Communication is critical. A 2017 study found that lack of communication was the single leading cause of marital separations. Some couples were unable to resolve their arguments, while others stopped talking entirely.
Lack of communication does not end when a relationship does. Many parents are co-parenting without remaining in contact with the other co-parent.
This can be for good reason. But at some point, you have to talk to your ex.
When should you have a conversation, and what should it be about? How can you co-parent while having little to no contact with your ex?
Answer these questions, and you can become a terrific co-parent. Here is your guide.
During a Separation
People go through a wide range of extreme emotions during a separation, even a mutual one. It is often a good idea to avoid talking to your ex.
Talk to a friend, neighbor, or co-worker about what you are experiencing. Feel free to be emotional. The more you let out, the less you will take back to your home.
If it will make you feel better, you can leave your home and find a temporary place to live. Try to stay with a friend or relative so you can talk to someone. Make sure you can remain in contact with your child.
You should avoid communicating with your ex’s family and close friends. They may have strong opinions about you and vice versa. You should engage with them only if you are concerned about the well-being of your ex.
Give yourself some alone time. Pray, meditate, or go for a walk. Try to be introspective, naming your feelings and finding ways of dealing with them.
If you want to talk to your ex, be brief. Focus on your child and what both of you can do to provide support for them.
You may not want to talk to your ex. But both of you should break the news that you are separating. You should appear together, telling your child that you love them and will be in their lives.
Prepare with your ex what you are going to say. Avoid talking about what led to the separation. Focus on assuring your child and leave it at that.
It is okay to avoid communicating with your ex for a few months. After a certain point, you should try to reach out to them.
Ask to meet them in person in a professional setting. If it makes you or them feel comfortable, you can bring another person to the meeting. They can be a mediator or a mutual friend.
Keep things formal. Approach the interaction like it is a business meeting. Speak with respect and neutrality, without getting emotional.
Allow for some back-and-forth. Ask questions to the co-parent, and listen to what they have to say. Be prepared to make compromises and negotiate terms with them.
If the conversation is not going well, do not become frustrated. Practice some quick stress relief techniques like wiggling your toes.
Try to follow up on your dialogue, preferably in face-to-face interactions. If that’s not possible, schedule a time where you can talk on the phone. Email and text messages are too indirect and informal.
Under no circumstances should you use your child as an intermediary. If you cannot communicate with your spouse directly, communicate through a friend or your lawyer.
Working Out Co-Parenting Arrangements
There are several things you should work out with your ex. The first is child custody.
Nearly all couples resolve on joint custody, yet there are several models you can choose from. You can alternate weeks, or you can assign a few days within one week for each parent. You can pursue an option like nesting, where the child stays in one house and the parents alternate out.
If you do not decide on joint custody, you must discuss visitation. A non-custodial parent should still play a role in their child’s life. You should discuss how the non-custodial parent and their child will interact, including over the phone.
You also need to talk about finances. Both of you need to decide how you will pay for your child’s schooling, healthcare, and food. You can share bank accounts, or one can pay child support into the other’s bank account.
Keep your interactions with your co-parent limited to these topics. Put into writing what you have decided, then run your arrangements by your lawyer.
Write a formalized parenting plan. Include a schedule with specific times and dates for when each co-parent will assume custody. Describe how you will meet your child’s financial means
It is essential that you talk to your co-parent about these arrangements. If you cannot do so face-to-face, do so over the phone with your lawyer’s permission. If you cannot do that, let your lawyer and theirs talk to each other.
Presenting a United Front
You may decide not to be in communication with your co-parent. This gives you a clean break from your relationship, which can help your healing process.
But avoiding communications may pose some problems. You should not let your child know that you are not talking to their co-parent. If your child sees that you two are not talking, they may think that you will not talk to them.
If they ask you a question about their other co-parent, remain as respectful as possible. Tell them that you are sorry that you and the co-parent live in separate houses. Remind them that you love them and care for them.
Make sure that your style of parenting is consistent with their style. Curfews and means of discipline should be near identical. Both of you should check that your child is completing their homework assignments and doing well in school.
Keep your child’s schedule as consistent as possible. Both you and your co-parent should make their meals at the same time. This will make the transition process a lot easier for them.
Both of you should attend important events for your child. You can sit apart from each other, though your child should be able to see both of you at the same time. Make eye contact and cheer them on.
In front of your child, both of you need to work together. Behind the scenes, you should adopt some boundaries with your co-parent.
Even if you establish some contact with them, you should not turn to your co-parent for relationship advice. Do not ask them or their friends if they are seeing anyone else.
If you are seeing someone, you should not volunteer that information. Though your co-parent may be okay with your relationship, you may make things awkward with them. You should only talk about another relationship if it impacts your parenting.
Avoid checking their social media pages. You can unfriend or block them.
If they work at a place you frequent, try to avoid going to that place. If they see you, you may get into an argument with them.
In general, try to avoid thinking about your co-parent’s personal or professional life. It is not relevant to your own. Focus on yourself and your child’s needs.
You will have to engage in some long-distance parenting at some point. Your child may want to make a phone call to you. You may be away on business and unable to fulfill your custody obligation.
For two co-parents who do not want to contact each other, long-distance parenting is essential. There is no need for the two co-parents to meet and exchange the child. The child can remain in one room and interact with their co-parent from a distance.
There are several long-distance co-parenting tips you can consider. Use software like Zoom that allows your child to see you. A phone call is okay, but a video feed provides a stronger connection.
You may be away from your child, but you can still have fun. Play games like “Would You Rather” that let you talk with your child about silly topics.
Create some fun traditions with them. Designate a night of the week as a game night, or find some way both of you can give back to your community.
Do make sure that you can find time to interact with your child in person. Work out a time with your co-parent where you two can do something together.
Pick-Ups and Drop-Offs
It is possible to pick up and drop off your child without speaking to the other parent. You should notify them about when you are arriving.
You can remain outside, then your co-parent can let your child out. Bring your child into a car and drive off.
If you don’t want to go near your co-parent, you can ask someone to bring your child to your house. A close relative like a grandparent is best for this.
In your parenting plan, you and your co-parent should decide how to handle emergencies. You should determine what custody will look like if one of you cannot assume your role. You should also decide how to contact the other co-parent if your child is in an emergency.
It is important that you contact your co-parent if your child is sick or injured. You do not have to give full details.
You should tell them what is going on and how your child is doing. If your child is in the hospital, you should tell them which hospital. The co-parent should let you know when they are arriving.
When both of you can visit your child, both of you should visit. Try to visit them at the same time to show united support. If that’s not possible, decide a time when each of you can talk to your child independently.
Pursuing a New Life
As mentioned previously, you should not talk about any new relationships you are pursuing. But your partner may want to play a role in your child’s parenting.
You should talk to your co-parent about this. They may feel uncomfortable with your partner disciplining or preparing meals for your child. Your partner can fulfill another role, like picking your child up from school.
Your partner should stay within some boundaries. They should not insist that your child call them “Mom” or “Dad.” They should not counteract the parenting style of the other co-parent, though they can voice disagreements privately.
You should also talk to your co-parent about other children. You may have a new child with your partner, or your partner may have children of your own.
Your conversation does not have to be long. Your co-parent will not play a role in parenting your partner’s children. But they should know that their interactions with their child may change, now that there are other children in your house.
You should always look for better communication and better parenting skills. You can talk to your co-parent about what you are figuring out.
But if the co-parent is unwilling to interact with you, don’t force interactions. Move on with your life and remain in touch with the ones you love.
Co-Parenting the Right Way
Co-parenting while having limited communication with your ex is possible. You should refrain from talking to them during the separation. But you do need to formalize co-parenting terms.
When you talk to them, be professional and calm. Present a united front while keeping boundaries behind the scenes.
Provide some long-distance parenting tools and drop-off protocols so you both can talk to your child. Touch base with them during emergencies and major life decisions, like having a new child.
Live the best life you can with the facts. 2houses is the Internet’s authoritative service for co-parenting. Contact us today.