October 15th, 2018

By Lori Lindsey

One of the most important things divorced parents for their children is to try to co-parent with their ex-spouse. Whatever happened between the spouses that led to the end of the marriage happened. That is not going to change. What can change is the path forward.

In Oklahoma, the primary standard for determining custody is the best interest of the children, which evaluates the physical, mental, and moral welfare of the children. Among other factors, the court also takes into consideration which parent is more likely to allow the other parent visitation with the child. The court knows what child psychologists have been saying for years—children benefit from being around both parents (obviously, this does not include cases where there is abuse, substance dependency, or other major issues). This means that on some level, both parents are going to have to cooperate.

Some divorces are really nasty and involve long, drawn-out battles over the division of property and a custody arrangement. Some parents do everything they can to prevent their ex-spouse from seeing their children as a way of getting back at their ex. Some parents purposefully “forget” to tell their ex-spouse that their child has a soccer game coming up or a doctor’s appointment. Ultimately, this sort of behavior hurts the children more than it hurts the ex-spouse (who is also hurt by the behavior). All the child knows is that one of their parents missed this big event. This really isn’t in the best interest of the children.

Co-parenting can take many forms. No one is saying that divorced parents have to spend the holidays together or have regular family dinners or having long conversations about everything else that’s going on in life. This is nice but probably unrealistic.

Rather, at its most basic, co-parenting involves a decision to cooperate for the children’s activities. It means being able to communicate with your ex to tell them when the soccer games are or when a doctor’s appointment is. It means being able and willing to have conversations about the children. It means getting to the point of being able for both parents to have an active involvement in their children’s lives. The conversation doesn’t have to be any longer than where and when for the children. Maybe it can eventually include being able to sit in the same room to share a meal for the children’s birthdays, which doesn’t require you to have much of a conversation with your ex. The point is that you can cooperate when you need to for the good of your children.

Another aspect of co-parenting is not tearing down an ex-spouse in front of the children. The children don’t need to know the reasons for the divorce. The children don’t need to hear comments that make fun of their other parent. Children absorb everything their parents say. They may not understand all of the adult reasoning, but they will notice what is said.

Divorce is hard enough on the adults. Parents can work together to allow each other to be a part of their children’s lives. The children will be happier in the short-term and they will come to appreciate this cooperation when they get older. Ultimately, everybody wins when parents are able to co-parent their children.