Divorces are up from 30 to 50 percent, depending on which data you look at. The same thing has been seen with other pandemics, like SARS and MERS. When people are quarantined with one another, it becomes impossible to ignore or shrug off the things you’re able to ignore when you’re only together a few hours a week.
Unfortunately, some of the most prevalent issues that lead to divorce also affect co-parenting if they aren’t addressed. Here are three common problems to keep an eye on when working together with your ex for the sake of the kids:
1. You see your ex as the opposition.
It’s tough not to be enemies at some point during a divorce, but if that feeling persists past separation, it can wind up hurting your children. Unfortunately, you can’t always control how other people see you. All you can do is stay focused on the bigger picture. Work with your ex on a common goal, making the best decisions for your children.
If your ex seems determined to make choices just to mess with your head, be sure you always respond with as little emotion as possible. Better yet, rather than getting upset (or at least rather than allowing your ex to know that you are upset), say something like “That’s too bad, I was really looking forward to my time with them” and leave it at that. Also, try to have these conversations by text or email, both so that there is less chance of negative emotion showing through, and so that you have a written record, which you may need to show to a court if your ex’s interference with your parenting time continues.
2. You don’t tell your ex what you want.
In terms of custody and parenting time, there might be nothing more damaging than keeping your wants and needs to yourself instead of letting your ex (or your lawyer and the court, if that is the stage you are at) know about them. It can alienate your kids and sends the message that you don’t care whether you see them or not, as they mistake your silence on the matter for not caring.
And the worst possible time to stay silent is during a court hearing if your ex has filed for a restraining order. Too many men feel defeated at this point and give up, but if you don’t show up to that hearing, you may lose all contact with your children for a year or more, plus the order can have a lasting impact on your ability to get or keep a job. You really must show up, ideally with a lawyer, but if you can’t afford a lawyer show up on your own, be early, and be courteous!
3. You don’t ask for help.
A couple who never sought counseling might also skimp on professional advice when it comes to custody. Divorces cost enough that many couples go the DIY route. This is an excellent way for one party to get screwed over, and let’s be honest, when you share kids, it’s usually the dad who loses out. You must hire a lawyer to read over your divorce papers, at the very least.
There is other help you can get for custody issues down the road too. Third-party exchange spots, shared babysitters, and like the coParenter app which provide parents access to live, on-demand mediation services to work through sticky issues.
Relationships don’t always last, but that doesn’t mean your time as a father has to come to an end. Work together with your ex, or with your lawyer, to ensure you and your children stay connected.