Guidelines for Successful Co-Parenting

Guidelines For a Successful Partnership for Post-Divorce Parenting

The following guidelines from Harriet Whitman Lee, attorney, professor of law and Ph.D. candidate in psychology, Family Law Counseling Services, Berkeley, CA should be of help in discussing issues of parenting partnership so critical for children of parents of divorce. The focus is to maintain a business relationship.

  • Your mutual concern is the rearing of your children. Make a conscious decision to create a successful partnership for continuing to be parents despite the ending of the marriage.
  • Respect your children’s relationship with your ex-spouse. Your children did not divorce either parent; don’t force them to. Encourage them to resolve any feelings of estrangement from the other parent.
  • Suggest to your ex-spouse that you both adopt these guidelines for working together as parents. If your ex-spouse refuses, use these guidelines yourself as much as possible.
  • Be businesslike with your former spouse. Test your own behavior against this standard: Was I businesslike? Did I follow the agreed upon guidelines?
  • Test your ex-spouse‚Äôs behavior not by how you feel, but by the same standard: Was his/her behavior businesslike?
  • Make appointments to talk about the children. Except for emergencies, call only during agreed upon times. Ask if the timing is convenient, and, if not, make an appointment for a time that is.
  • Be polite. Do not use bad language or name-calling. Do not try to conduct conversations under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. If you feel yourself getting unbusinesslike, say so and agree to resume the conversation later.
  • Give the benefit of the doubt as to behavior. Do not assume anything based on experience without checking out current reasons for your partner’s behavior, thoughts, feelings, and decisions.
  • Do not expect approval from your partner. Have your personal and emotional needs fulfilled elsewhere and with others.
  • On the other hand, if you are able to acknowledge something positive in work or deed of your partner, do not withhold it. The reward of expressed appreciation, no matter how small, contributes to the greater success of the parenting partnership.
  • Do not discuss matters irrelevant to the children unless your partner specifically agrees to do so. Respect your ex’s privacy; do not seek to know the details of his/her life and do not intrude on his/her territory.
  • Make all agreements explicit and follow up with written confirmation when possible (or make your own written memorandum). Be clear and complete in your communications; include time, place, whether children will be fed or not, what clothes they need, etc. Communicate directly: DO NOT ask the children to do your business.
  • Keep agreements. Do not break appointments. Carry through on what you promised. If you can’t promise something, make it clear that you can’t and say why.
  • Do not make unilateral decisions; consult your partner and the children so that the best, most workable decision can be made.
  • Don’t insist on what does not work. On the other hand, be flexible; commit yourself as much as you are able to and experiment to see what does work.
  • Above all, cultivate good will in the partnership. Keep in mind the importance of your investment and the expected returns. The investment is what you are willing to do for your children’s happiness and success in life. The returns are comfort and security for your children, and the knowledge that their parents care enough to work together for them. A good working relationship with your former spouse will help to make a good life for yourself personally and for your children.