blowing up into an argument will do no favors for the child.
I highly recommend newly divorced couples with children to take a co-parenting class as soon as possible after the divorce. That will assist greatly in following the new time-sharing plan set out by the court, and will give the former couple the skills to work together even after going through a divorce.