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Co-parenting: more options than you think

Jan 18, 2021

There seems to be an assumption that co-parenting or shared parenting during divorce is best achieved by the children shuttling back and forth between two households, spending an equal number of days with mom, and an equal number of days with dad. If you were a child, would you like to do this? I wouldn't.

Other arrangements are possible. I've heard of families where mom and dad share a house and an apartment. The parents switch back and forth, while the children remain in the house. I always thought that would be the best, for the children to experience consistency. I wanted it to work for us, but it didn't. I have trouble establishing boundaries, and boundaries are critical to such arrangements working well. 

Instead, our version of co-parenting has evolved over time.

In the beginning, my former spouse moved out into an apartment. He did not have a car, so could not drive the children places. Instead, he came to the house five evenings a week, and spent between one and two hours parenting them. This included the bedtime rituals.

This may sound strange and heartless. It suited what our family was, then. My former spouse loved our son, and our son loved his dad. But as can happen where there is love, their relationship was difficult. They needed an opportunity to change their relationship into something better than it was when we all lived together. The house was our son's safe space in a time of change. I wanted our son to have the best relationship possible with his dad, and this is where and how we started.

After about six months our son started talking to me about his dad. I asked if he wanted to spend more time with him. Our son said yes. Originally "more" included the evening parenting sessions and my former spouse coming to the house one night every couple weeks to parent the children overnight. I would stay with friends. It worked well, and their relationship improved. There were more smiles and fewer outbursts. They were shifting to something more positive.  

Then I left our city to register for a Master of Laws program. My former spouse consented to the children moving with me. During this time, they spent every second weekend with their dad in his apartment. I knew it worked well for the children, because they would talk to me about their dad. They were happy. They did not feel caught in the middle, as so many children do.

The first year after we returned to living in the same city, my former spouse continued to parent our children every second weekend, and every Wednesday evening.

The next year it expanded to every Tuesday and Thursday evenings and every second weekend. It also began to include my former spouse driving our children to their activities.

It grew to include international vacations, chaperoning school trips, and to our children spending as much time with their dad as they want. It grew to them having the best relationship possible with their father.

Not because we did what everyone else does. This occurred because we started with what would work to create positive relationships, and because we remained committed to treating each other with respect, and to following what our children needed.

Had we adopted the norm of co-parenting, with the week-on, week-off parenting schedule, my son and his dad might never have had the space to develop a truly healthy relationship. Our approach to co-parenting has been a gift, one that has allowed our children to thrive. We've created a new family normal that isn't reflective of what courts and lawyers see as normal, but that serves to create peace and harmony. Because we've followed our own path, my children have the best relationship possible with each of their parents. We all win.

How well is co-parenting working for your family? Does this give you some ideas of creating your path to co-parenting?

If you want to explore what is possible, schedule a free initial consultation. We don’t have to live in the same place for me to be able to help.

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