Like many parents in Illinois, if you and your spouse are planning to divorce, your primary concern is making the transition as easy as possible for your children. You may be surprised to learn that, despite your differences, it is possible for you and your spouse to work together successfully as you continue to parent your children.
Often, the way parents behave toward each other can make a difference in the stability children feel following a divorce and the positive adjustment they make in the years afterward. You may not be able to control many things during this emotional time, but you can control the way you interact with your child's other parent, and this can potentially produce a healthier atmosphere that is relatively conflict free.
Taking the high road with your co-parent
The foundation of your parenting plan is the scheduling arrangement you and your spouse make for sharing time with the children. Not only does this provide a predictable plan for your child, but it may relieve the stress of having to get a firm commitment from your spouse each week. Despite the solid schedule, it is important to remain flexible, especially if you hope your ex will show the same courtesy when your routine is disrupted by unplanned events.
The trick is to reach an understanding — if not an agreement — on the things that are important to you, such as discipline, health, religious training and education. Small changes in routine will inevitably come along, and you and your spouse can work them out together if you try to do the following, as some experts recommend:
- Avoid trying to control parts of your ex's life that are beyond your boundaries.
- See if your ex is available first before looking for a babysitter.
- Acknowledge your child's need for a good relationship with the other parent.
- Refuse to manipulate your child or control his or her feelings about your ex.
- Discuss schedule changes with your ex before mentioning them to your child.
- Attend school activities and meetings together to show your child a united front.
Your goal in taking these steps is to make your child believe you and your ex are getting along well even if you will always have differences or hurt feelings. While it is certainly important that you and your former spouse maintain open communication and develop a spirit of cooperation, any agreement you make verbally carries no legal weight without a court order. Flexibility and compromise are important, but if your co-parent's actions begin to infringe on your parenting rights, it may be time to seek legal advice.