By Atty. Andy P. Miller
Whether you're newly separated or already divorced, you'll continue to have a long-term relationship with your former spouse as co-parents of your children. Your roles as husband and wife may end, but your roles as mom and dad last forever.
That's why it is critical to put your differences aside when it comes to co-parenting your children. Regardless of their age, your children deserve to have both parents in their lives from infancy through adulthood.
Here are some dos and don'ts for successful co-parenting at any age: DO Keep an open line of communication with your former spouse, through email, texts, phone calls, or conversations. Make sure your former spouse is kept informed about all issues concerning your child, from doctor's visits to schoolwork. Create a shared calendar so both parents know the child's schedule for doctor and dentist appointments, schoolwork, deadlines for projects, and after-school activities.
Maintain consistent rules in both households, so your children have the routine and structure they need to achieve and succeed. Try to agree on consistent schedules and routines when it comes to things such as bedtime, schoolwork, and chores. It's important to create and maintain a unified front when co-parenting.
Celebrate important milestones together whenever possible, including birthdays, school events such as class parties or presentations, special moments in extracurricular activities such as plays, recitals or championship sports games, and life-changing events such as your child's marriage or the birth of your grandchild.
Recognize the positive traits your former spouse has to offer, showing your child that you respect your child's other parent. For example, tell your child: "Your mom is really good at math, so ask her for help with algebra homework" or "Your dad is a really good writer, so make sure to work with him on your college essay."
Create a respectful, businesslike relationship with your former spouse, treating each other as you would any professional relationship. DON'T Speak badly of your former spouse in front of your children, and don't let your children speak badly of their other parent. They should be taught to respect both parents equally. Keep your differences with your former spouse between the two of you without involving your child.
Forego your parental responsibilities by trying to be the "cool" parent, allowing your children to shirk their responsibilities when it comes to schoolwork, practicing musical instruments, attending practice sessions for sports, and other activities.
Share with children intricate details of your separation and/or divorce, nor any post-divorce struggles you may be experiencing. Your child didn't ask for the divorce, so leave him or her out of it. Also, don't criticize your former partner's new relationship in front of your children.
Litigate your disagreements with your former spouse. Taking your former spouse to court costs each party the time, money, and expense of court appearances -- not including what it costs the state to process, hear, and try any issues. Try to collaborate and agree outside of court, but always make sure to have the court sign off on any agreements because they're not enforceable without a court order.
Sweat the small stuff. If your child wants to bring a favorite stuffed animal or pillow to the other parent's home, let him. If your former spouse wants to change visitation to accommodate a business trip or vacation plans, work with him or her to do what's best for your child.
Remember: It's never too late to change your approach to co-parenting to create a healthier relationship among all of you.
Attorney Andy P. Miller is the founder and managing attorney of Miller Law Group, P.C.