Joint Decision-Making in Shared Custody

Joint Decision-Making in Shared Custody | Divorce Strategies NW

One of the hardest things about co-parenting is having to work as a team with someone who is no longer your life partner. No matter your co-parenting situation, making joint decisions post-divorce is usually a factor and often creates friction. What do you do when you want to enroll your child in elite athletics, summer camp, orthodontic care, or private schooling, and your co-parent disagrees or refuses?

Shared expenses must be agreed to in advance of the expense being incurred. If your divorce was recently finalized…. the last thing you want to do is head back to court!

Following are five best practices to facilitate healthy joint decision-making:

1. Understand that your co-parent is experiencing their own process of grief and acceptance in this “new normal”. While you may feel ready to get things done and move on, have empathy and compassion that your co-parent may still be struggling with anger, sadness and fear.

2. Provide your co-parent with all the facts and options, and give them time to consider a proposed shared expense. Don’t pressure them for an immediate answer; doing so is bound to produce an answer you don’t like. If your co-parent doesn’t agree with your idea does not mean you should give up. Coming to agreement will require patience and compromise.

3. Negotiate. Offer to pay for your child’s athletics, activities or special equipment, if your co-parent can help with extra driving. Will they agree to a long weekend away, if you commit to daily FaceTime calls? Does talking with a third party help you discuss the options, understand your coparent’s circumstances, and reach a compromise that works for everyone? No matter the outcome, do not speak poorly about your co-parent within earshot of your children; doing so always backfires.

No matter the outcome, do not speak poorly about your co-parent within earshot of your children; doing so always backfires.

Leah Hill – Founder + CEO, Divorce Strategies Northwest

4. Most importantly, place your child’s needs at the forefront of all decisions. Your divorce was not the fault nor the choice of your children. Discuss scheduling specifics, timing, and pricing with your co-parent, before presenting options to your children. Do not triangulate children in adult discussions. Doing so places unhealthy pressures, and stressors on children that often explode elsewhere.

5. Remember that you cannot control how your co-parent feels nor reacts; you can only control yourself. Your children will remember and take into adulthood how you handled yourself, and the pressures you did not place onto them. This mature leadership takes intentional self-control but always pays off.

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