The emotional fallout from a separation can be huge. It is even harder when there are children involved. Even if you are able to reach an agreement about the week to week arrangements for the children, making the arrangements work can be the hardest thing of all, especially if the separation has been an acrimonious one. Having an amicable relationship with your ex-partner can make your life, but more importantly your child's life, so much easier. Depending upon the age of your child, there will be endless joint events to navigate in the future including nativity plays, first days at school, birthday parties, mother's day, father's day, graduation, weddings and eventually even grandchildren. If your relationship has not worked out, your parenting can still succeed.

As family lawyers, we are on-hand to assist when you and your ex-partner hit stumbling blocks in co-parenting and can help if you are having difficulty resolving issues however if you can communicate effectively between you and have a structure in place you may be able to avoid any further input from lawyers saving you time, money and stress both for you and your child. In this blog, we outline five top tips for successfully navigating co-parenting after a divorce or separation:

1. Successful co-parenting: Have a child-centred approach

Hopefully one thing that you and your ex-partner can agree on is that you both want what is best for your child or children. If you and your ex-partner are struggling to reach an agreement on a particular matter, having a child-focused approach is key. Focusing on what is best for your child rather than your needs is likely to result in a better outcome for everyone especially your child. In the event that a court were to become involved in a dispute between you and your ex-partner, the court's decision would be based on what in what is deemed to be in the child's best interests.

2. Successful co-parenting: Be flexible

Whether it is a disagreement about an aspect of your child's education or how many days your child should see each of you at Christmas, it is almost inevitable that you and your ex-partner will have different views on at least some aspect of co-parenting. Bear in mind that this is the case even when parents are still together. Being flexible and open-minded will go a long way in helping you and your ex-partner reach an agreement. Remember that some compromise is usually required and is far better than arguing these issues in court which will be stressful unpredictable and expensive both emotionally and financially.

3. Successful co-parenting: Plan ahead

Planning ahead for important events such as Birthdays, Christmas and summer holidays will pay dividends in the long term. Some couples set the arrangements for such occasions years in advance. In the weeks leading up to a special day or event, tensions can run high and this is not the best time for either of you to negotiate calmly and make arrangements with one another. The courts are usually very busy in the weeks leading up to Christmas dealing with last minute requests for Christmas contact. This causes added stress and uncertainty for everyone especially the children involved.

4. Successful co-parenting: Have realistic expectations

Your ex-partner may have a different parenting style to you. You should discuss and agree on boundaries and rules so that there is some consistency between your child's two homes. What is required will depend very much on the age and stage of your child. However, try to avoid micro managing the minutiae of how your ex-partner parents your child- it is not likely to benefit your child and may only result in you being angry and upset. It is important to acknowledge that your ex-partner's parenting style is not something that you have control over.

5. Successful co-parenting: Seek assistance if required

Particularly in circumstances where the ending of a relationship has been difficult or acrimonious, assistance from outside of your relationship can be helpful. There is a myriad of options available to couples including family therapy and counselling. If you get stuck and are unable to resolve matters between you it may be appropriate for you to consult a family lawyer. A family lawyer will be able to advise you on possible routes to resolve your dispute such as mediation or the collaborative approach conducted by specially trained solicitors. Court is rarely the best option for you or your children, but in extreme circumstances a family lawyer may advise you that this is the best (or only) route for resolving matters. Most family lawyers consider the raising of court proceedings to be a last resort.

If you find that you want to speak to a family lawyer about issues regarding co-parenting please get in touch – we’re here to help.