How to Interact and Communicate with Your Child’s Other Parent (After You Are No Longer Together)
There are often hard feelings between couples after they split up and their children can get caught in the cross fire.If you are one of those parents, this can make co-parenting extremely difficult and stressful, for both the parents and the kids. I got to sit in on a mediation a social worker was doing with two parents to come up with a custody schedule and I got to see how she went through a specific communication plan with them as well.
Once you go from being a couple to being co-parents, you need to look at it like a business transaction. There is probably no place for emotions to get involved when dealing with the other parent. However, if you are sharing custody, whether it is joint or sole legal custody, communication is very important. And parents should never be communicating about adult issues through the kids.
Frequency and Format
First, figure out how frequently you need to communicate with each other. This may depend on how often you are exchanging custody and also the age of the child. I had a client that had a young toddler that was going between both homes and often was being picked up from a child care provider. The parents came up with a small checklist to be filled out by the parent surrendering custody that informed the picking up parent about things like what the child had eaten that day, new foods introduced over the past few days, number of diaper changes and any health concerns or drugs to be administered. It worked well as these people didn’t want to have to talk to one another and the baby wasn’t talking. Once the kids are older and are handling some day to day communication, you will want to send an update email to the other parent on at least a weekly basis. This email will inform the other parent what is happening at school, whether there are any games or practices, birthday parties or school events coming up, as well as any health or behavioral concerns.
What to Say in the Email
This was a very interesting part of the social worker’s “lesson”. She stressed that parents should keep the emotion out of it, as well as not attaching any blame or trying to tell the other parent what to do. Just The Facts. As in: “he got an A on his math test but the teacher says he is having trouble with his science” and “he has baseball practice on Monday night at 6 pm at municipal field 3”. She also suggests you write the email and do not send it for 24 hours, go back and read it before you press send. Saving the info up and sending it in one email will work better than emailing or texting every time something comes up as your co-parent may start to tune you out if he or she feels you are “over-communicating”.
If you can send this email on the same day every week, your child’s other parent knows when to expect it. However, if something urgent comes up, obviously you will want to share the info immediately with the other parent. Don’t wait 5 days to tell the other parent about your son’s first home run, or about an award received at school or especially about any hospital or ER visits.
Dance Like No One is Watching, Email Like it May Someday be Read Back to You in a Deposition.
If you and your child’s other parent end up in a custody battle, you can be sure that the other parent has saved all those emails. Be sure that all communication is cordial and professional so that it doesn’t provide fuel for them.
Overall, you should communicate with your co-parent in the same way that you would communicate with your colleagues at work about a work project that you are handling together. Only in this situation, your children are the project you are both working on.