Parents who become aware of potential barriers to cooperative co-parenting are best positioned to create a post-divorce co-parenting system that supports their own and their children’s well-being. An article published by the National Council on Family Relations, entitled “Perceived Barriers to Coparenting: Differences Between Men and Women and Associations with Coparenting Behaviors,” suggests that men and women have different perceptions of what impedes successful post-divorce co-parenting.
Part of what creates tension between former spouses is the lack of norms to guide them as they endeavor to redefine their new post-divorce roles and responsibilities. Many parents are sensitive to traditionally gendered norms relating to finances and child care. Taking on new roles and responsibilities is often challenging for the parent who did not traditionally fill that role.
Successful co-parenting during and after divorce is many times negatively affected by the mother’s doubts about her ex-spouse’s ability to adequately fill her traditional role as childcare provider. Perceived parental unfitness is often a large contributor to one or both parents’ unwillingness to cooperatively co-parent. Family professionals may be able to ease mom’s concerns about dad’s parenting abilities and can assist dad with developing and demonstrating his childcare competency, thereby helping mom to recognize that she may be unfairly dismissing dad’s parenting abilities.
Reduced financial status is often the result for both parents following divorce. The ability of men to cooperatively co-parent is often affected by financial matters. Child support is often ordered to offset additional costs that fall on the children’s primary care-giver, still traditionally the mother. Fathers, in particular, may experience feelings of anger associated with orders for child support they feel to be unjust. As a result, these fathers tend to engage more in ongoing conflict with their ex-spouses than do fathers who view child support orders as fair. Family professionals can help reduce the feelings of resentment and anger about child support orders by reframing child support as supporting the well-being of children rather than payments to an ex-spouse. Additionally, collaboration with financial specialists can provide divorcing spouses with guidance through the reality of diminished financial status in both parents’ new households.
Of course, we recognize that mom is not always the primary childcare provider, and dad is not always the parent ordered to pay child support. In fact, we are pleased to find more and more that these traditional roles are changing. Quite often, we are seeing the opposite situation or that parents are more evenly sharing childcare responsibilities as well as more equally contributing to child related expenses.
Distance between the newly separated households may also diminish the ability to cooperatively co-parent. The further the distance, the more ex-spouses tend to experience conflict associated with additional drive time and costs of travel, negotiating the exchange of children, and designating a meeting point for exchanges. Sadly, this conflict often results in less involvement by one or both parents and less cooperation between ex-spouses. Distance issues relating to parental involvement may be reduced by agreements between ex-spouses to accommodate the abilities of modern communications such as Skype or FaceTime so that the parent not in possession of the children can maintain frequent and continuing contact.
Many divorcing spouses may benefit from the involvement of a co-parenting professional, such as a parenting facilitator or parenting coordinator, throughout the divorce procedure. Often, divorcing spouses will agree to continue working with a co-parenting professional post-divorce. Some ex-spouses who initially found it easy to co-parent following divorce may find that changes in the lives of the children as they grow or the re-partnering of one or both former spouses may necessitate the need to engage a co-parenting expert.
Family professionals can provide co-parenting assistance by helping divorcing spouses identify and deal with their own perceived barriers to co-parenting. Divorcing spouses may want to consider the collaborative approach to divorce, engaging a co-parenting professional throughout the divorce proceedings, and engaging the assistance of a co-parenting professional post-divorce on a regular basis or off and on, as needed.
The ultimate goal of a co-parenting professional is to help divorcing spouses engage in low-conflict and high-involvement relationships that enhance family well-being following divorce. In successful co-parenting relationships, parents communicate about their children’s needs, consciously minimize childrearing conflicts, and cooperate in coordinating children’s care and activities. Ex-spouses who engage in frequent communication, high cooperation, and low conflict during and following divorce proceedings can create an atmosphere that promotes their own and their children’s well-being.
For more information on the collaborative approach to divorce or for assistance with engaging a co-parenting professional during or following divorce, please contact one of our capable and caring attorneys. We are here to serve you and your family.