The breakdown of a marriage creates new challenges for parents. Often, the loss of trust between spouses can create stressors and animosity. At the same time, children are often confused about why their parents are separating. Michigan courts evaluate the best interests of the children an addressing child custody and parenting time issues. But in a highly stressful time, parents often have trouble finding common ground in negotiating or mediating custody and visitation arrangements.

It is vital for parents who are going through divorce (or facing with a post-judgment modification dispute) that the Friend of the Court Office and judges alike generally prefer that children maintain a meaningful relationship with each parent. Your relationship with your child is very important. Similarly, your child’s relationship with your ex-spouse — or soon-to-be-ex — is important to your child’s overall well-being. For that reason, we have compiled a short list of tips to help you approach co-parenting for your post-divorce life.

Three Ideas to Help You Maintain Your Parent-Child Relationship

Tip Number One — Work hard to effectively communicate with your ex to benefit your child.

Whether you and your soon-to-be ex harbor resentment toward each other, or mutually agree that that ending your marriage is a positive decision, you will need to continue to communicate with each other to benefit your child as he or she grows. It is far too tempting to make demands that, in effect, can bring about resistance. Keeping focused on your child and asking for conflict-free solutions is often best handled by framing requests as a negotiation.

For instance, instead of saying “you need to allow …”, and phrasing a solution as a question asking whether or ex “would be willing to try … (a proposed solution).” There will be many milestones and events throughout your child’s life that he or she may want both parents to share. Communicating effectively is an important aspect of co-parenting after divorce.

Tip Number Two — Protect your kids from being pulled into the middle of a dispute.

Often, parents are tempted to avoid communicating directly with each other. Using the child as a messenger can place the child in a hard position. Moreover, regardless of age and understanding of genetics, children inherently know that they are a part of each parent’s life. Making derogatory comments or bad-mouthing your ex in front of the kids can make the child feel as if he or she needs to choose sides.

Tip Number Three – Understand the importance of consistency when it comes to the kids.

Whether your child is in your household, in school or preparing to move into the world, he or she can benefit from consistency. Rules and disciplinary matters are critical for a child’s sense of security and well-being. While flexibility is a strong lesson for kids – it has its’ place. Rules in two different households do not always have to be identical. However, having a consistent framework in each household, including in how discipline should be handled, is a loving method of parenting. When separated parents can create consistent guidelines, children benefit from knowing what is important and expected of them.

Despite the breakdown of your marriage, it is important for you to help your child understand that your love for him or her continues, despite the change in your relationship with your ex-spouse. When parents are able to co-parent effectively, their children often feel more secure and can learn valuable lessons in problem solving that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Focusing on your child first is an important step in co-parenting. Resolving disputes in divorce can be difficult due to the stress and anxiety that is associated with the dissolution of the marriage. Working with an experienced child custody and divorce lawyer can provide you with the guidance you need to protect your relationship with your child and help ensure his or her well-being.