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One of the “best interests” factors that Minnesota courts consider in custody disputes is “the willingness and ability of parents to cooperate in the rearing of their child; to maximize sharing information and minimize exposure of the child to parental conflict; and to utilize methods for resolving disputes regarding any major decision concerning the life of the child.”
In other words, how well can you and your ex work together for the sake of co-parenting your children? In an ideal world, you and your ex would have similar values, rules and routines. You'd back each other up on discipline, and encourage your children to respect their other parent. Too often, though, divorced or separated parents parent without reference to the other parent, and the children are the ones who wind up paying the price.
As any experienced parent will tell you, consistency is important for children. Parents are entitled to have their own rules in their own homes, but the more you make the effort to communicate and to work together to provide a stable environment for your children, the happier and better-adjusted they will be. For this reason, courts reward parents who make an effort to co-parent when resolving custody disputes.
Of course, the very name “co-parenting” indicates that this is not something that can be done alone. When trying to co-parent, focus on your behavior and let go of trying to control your ex. That way lies frustration. Sometimes the best you can do is to lead by example (and document the ways your ex is not responding to bring up at the next court hearing).
Co-parenting in two homes is tough even when both parents are doing their best. When one parent is a so-called “Disneyland” parent, swooping in with treats, vacations and outings but no discipline or routine, it's much harder. Likewise, the challenge of co-parenting is exacerbated by the “gopher” parent, who only pops up when it's convenient for him or her. Sometimes, their sporadic presence seems worse for a child than a consistent absence, but you need to keep trying to foster a relationship between your child and their other parent.
Making the effort to co-parent sends a powerful message, both to your child and to the court, that you are mature and responsible enough to put your child's well-being before your own emotions and convenience.
Successful co-parenting, as the “best interests” statute points out, involves multiple components. One is communication. Keep your child's other parent informed of anything you'd want to know about if the shoe were on the other foot: school events, medical issues and appointments, sporting events and practices, and so on. It's ideal to do this in writing. Not only does this provide proof that you actually made the communication, but it provides the other parent a record so they don't forget about that parent-teacher conference or dance recital.
In addition, using an online calendaring service like Our Family Wizard offers a way to communicate without having to come face-to-face with your ex and risk heightened emotions or argument. Texting or e-mailing can also help in this regard, as the “best interests“ statute also highlights the value of minimizing kids' exposure to parental conflict.
Try to think of co-parenting as having moved from an emotional relationship with your ex to a business relationship. Taking emotion out of the equation may also make it easier to resolve disputes about your child. Please contact us at Mundahl Law with any questions you have about co-parenting successfully, especially when you have a challenging co-parent. We look forward to working with you.