By Atty. Andy P. Miller
At the start of a new year we reflect upon what has happened in the past and what we would like to see happen in the future. This is especially important for parents who are separated and divorced. Ideally, this is a time for both of you to review your co-parenting arrangement to identify ways to improve your child's relationship with both parents.
Here are some areas to consider:
Respect Be respectful of the other parent, in your conversations and dealings with that person -- especially in front of your child. Remain civil in person and when speaking by phone. Don't engage in name-calling or make disparaging remarks to or about the other parent -- especially when you are within earshot of your child. Think of the message you are sending the co-parent. It also is important for you to foster love and respect, not just in the parent-child relationship, but also as a model for future relationships your child will someday have with his or her spouse and children.
Shared time Many couples have a parenting plan written into their divorce agreement that spells out how the child will spend time with each parent during the week, on holidays, during school vacations, etc. While the parenting plan is an important tool for providing consistency in your child's schedule, it is also important to be flexible when possible to allow for changes in work schedules, vacation plans, and family events. For example, if your former spouse has an out-of-town business trip, offer to switch his/her overnight with the children. If they have a family event on "your" weekend, offer to switch weekends so your child can attend. Remember: The parenting plan is a guide, but co-parents should work together to do what's in the best interest of their children whenever possible, especially when there's a scheduling conflict.
Acceptance Separation and divorce will change your family's routines and dynamics, which can be difficult on everyone involved. Accept that many of these changes will be difficult, on you and your children. Try to help everyone adjust to the new "normal" for your situation. Don't criticize the other parent just because he or she may have different routines and habits than yours. Ideally, both households should provide consistency with regards to the children's bedtimes, schoolwork, chores, and the like. But it's OK if your spouse takes your children out to eat more than you do, or allows them to wear pajamas all day on a rainy weekend. Just because it's different than what you do doesn't mean it's wrong. Also, try to be accepting of your former spouse's new relationship if that person will be part of your children's lives as well. This will help you move on and develop a new relationship, especially if you haven't already begun to do so.
Gratitude Be grateful that your child has two parents in his/her life, especially if the other parent is actively involved in the emotional, physical, and financial support of your children. One parent may have primary responsibility for your child, maybe even shouldering the bulk of parenting time, school work, activities, and so on. But any child lucky enough to have two parents actively involved in his/her life is far luckier than a child who has lost a parent and/or never interacts with an absentee parent.
One more thought: As we begin 2018, try to focus on the positive -- especially the relationship you have with your children. While your relationship with your ex is over, your roles as mom and dad will last forever. This year, vow to be the best parent you can be for your child.
Attorney Andy P. Miller is the founder and managing attorney of Miller Law Group, P.C. A father himself, Miller focuses on children and their best interests by helping guide parents through the divorce process.