You can ease the challenge of co-parenting with an ex-spouse by planning ahead and seeking professional help if necessary. Here are five tips to help make co-parenting easier post-divorce.

By Brian James

When parents divorce, it is the beginning of a new partnership in co-parenting their children. Co-parenting goes much more smoothly when there is a plan in place; it assures that no matter how you feel about your ex-spouse, the children’s interests will come first.

It’s important to determine if you and your ex-spouse are comfortable enough to communicate directly about co-parenting issues regarding the children. If you’re able to talk through things on your own, that’s terrific; however, if you find it too difficult, don’t feel frustrated. Mediators and therapists can help you to discuss co-parenting issues that you may have trouble talking about on your own.

There are five keys to making post-divorce co-parenting easier:

1. Put Your Co-Parenting Plan in Writing in the Divorce Agreement

The more you lay out parenting terms in writing, the less room there is for disagreement down the road. A little pre-planning can save you court battles and lawyer fees later.

2. Decide Who Will Pay For Which Expenses in Advance

Rather than splitting every cost as it comes up, try to divide who will pay for which expenses ahead of time. For instance, the father may choose to cover football expenses for the son, while the mother agrees to cover the piano lessons for the daughter. Again, if you have a hard time dividing this up on your own, a divorce mediator or parenting coordinator can help you.

3. Discuss the Best Ways to Have the Kids Meet New Romantic Partners

This issue is easier to discuss before there is actually someone new in the picture. Having an agreement on parent-dating etiquette in your divorce agreement can save a lot of problems down the road.

4. Hold Regular Meetings to Stay on Track

Regular meetings (in-person, over the phone, or via email) allow both parents to stay up-to-date with new situations as they arise with the kids.

5. It’s Okay to Ask for Professional Help

Don’t feel badly if you need a professional to help you work out your co-parenting differences. When tensions run high, it can be hard to put feelings aside and make decisions. Hiring a mediator can help you get back on track and focus on how to help your kids in the situation. Having parents stand together on a parenting front can bring a huge amount of security to the kids.

No one ever said that working together as a team to parent your children after divorce would be easy. Both spouses need to be dedicated to their role as parents and willing to compromise. Hiring a mediator can help parents make the children a top priority. It’s very common for parents to have disagreements after divorce when terms are not mapped out in the divorce agreement and they are having trouble communicating calmly. When one is needed, a trained mediator can help parents get past the emotions at hand and find solutions that truly are best for their children.

Brian James is an experienced divorce and family mediator with offices throughout Chicagoland and Southeastern Wisconsin. He runs a mediation practice, C.E.L. and Associates.