The Top 5 Books for Explaining Divorce to Kids and How to Help Them Get the Most Out of Them

Divorce books for children

The primary focus of any divorce with children is to make things as easy for them as possible. There are lots of things to hash out, and it’s likely that you and the other parent will have some disagreements and growing pains as you navigate life as two families instead of one, but keeping the focus on what is in the best interests of the children can help everyone remember what is really the most important thing right now. 

Whether you’ve already told your kids that you’re getting a divorce or you’re still trying to figure out the best way to make the announcement, it can help to have something that shows your children that they aren’t alone in this experience and helps give them the tools to work through their emotions. Thankfully, people who have been through divorces have taken this task very seriously and written some great books that you can read with younger children or give to older teens to help them understand what’s happening and help them through it. We’ve included our favorites below.

1. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst

Divorce book for children

Age Group: Children ages 2 to 4

Number of Pages: 36

Written for younger children, The Invisible String is a book that acknowledges the fears your children may have about being separated from one parent when visiting the other or no longer living with both. It talks about an invisible string that always connects us with the people we love, so even when we aren’t around them physically, we can be sure that they are thinking about us and still love us just as much. 

The illustrations in the book are the main focus, which makes it a good choice for younger children who may aren’t able to read independently yet. Try reading it with your child at first, pointing out the pictures and how they connect to the words and the underlying message. You might encourage some further discussion by asking them what their favorite part about the book was or if there was anything that they didn’t understand or seemed troublesome. This can give you insight into how your child is feeling and what they may be thinking about the separation.

2. Shine: Why Don’t Moon Fairy & Sun Prince Live Together?: A story of unconditional love for the children of separated or divorced parents by Polona Kisovec

Divorce book for children

Age Group: Children ages 6 to 10

Pages: 42

In Shine: Why Don’t Moon Fairy & Sun Prince Live Together? Polona Kisovec takes the reality of divorce and turns it into a fairy tale that shows that sometimes the heroes can’t win all the battles but that their love for their children is something that never changes. The book presents the story of a couple who were in love and happy but then situations changed and they had to adapt, which meant living apart. The story includes some emotions for the main characters, which can be very helpful for children to understand that no one is happy about a divorce and that it’s difficult and emotional for everyone, including the parents.

While this book is also a great choice to read aloud to a younger child, it’s especially well-suited for children who are already independent readers and who many have an interest in fantasy worlds and adventure stories. The illustrations are just as beautiful as the written story and the message of “It’s going to be OK” is one that many children need the opportunity to hear — or read — over and over again during this time.

3. Two Homes by Claire Masurel

Age Group: Children ages 3 to 7

Pages: 40

Two Homes by Claire Masurel has much the same focus on reminding children that they are loved by both parents even if the family isn’t together all the time, but it hones in even more on the idea of having to go from one house to the next. It talks about the differences and similarities between Mommy’s house and Daddy’s house and can help children look for the positives and the good things that come from shared custody and having two homes instead of staying caught in the difficulties and resistance that comes with major change.

This book is a short read with lots of warm, child-friendly pictures and can be a good follow-up tool to address children’s questions about what life in two houses will look like after you’ve already told them the divorce is happening. It can even be helpful to have a hard copy at both houses so that you can both walk your child through the book and point out some of the ways their life is the same as the main character’s.

4. Now What Do I Do?: A Guide to Help Teenagers with Their Parents’ Separation or Divorce by Lynn Cassella-Kapusinski

Divorce book for children

Age Group: Children ages 10 and up

Pages: 174

Helping a tween or teenager through a divorce is very different from reassuring a younger child, but that’s where books like Now What Do I Do? come in. It focuses on presenting the issues that come with divorce and the feelings your teen may be dealing with in a way they can relate to and connect with. It’s centered around helping children identify and put words to the emotions they may be feeling and gives them tools and strategies for coping with those feelings as well as situations that may arise, such as doing holidays separately.

Divorce books for teens and tweens are usually more hands-off when it comes to parental involvement, but it’s still a good idea to let your child know that you realize this is a difficult time for them and that they may prefer to talk to friends or other trusted adults but that you’re still there if they have questions or need anything. You might also want to check back in after they’ve had a chance to read the book and see if anything’s come up that they want to discuss. Don’t be surprised if you get the “it was stupid” or an eye roll. It’s common at this age for children to not want to seem uncool or like they needed help and to downplay how much they might have related to the book and the message.

5. The Divorce Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Move Beyond the Break Up: Activities to Help Teens Move Beyond the Break Up by Lisa Schab

Divorce book for children

Reading about something is good, and getting advice on how to deal with divorce is great, but Lisa Schab takes it to the next level by giving teens an actual workbook to help them deal with the divorce and start moving toward a positive future. The book includes pen and paper activities and worksheets that give teens something to do to start working through their emotions and preparing for life post-divorce. It’s been a favorite of many school counselors and mental health professionals and receives rave reviews for being a practical tool to help teens get through divorce as smoothly as possible.

While this book is very well-rounded and covers all of the various aspects of divorce and how you’re teen may be feeling, the workbook style means your teen will only get out of it what they put in. This may mean that this book is best suited for teens who are actively interested in learning how to cope during this time or as a tool to be used alongside counseling appointments or group meetings for teens whose parents are divorcing.

Talking to Children About Divorce

When you’re talking to your children about divorce, remember that it’s important to present a united front if at all possible. They will likely handle the news better if it comes from both parents saying the same thing at the same time. This also shows that the decision was a joint one, so there’s no need to side with one parent over the other. Communicate what’s happening and how it’s going to affect practical things like living arrangements or school as clearly and concisely as possible, focusing on keeping the details age-appropriate. 

It’s also a good idea to be prepared to have to revisit the conversation. Children may have more questions or concerns as they process the news or may have periods where they are angry or sad. Being open to continued communication about the divorce and the changes it brings can help your children feel like they can talk to you and express their emotions, which will help them better deal with them in the long run.

*digitale version

What Is Parallel Parenting?

Parallel parenting

When two parents are working together to raise their children even after their romantic relationship has ended, we call this co-parenting. It’s a term you will hear quite a bit in family court, in divorce support groups and from mental health professionals. However, while co-parenting might be presented as the accepted default, it’s actually more of a gold standard, best case scenario situation. If you feel like you are having difficulties navigating co-parenting, it could be that this just doesn’t work for your specific set of circumstances, and you may need to consider other options, such as parallel parenting. In this article, we’ll explore what parallel parenting is, how it differs from co-parenting, what situations it can be helpful in and how to start implementing it in your life.

The Difference Between Co-Parenting and Parallel Parenting

While co-parenting and parallel parenting both refer to working with an ex to parent your children together, the two terms are not interchangeable. At its core, co-parenting refers to a partnership. Co-parents are able to talk to each other about issues that are coming up and collaborate on decision-making and what’s in the best interests of the children without it devolving. Co-parenting can be a challenge in the beginning for anyone, but it’s something that often comes more naturally with time and as the parents get more space from their relationship and redefine that relationship in terms of a business partnership or even as friends. 

Parallel parenting, on the other hand, refers to the two parents coming at the situation from a place of mutual respect but they don’t interact much beyond visitation transitions or when something absolutely must be decided jointly. Parallel parenting focuses mostly on the idea of “you do what works for you and I’ll do what works for me.” For example, in a co-parenting situation, the two parents may work together to decide on a bed time, curfew or other house rules that work for and are implemented at both houses. However, with parallel parenting, each parent is usually creating their own set of rules for their own home, and they stay out of any decisions made on the other parent’s time.

When Does the Situation Call for Parallel Parenting?

So, how do you know whether you just need to give co-parenting attempts a little more time or if it’s time to switch to parallel parenting? Here are just a few examples of situations and signs that parallel parenting may serve you better.

Communication Isn’t Good

Communication is key to any successful co-parenting relationship, and while there will always be bumps in the road or things that you don’t immediately agree on, co-parents are able to navigate these issues as a team. If you find that communication with the other parent often devolves into personal attacks or belittlement or if you’re seen as an adversary instead of a teammate, co-parenting may not be an option. Co-parenting is also extremely difficult if not impossible if there is no communication. If your attempts to involve the other parent are met with unanswered phone calls and no responses to emails or text messages, you may need to switch to parallel parenting. 

There Are Too Many People Involved

Sometimes, you may find that what was a positive co-parenting relationship starts to sour when other people get involved. This could be new friends, new spouses or family members, but if the other parent is suddenly being influenced by others, it can change the nature of co-parenting. While it’s definitely worth trying to talk to the other parent one-on-one if you think this may be the issue and see if you can get back on a good co-parenting track, it’s not always possible. This is common when one parent remarries and then has to consider the new spouse in parenting decisions for their household as well. 

The Relationship Was Toxic

While co-parenting is held as the goal, parallel parenting may be the better choice for your mental or even physical health if your relationship was toxic, was abusive or involved substance use issues. For co-parenting to work, both parties must be equally invested and responsible for the decisions and well-being of the children. This has to be the focus 100% of the time. However, those who are abusive or are suffering from the effects of an addiction may not be able to put the children’s needs first or empathize and work together with the other parent for mutually agreeable decisions. In these cases, it’s often the healthiest option to limit contact as possible with the other parent and focus on making sure the children are safe and well taken care of.

The Basics of Parallel Parenting

You’ve determined that co-parenting might not be the best for your situation and want to give parallel parenting a try. Great! But how do you start? Here are four key ways to start shifting to successful parallel parenting.

1. Keep Communication As Needed and Neutral

You won’t be able to just stop communicating with the other parent completely, but you can start focusing that communication in a different direction. Instead of trying to tackle issues as joint decisions, the focus becomes more on informing the other parent of things they absolutely must know about — think doctor’s appointments, sports schedules and illnesses — and sticking to neutral, fact-based information. You can make this even easier by using the messaging and calendar features in 2houses. Using the messaging feature in the app gives you a record of all communication sent and received and means you don’t have to worry about texting or emailing. You can add events, practices, games and even the visitation schedule to the calendar so that each parent has everything they need at a glance, eliminating the need for last-minute “what time is that thing again?” texts.

2. Shift Communication to the Impersonal

Communication should also be focused on the facts and be as objective and neutral as possible. Parallel parenting is often used in situations where one person refuses to communicate in a collaborative way, so this can be difficult if the other person is being combative, demeaning or threatening. Focusing on the gray rock or yellow rock method can help. This is when you make a point not to respond to any personal attacks or comments and focus the communication only on the kids.

For example, if after a drop off, the other parent texts you to question why the kids haven’t had a bath or says that they are dirty, you can choose to not respond at all — because this isn’t directly related to the children’s immediate care — which would be the gray rock option. Or you could say something like, “The children took showers this morning.” This would be the yellow rock option, which means that you’re responding but keeping things neutral and factual and not taking the bait.

3. Control What You Can

In parallel parenting, it’s very important to clearly define the scope of things that are within your control. This usually means the decisions that are taking place in your house or during your time, but if you have specific provisions in your custody agreement, such as you get to make education decisions, this would also be included. For the things that are in your control, set very specific boundaries and hold to them. When both parents aren’t on the same page, which is usually the reason for parallel parenting in the first place, children often try to play one parent against the other or try to bend the rules based on “well, Dad lets me at his house.” By clearly outlining what is and is not OK at your house and on your time and sticking to them, your children will better know what to expect and be aware that trying to play the other parent card doesn’t do any good.

4. Let Go of What You Can’t

On the flip side of the “control what you can” point, we have the things that are not within your control. And this is usually when we’re talking about the decisions that are made on the other parent’s time or at the other parent’s house. For example, maybe you have a strict 9 p.m. bedtime for the kids at your house, but when they spend the week at their mom’s, they can stay up as late as they want, even if it’s a school night. In a co-parenting situation, this would mean a conversation with both parents and a discussion that ended in an agreement on a bedtime that would work for and be enforced in both houses. However, with a parallel parenting situation, this would be something you would just have to let go — because you’re not likely to convince the other parent that the lack of bedtime isn’t reasonable and it would likely just lead to even more conflict. 

Parallel parenting and the gray/yellow rock methods can be very helpful in cases where positive co-parenting isn’t an option, but it does take practice to get comfortable with it. Remember that nothing is perfect from the beginning and that there will be some missteps, but how you move forward from those continues to set the tone.

6 Common Emotions After a Separation

Common emotions after separation

No matter the reason for it or how amicable it might be, the end of a relationship is a major life change. If you have children involved, you will also have to figure out how not to just end the relations but how to transform it into a different kind that allows you to co-parent. And none of this is easy or intuitive for most people. During this time, it’s normal to experience all kinds of feelings and to sometimes feel like you are being flung from one mood to the next, going through both peaks and valleys as you navigate what your new normal looks like. Here are just a few of the common emotions you might be feeling as you move toward this next chapter of your life. 

1. Grief

The end of a relationship is a loss, even if it was something that you wanted and initiated and that you knew would be a positive life change. And any loss brings grief. This is something that we accept when someone dies, but many people — usually those who haven’t been through a separation or divorce themselves — don’t understand what a loss the end of a relationship can be. 

It’s not always only about the relationship itself, either. In some cases, yes, the other person has asked for a separation when you thought everything was going well and it’s not something that you want. But even if you were the one who decided it was time to move on, there is still the loss for what you had hoped and dreamed and what might have been if things would have worked out differently. And, often, this grief for what might have been is even stronger than the grief over the relationship itself.

Giving yourself permission to grieve fully and actually feel the loss and recognize it for what it is may be difficult, but it is one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself as far as really moving forward without the baggage of the past coming along with you.

2. Uncertainty

Many people who go through a separation find that once the decision has been made, they’re left with a feeling of “well, what now?” Oftentimes, so much energy and time (physically and mentally) go into deciding whether to try to salvage the relationship or move on from it officially that once that particular hurdle has been conquered, it’s not quite clear where to go from there. 

If you’re feeling uncertain about what you want or where your life is going after a separation, you aren’t alone. When you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, your wants, needs, desires and preferences have all been intermingled with someone else’s, and it can take some time to start to sort out what’s yours at the end of it. 

However, this can also be a great opportunity to rediscover passions, dreams or goals that you set aside or weren’t able to pursue fully because of your relationship. Maybe you want to move out to the country, downsize to a tiny home, go back to school or switch careers. Viewing this feeling of uncertainty as an opportunity to recalibrate your life instead of a negative emotion to be avoided can bring many positive things to your future and help facilitate your personal growth.

3. Exhaustion

Emotional upheaval is tiring in and of itself, but a separation that involves becoming a new single parent and trying to navigate a new co-parenting relationship is downright exhausting. So, if you’re waking up feeling like you would just like to go back to bed or you stumble into bed at the end of the day thinking “this just isn’t possible,” you’re in good company. 

You might still be reeling from the emotional aspect of the separation, and chances are, you’re suddenly faced with working, taking care of children, keeping the house in livable condition and dealing with all of your children’s emotions and feelings all at the same time and pretty much all by yourself. The good news is that this phase will pass, and you will make it through. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t do anything to ease the exhaustion while you’re in it.

Figure out what fills up your cup. Maybe it’s curling up with a new novel or a funny movie after the kids have gone to bed. Maybe it’s waking up early for a morning run in the peace and solitude of nature. Spend some time thinking about what makes you feel better and like you can handle the day, and then, purposefully carve out time for these activities — even if it means lowering your standards in other areas, such as keeping a perfectly clean house or cooking dinner from scratch every night.

4. Excitement

It may seem odd to say that someone might be excited about a separation, but the truth is that sometimes the end of a relationship is the best thing for everyone involved. It may have come after years of trying to make things work unsuccessfully, and finally being ready to move into that new chapter and accept that some things aren’t meant to be can bring a renewed energy with it. You’re able to better prioritize things in your life you may have put on the back burner, and it may feel like the whole world is fresh and new and full of possibilities.

This is healthy and a positive step forward, but you might encounter some people in your life who don’t feel the same way. For a long time, the end of a relationship was considered a failure and something to be ashamed for. However, we’ve come to realize the importance of mental health over meeting society’s expectations, and this stigma is slowly fading. If you encounter people who aren’t happy for you to be happy, respectfully remind them that you are in charge of your life and making the decisions that are best for you. If someone can’t be happy for you and supportive, you may have to put up some boundaries to maintain your mental health.

6. Relief

If you’ve been struggling in your relationship for a while or have felt like you weren’t moving in the direction for your life that you wanted, being free of it can be a welcome relief. It might feel like a huge weight has been taken off your shoulders. You no longer have to worry about meeting the expectations of your partner or dealing with the challenges of your relationship.

If you were in an abusive or toxic relationship, this feeling of relief may be even stronger. For many people, a separation means not having to walk on eggshells anymore, not having to deal with someone who has a substance abuse issue or just not having to worry anymore about what they’re doing wrong or why they aren’t enough to make the other person happy. 

If you are feeling relief post-separation, take that as a sign that you made the right choice and that the relationship was no longer serving you or your mental health. However, that doesn’t mean that if you don’t feel relief, that doesn’t mean that anything is wrong. Everyone experiences emotions and processes life change differently, and for some, it can take quite a while before they have decompressed enough from the relationship traumas to be able to move forward into this space.

The Takeaway

While many people find that there are common threads to the separation and co-parenting experience and that they experience similar emotions, it’s also important to remember that everyone is unique. You may spend longer in the grief process than your best friend did, or maybe were heavy on the relief and didn’t really experience the exhaustion. Or maybe you experienced other emotions not covered on this list. And that’s OK. Because the separation process — and the emotions that come with it — isn’t a linear journey. Even after you feel like you have finished a certain stage and have moved on to the next, something could happen that could trigger a short relapse back into grief or anger or uncertainty, and this is normal. Remember not to try to compare your journey with your friend’s, brother’s or anyone else’s. 

Whatever the case, the most important thing during this time is to be kind to yourself and to remember that you aren’t alone. Reaching out to friends, family members and other support persons when you start to feel overwhelmed with your emotions can be a healthy way to cope and can help you identify what you need to keep moving forward. There are many mental health professionals out there who specialize in helping those going through divorces or separations get through the process and move into the next stages as smoothly as possible.

Being Friends With Your Ex: How to Make It Work

Being Friends With Your Ex

If you’ve just made the decision to go your separate ways or are currently in the middle of a divorce, being friends with your ex might seem like an impossible task. But studies have shown that co-parents who are able to go beyond basic civility and have open, friendly relationships can make the entire process of divorce and everything that comes after easier on their children. However, this doesn’t mean that learning how to be friends with your ex is easy or something you just naturally know how to do. In this article, we give some tips and strategies on how to set up a friendly relationship from the beginning to help make your co-parenting journey more positive.

Remember Where You’ve Been

When you’re trying to move forward, it’s important to look toward the future, but that doesn’t mean forgetting all about the past as well. One thing that can help you create a more positive friendship with your ex is to consider all of the good things that came out of the relationship. Your children are the biggest thing, but there are likely also others, such as friends that your ex introduced you to or memories of trips or experiences that had a positive effect on your life. 

It can also be helpful to think about what you liked about the other person to begin with. Maybe you loved his sense of humor or you really appreciated the way she was able to look at situations objectively and problem-solve. Keeping these things front of mind when dealing with the other parent can help you remember that this person is more than just an ex and does have qualities that can be positive and helpful in the co-parenting relationship. 

Acknowledge the Grief

While the end of your relationship may have been the best thing for both of you and the children, it’s still a loss, and it’s important to acknowledge that. Nobody likes to feel the sadness, hurt and uncertainty that comes with the end of a relationship, but trying to gloss over it and pretend that everything is OK isn’t healthy and is likely to end up causing problems down the road when all of those pushed-aside feelings finally resurface. 

To truly be friends with your ex, you need to have grieved the end of your romantic relationship so that you can honestly wish them well — even when new significant others come into the picture. It’s important to understand that this takes time, and the longer you were in the relationship, the longer it usually takes to go through the full grieving process. This doesn’t mean that you have to sit and watch sappy movies for weeks on end, but you should focus on being honest with yourself about how you feel, what went wrong, what you’re learning from the experience and how it’s helping you grow moving forward. It can also be helpful to talk to a counselor or other trusted advisor to get an outside perspective. Also, remember that the grieving process isn’t linear. You may feel fine after a couple of months only to be hit by another round a few weeks later. And that’s OK. Just focus on being kind to yourself and open and honest about where you’re at with your feelings to ensure you aren’t ignoring issues or emotions that need to be dealt with.

Define the Boundaries

Boundaries are important in any relationship but especially so when you are trying to turn what was a romantic relationship into a friendship moving forward. Boundaries ensure everyone is on the same page with what your goals are as co-parents and what you want to be able to accomplish together during this season of life focused on your children. Defining these boundaries is the first step. It can also help you make sure that both parties are at a place where they are able to move forward as friends. If one party still has feelings for the other or is still harboring a lot of anger or bitterness over the breakup, it can make a friendship very difficult. 

Consider having a meeting with your ex over coffee so you can discuss your future as co-parents. You might use some of the following points to start off:

  • What decisions should we make together?
  • What issues are we OK with one person making an executive decision?
  • How will we communicate about schedules and issues relating to the children?
  • When do you think it’s appropriate to introduce the children to a new significant other?
  • If one of us remarries, how will that affect our co-parenting relationship?
  • How do you see us celebrating holidays, birthdays and other special events?

It’s important to be honest during these conversations and to leave the door open for future meetings as things progress and the children get older. You may find that something that worked for a while isn’t now and you need to reassess.

Remember that your friendship with your ex doesn’t have to look like someone else’s. Maybe your best friend only talks to her ex when necessary and just waves at pickups and drop-offs, but you would like to go on family vacations together or celebrate holidays as a family. Whatever works for both of you is all that matters. 

Keep Communicating

Once you have had a conversation and have a good idea of what you want things to look like moving forward, it’s important to continue to work on keeping those lines of communication open. You may find that things you thought were going to be OK — like having joint birthday parties — don’t actually work in practice, and it’s perfectly normal for some things to be re-evaluated. You may also find that your co-parenting relationship needs to adapt as the kids get older and start getting more involved in their own lives or have more input into decisions. 

Some families find that scheduling regular check-in style meetings works for them to ensure any issues that come up are dealt with early on instead of pushed to the side and allowed to fester into major problems. Others prefer to just communicate regularly through messages like the tools built in to the 2houses app and address things as they come up. It may take some trial and error to find a system that works for your specific situation.

Don’t Forget the Kids

While it’s always a positive thing for parents to work on their relationship as friends, you’ll need to be aware of how it may look to your children. Divorce is difficult for children no matter the circumstances, and many kids fantasize about the parents getting back together. It’s easy for children to mistake your efforts to get along as friends and put the past behind you as evidence that you are patching things up and might be able to rekindle the romantic relationship. 

While you may not be able to get your children to give up the fantasy of their parents together entirely, letting them know that the two of you are going to be working on your friendship and trying to be more positive in your relationship can help frame things better. For example, if you are planning a family vacation together, you might let your children know that you’ve decided to go on vacation together to save money, but that you’ll have separate rooms. 

Being honest with your children and ensuring that they feel comfortable coming to you with questions or concerns can also help. Consider the following example: You start dating and find someone where things are progressing enough to introduce them to the children. You do, but your child is instantly negative and starts yelling and crying and throwing a tantrum. It may be that this new person arriving on the scene seems like a threat to that fantasy of the parents getting back together. If your child is able to discuss this with you openly and honestly, you can deal with it head on and explain that while you understand why they would like that, it just isn’t going to happen and focusing on the future is the best course of action.

Creating a friendship with your ex can be a very positive and rewarding experience, but it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s important to be realistic in your expectations — and the timeline for them to happen — and remember that it’s going to be hard work at times. However, that work is almost always worth it when it comes to the positive effect it can have on your children and how they weather separation and divorce. 
To find out more about how you can make the co-parenting journey easy, check out all the features 2houses has to offer and our blog on topics specifically for divorced parents.

Extracurricular Activities and Shared Custody

Shared custody

Whether your child loves soccer or spends every spare minute learning guitar, nurturing their hobbies and interests is important. Extracurricular activities can help your children make friends, learn new skills, build character and give them a place to burn off all that extra energy. Participation in sports and activities can also open up scholarship opportunities for college and ensure that they grow up to be well-rounded individuals who understand that making time for play and fun is just as important as work and responsibility.

Even without a divorce, getting all of the children to all of the activities can be a challenge. Even two-parent families face the problem of not being able to be in two places at once or whose game to attend when practices or tournaments are being held at the same time for different sports in different places. But when you add in shared custody, alternating weekends and trying to determine who pays for what, it adds another level of difficulty. However, this doesn’t mean that your child won’t get to partake in extracurricular activities just because your logistics are a bit more difficult. Understanding the particular challenges that come with shared custody and learning how to navigate them can give you the tools you need to make it work.

How Shared Custody Can Impact Extracurricular Activities

Going from one family to two creates a lot of challenges. You expect to deal with holidays and summer vacation being a bit different or having to always have two copies of all the notices from school, but one area where parents are often surprised at how much shared custody can affect things is with extracurricular activities. Here are just a few of the factors to consider when your child wants to participate in extracurriculars.

Signing Up for Activities

One of the first hurdles that often comes up with shared custody and extracurricular activities is whether or not to even sign the children up for them. It’s not uncommon for parents to want the children to participate in different activities, which can lead to scheduling conflicts. If you want your child to be in the school musical but the other parent wants them to play hockey, and practices are at the same time, only one person can win. In other cases, one parent wants the child to participate in an activity, but the other doesn’t — often because it will mean spending some of their parenting time at practices and games or just because they don’t believe in children having a busy schedule.

This can be a difficult issue to navigate as it often leaves the children in the middle. If you’re finding that you’re having difficulty coming to an agreement, it can help to sit down and explain the reasons behind your requests to the other parent. Maybe this year, the child does the musical and next year, he plays hockey. Just make sure to keep the children out of the decisions, as they may have preferences that should be considered, but you don’t ever want them to feel like they are having to choose sides.

Drop-Offs and Pickups

Extracurricular schedules are known for being intense, especially if you have more than one child. It’s often a race from the end of one practice to the beginning of the other, and there may not be time for a switch from Mom to Dad’s house in between. If you have a good co-parenting relationship with the other parent, it may be a simple matter of adjusting the visitation schedule on the fly as you work out what’s best for the kids and most convenient for the parents. 

However, this can be much more challenging if you are parallel parenting or have difficulty communicating positively with your ex. In these cases, there may not be a lot you can do to make things easier, and you may have to prepare your child to skip a practice that’s being held during the other parent’s time or be willing to give up some of your own parenting time to accommodate the schedule.

Fees and Equipment

While there are many extracurricular programs offered through school and local community programs that are free or low cost, many others can come with hefty participation fees and require specialized expensive equipment. Still others may involve travelling expenses such as hotel rooms for weekend-long tournaments and competitions. This all adds up quickly, and it can be tricky to determine who pays for what. Most parenting agreements don’t detail this by default (although you can have it added), so a lot of it comes down to verbal agreements between the parents, which isn’t always as simple as it sounds.

Family Attendance

One of the best parts about your child participating in extracurricular activities is getting to watch them. However, this isn’t always a simple matter when it comes to two-household families. Maybe you’re fine with sitting with your ex, but you feel awkward around your ex-in-laws. What do you do when your ex brings her new boyfriend? These are all issues that can and do come up, and it can be tense for all the parties involved, including the children. 

If you’re still in the process of divorcing, you may want to consider these factors and see if there’s a way to work some of them into your parenting plan so that there is a clear course of action to follow. For example, you can have added into your parenting agreement that you will split all extracurricular fees 50/50 or that one parent will pay for the participation fees while the other will be responsible for equipment. You can also work into the visitation schedule how transportation to and from practices, games and events will be handled.

Keep in mind that while it can be helpful to have all of this spelled out in writing and able to be enforced by the courts if necessary, it’s not an absolute must. If you have a positive co-parenting relationship and are able to make joint decisions and agree to these things on your own, this can work just as well.

Tips for Making It Work

While the shared custody struggle is real when it comes to extracurricular activities, it’s not something that can be overcome with a few strategies, a joint effort and a positive mindset. Here are our three best practices for making it work. 

1. Prioritize Communication

Communication is key. This is a major theme when it comes to co-parenting, and for good reason. Open and positive communication can go a long way when it comes to working toward joint solutions and problem-solving, and oftentimes, just giving the other parent the heads up and making a civil request can be all you need. It’s important to respect that the other parent has a schedule, needs and wants to work around as well, and by focusing on what works for both of your houses, you’ll be able to stay united as a team and figure out what’s best.

2. Keep the Schedule Handy 

Once you’ve worked out a plan, make sure you put it in writing and where everyone can easily access it. While in a one-household family, this may be as simple as a big wall calendar in the kitchen, but when you’re managing two homes, you need something more adaptable. This is where 2houses comes in. 

The calendar feature on the app lets either parent add an event — along with the who, what, where and when details — so everyone knows exactly where the kids should be and who’s doing the pickup and drop-off without having to actually hold all those details in your mind. The messaging feature also lets you give the other parent a quick heads up if something changes or needs to be adjusted.

3. Focus on Civility

It’s easy to treat your ex as…well…an ex, but this won’t get you far. Instead, try focusing on communicating with and treating the other parent like you would a business client that you really want to keep. This will help you switch from frustration and blaming during a disagreement to a focus on being polite and problem solving. It’s also worth noting that some time there may not be a way to agree or a solution to be had, and if your child has to miss a game or can’t participate in an activity one semester, it won’t be the end of the world even if they may think so. 

What to do about extracurricular activities is just one of many issues that can come up when you have shared custody. Learn more about what to expect as you go from one family to two and how you can move toward positive co-parenting in the 2houses family blog.

Back to School and Coparenting After COVID-19

Back to scholl and Covid 19

It’s safe to say that 2020 has been a landmark year so far, and it’s not over yet. From the first mentions of coronavirus at the beginning of the year to layoffs, stay-at-home orders and school closings, it seems like there’s nothing left untouched by the virus. Summer is offering some a brief respite, but parents across the country are starting to eye the impending 2020-2021 school year and wonder what it will look like.

When it comes to COVID-19 and co-parenting, the only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know exactly what’s coming or what will happen in the future. But considering the possibilities and putting into place some contingency plans for back to school can help parents feel more prepared and ease some of the fears and uncertainty children are experiencing.

What Are School Districts Doing?

While every part of the country is known for its own specific way of doing things, what school looks like this fall is going to depend heavily on where you’re located. Many of the shutdowns and orders were state-specific, but as the country continues to attempt to reopen and deal with the possible second wave of infections, many governors are making county-by-county decisions. In this case of school openings, in particular, many decisions are being left up to the individual districts. School districts are getting lists of recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the governor and then being told to implement them however works best for their students. This means that your children could be dealing with a remote learning situation, while three blocks away in another district, the children are going to school five days a week.

If you’re not sure what your district is planning yet, it could be because they don’t know yet either. Many districts are still formulating plans and trying to come up with multiple options so that they can change on the fly if there is a second wave or shutdowns need to happen again this fall. Make sure that you are subscribed to whatever method the school is using to communicate updates or changes, as this will likely happen as we move into flu season. Some districts have moved to social media while others are still using robocall lines, and if you’re not on the list, you won’t get the update.

Three Primary Possibilities

Most school districts across the country are creating multiple plans so that they can adjust if need be without the major disruption that happened this spring. Below are the three most common options being discussed.

Traditional Schooling — With Some Changes

This would be school as close to normal as we could get. Children would go to school for a full week and have in-person instruction as normal. However, the routines and environment surrounding that instruction is likely to look a little different. Many districts are considering requiring teachers and staff to wear masks, having fewer children in one room together and not bussing as many children in. Other requirements may include no shared supplies, not moving between classes for older students who tend to switch teachers for every grade and no recess time.

In this scenario, the change to the co-parenting or custody schedule is likely to be very small or not at all.

Remote Schooling

Remote schooling is the other end of the spectrum. This would be 100% online instruction similar to what many families dealt with schools shut down earlier this year. However, many districts are putting more time and effort into this option, so it would likely look different from the “crisis schooling,” with real lessons and virtual contact with teachers and less support and interaction needed from parents.

This option could cause serious disruption for co-parenting families where both parents are working and not able to be home with the children during school hours. While remote learning should require less from parents than crisis schooling, young children will still need to be kept on task and supervised during the day.

Hybrid Models

Many districts are considering a hybrid model, attempting to blend the desire for traditional school with the ability to switch to remote learning seamlessly if needed. Examples that have been tossed around by some districts include children going to school just two or three days a week and remote learning the other days, or elementary-aged children going to school as normal with middle and high school grades engaging in remote learning.

This option would also likely create difficulties for families operating out of two households and trying to follow a custody schedule because it doesn’t allow for the same option all week for the entire school year.

Co-Parenting Challenges for the Upcoming School Year

While it’s clear that there is still a great deal of uncertainty over what may happen with the upcoming school year, there are bound to be some co-parenting challenges. Depending on what your district opts for and your co-parenting relationship with the other parent, these could be major or minor. Below are a few common issues co-parenting families are facing with going back to school during the coronavirus.

1. Disagreements on What Option to Pick

This is perhaps the most serious issue: you can’t agree on which education option to pick for the fall. Some parents are adamant that children should go back to school as normally as possible, while others think it’s still too soon and the safe option is 100% remote learning. Still others are turning to online public schools and homeschooling as options that they hadn’t considered before. If both parents aren’t in agreement, it can cause serious issues.

In the case where one parent has sole decision-making ability, such as in sole legal custody situations, this might be solved by that parent just making an executive decision. However, if the parents have joint legal custody and can’t agree on what to do, the issue may have to go before the courts for the judge to make the final ruling.

2. Issues With Childcare

If your district is opting not to have school as “normal,” it’s likely to create a childcare issue. Even in two-parent households, many times, both parents are working out of the house and both incomes are necessary for financial purposes. And in the case of divorced parents, it’s common for the parent to be the only income in the family, which creates even more pressure.

For example, let’s say that the children are going to school two days a week, Tuesday and Wednesday, but are doing remote schooling the other three. However, both parents are working traditional Monday through Friday 9-5 jobs. What will they do with the children on the other three days? Many childcare centers have to reduce capacity with the new restrictions, and in-home sitters can be very expensive. Some parents may also face the issue of changing parenting time if one parent does have more freedom with work and can take the children when they aren’t in school. This could change a 50/50 custody split into an 80/20 split quickly, which can affect other issues such as child support.

3. Transporting School Items Back and Forth

A minor issue, but one that co-parents are likely to be dealing with on a near-constant basis, is the transportation of school items back and forth between both houses. You’re probably already used to making sure that homework gets taken care of and backpacks go with the kids, but remote learning situations may come with laptops, tablets or other expensive technology that your children, and therefore you, are now responsible for. Now, a tablet left at Mom’s becomes a “have to drive and go get it tonight or I can’t do school in the morning” problem instead of a “you can just pick it up next time” issue.

No matter what school ends up looking like in your area come August and September, the truth is that it will take some time to get the hang of things. Even if you think you’ve planned for every possible scenario, there are still likely to be some curveballs and surprises, and a sense of humour and remembering that everyone — teachers, kids and the other parent — are all trying their best can go a long way.

The 2houses co-parenting app can make it easier to navigate through the changing landscape of what back to school may look like by offering features such as a messaging center, an information bank and a calendar all in one user-friendly interface. Use the calendar to keep track of which days the children are remote or in-person learning, use the information bank to keep record of any required doctor’s visits or vaccinations and use the messaging center to keep the other parent up to date on schooling changes or any possible symptoms of COVID-19.

4 Reasons to Use a Co-Parenting App

2houses

While a divorce or separation is often the best choice for some families, it doesn’t mean that co-parenting comes without its challenges. Learning to coordinate, communicate and work together with the other parent comes with a learning curve. It’s easy to misread a text, lose track of an email or forget to pass along information on extracurricular activities — all of which can cause conflict in your co-parenting relationship. Whether you’re trying to find a way to keep track of papers, notices, expenses and who has what holiday or you just want to find a way to make communication more civil, a co-parenting app can help. 2houses was designed with divorced parents in mind and helps make dealing with two separate households a little less stressful.

4 Benefits of Using a Co-Parenting App

Co-parenting apps can’t magically make your relationship and interactions with the other parent perfect and conflict-free, but they can help streamline communication, help you keep track of paperwork and make it a little easier to deal with a tenuous situation. Below we’ve covered just a few of the main benefits you can get from using a co-parenting app.

1. It Helps Foster Communication

Communication is key to successful co-parenting. The more of an open exchange of dialogue involving concerns, upcoming events and just general updates on the children’s lives you can have, the better for your co-parenting relationship and for your children. However, this isn’t always as easy in practice as it is in theory.

Sometimes, it’s one parent who won’t cooperate. You send them texts and emails keeping them updated on school events and sports practices for the kids, but they claim they never received them. Or maybe you’re dealing with a situation where the other parent is actively trying to sabotage co-parenting by withholding information or sending angry and derogatory messages.

Other times, communication issues happen just because there is so much to keep track of. This can be especially true in situations where there are multiple children. Every child has their own homework that needs to be done, extracurricular schedules, playdates and meetups with friends, and sometimes things get lost in the shuffle and not communicated to both parents.

2houses can help with all of these issues by giving you a way to keep track of all communication in one easy-to-access place. So whether you need to confirm vacation plans, send along the snack requirements for your son’s soccer practice or ask the other parent for medical forms, everything can be communicated through the 2houses app. The messaging center offers secure messaging much like an email system with timestamps of when things were sent and read, and while you can archive conversations once they are not needed anymore, nothing can ever be deleted, so you can always go back and follow up with something if needed.

2. It Keeps Everything in One Place

One of the more common hazards of co-parenting and trying to manage children between two households is that there is a lot of paperwork. And when you consider that now some places such as schools and doctors’ offices are going digital and emailing records or allowing you access via apps, it can get even more challenging to know where to look for information that needs to be shared with the other parent. Just a few of the things that parents often need to share include:

  • Information on teacher names
  • Medical records
  • Expense records and reimbursement requests
  • Permissions slips
  • Insurance information
  • Clothing and shoe sizes
  • Christmas and birthday wishlists
  • Phone numbers and addresses for friends and family

If you have multiple children, the paperwork starts to grow exponentially. If you’ve ever tried to find a school lunch bill in a stack of papers or ended up having to ask the other parent for a medical bill again after misplacing it, you know how easy it is for things to get lost, misplaced or  just plain forgotten about. It can be very difficult for either parent to keep track of what’s been sent and what hasn’t or what information is being kept where. That’s where the co-parenting app comes in.

One of the main features of 2houses is the information bank. It lets you upload virtually everything you could ever need to provide the other parent with in one place. There are dedicated places for things like bank information and vaccination records, but there’s also document storage that lets you upload any paper directly to the app and share it with the other parent. You can also organize your documents after you’ve uploaded them however you need to, such as by child or by category. This ensures the other parent has everything they need, but it also makes it easier for you because it’s like an instant online filing system. Anytime you need insurance information or need to double check your child’s shoe size, it’s all already in the app.

3. It Lets Both Parents Stay Involved

It used to be that people believed that a two-parent household was the gold standard as far being the best for kids. But now, we’ve recognized that the best thing for children is to have two happy, healthy parents, and sometimes, that means those parents making the choice to no longer be romantically involved or live in the same house. The most important thing is that both parents stay active and involved in the children’s lives.

It’s obviously impossible to keep up the same level of involvement as if both parents were living in the same household with the child, but technology has advanced so much that it’s not as difficult as it once was. This is especially true in cases where the parents have joint physical custody and both parents are having frequent face-to-face contact with the children. Video calling and texting have allowed parents to stay more in touch with their children than in years past, but co-parenting apps like 2houses can also help.

While just being able to have all the notices and the schedule in one place can make it easier for both parents to attend functions and ensure they are actively participating in their children’s lives, two other important features of 2houses that help parents stay connected to their children are the journaling and photo album capabilities.

The in-app journal lets parents and children share everything from thoughts on the day to feelings about upcoming events or just recapping for memory keeping purposes. Children can have their own access that is controlled by the parent account so they can contact both parents and send messages without also having access to private communications between the parents.

For those times when one parent isn’t able to be there in person, the photo album allows either the children or the other parent to upload pictures so they can still “be there” virtually. Common applications for this are for birthdays, school functions, vacations and even just silly candids of the kids.

4. It’s Automatic Documentation

Even in the best of co-parenting situations, there are bound to be some conflicts. One of the best things about using a co-parenting app for all communication and file and paper transfers is that you have built-in documentation. If you run into a situation where you think one thing was said but the other parent believes it was something else, it’s easy to just go back to the messages and reread it word for word. These messages are also built into the system which means there’s no possibility of common situations like one person deleting texts or not having “received” an email. For example, if one parent sends the other parent a notice that the children have a school play on Friday night at 6 p.m. through the app, the other parent can’t claim they didn’t attend because they didn’t know about it.

If you’re ever in a situation where you end up needing to take an issue back before the courts, using the 2houses co-parenting app makes it much easier to keep your documentation straight and have everything you need to present your case. Consider an example of one parent who claims that the other parent is interfering with their parenting time and not letting the first parent see the children. If Parent Number 2 has the documented messages from the app that show that Parent Number 1 cancelled at the last minute or no-showed several times, this can help Parent Number 1 show that interference is not the issue with the parenting time.

Whether you are just starting on your co-parenting journey or you’re trying to make it even smoother, co-parenting apps can be an important piece of the puzzle. Learn more about the features 2houses has to offer and how it can help you make positive changes in communication between you and the other parent, help you organize your paperwork and keep everything handy for documentation purposes if needed.

60/40 Custody Schedules and What they Really Look Like

Custody Calendar template

More and more parents are choosing to have joint custody in the last few decades as opposed to the traditional every other weekend schedules of the past. While shared custody has shown to be helpful in ensuring the children have a good relationship with both parents, it can get confusing on how to split the time. The 60/40 custody schedule is a popular choice, and it can break down in a variety of ways. Here’s an overview of the 60/40 schedule, some practical examples and considerations for when you’re choosing what works best for your family.

What Does a 60/40 Schedule Actually Look Like?

When we talk about joint custody schedules in terms of numbers, we’re really talking about the percentage of time division between the two parents. In a 50/50 schedule, both parents are spending about half of the time in any given week with the child. In a 60/40 custody schedule, one parent is getting about 60% of the time while the other gets around 40%.

It’s important to remember that this doesn’t always work out exactly. For example, the breakdown, depending on which schedule you choose, may actually work out to something like 57/43, but for intents and purposes, it’s referred to as a 60/40 split. Another key principle here is that joint custody schedules take into consideration around-the-clock time, not just time actually spent with the children. So, even if you have the 60 side of the 60/40 split, if your days mostly fall during the week when you are working and the children are in school, you may end up with less face-to-face time than a parent who has the 40% on the weekends.

Common 60/40 Custody Splits

There are many ways to put a 60/40 custody schedule into place, and if both parents are in agreement, they can largely make whatever schedule they want. When you’re deciding on how to make a 60/40 custody schedule work, it’s important to keep in mind the ages of the children. Younger children often do better with shorter times away from the other parent while older children are better able to handle 4-5 day stretches away from the other parent. Here are just a few of the most common 60/40 custody schedules.

Long Weekends

This schedule splits the week into two main parts: the main week and a long weekend. Parent #1 has parenting time from Monday morning to Friday early afternoon, and Parent #2 gets the children from Friday early afternoon to Monday morning. It’s common in this case for Parent #2 to be the one dropping the children off at school on Monday morning and picking them up on Friday afternoon. The main advantage to this schedule is that the days are always the same; however, it also means that one parent gets every weekend. This can be an issue if Parent #1 is working during the week because they end up with very little downtime with the children.

4-3

In discussions of custody schedules, you will often see them laid out as numbers with dashes in between. This refers to how the days are separated between the parents. For example, in the 4-3 schedule, Parent #1 gets the children for four days and then Parent #2 gets them for three days. This continues to repeat.

The main difference between this and the long weekend schedule is that, depending on when you start the week, the entire weekend may not be spent with one parent. For example, Parent #1 could get Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and then the other parent would get Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. This schedule can be customized depending on when you want the three-day break with the other parent to be, which can be helpful for families with nontraditional work schedules.

2-2-5-5

A 2-2-5-5 schedule alternates with Parent #1 getting the children for two days, then they go back to Parent #2 for two days, then back to Parent #1 for five days and then back to Parent #2 for five days. A practical example of this schedule could be:

  • Parent #1: Monday, Tuesday
  • Parent #2: Wednesday, Thursday
  • Parent #1: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
  • Parent #2: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
2-2-5-5 custody schedule template

This would then repeat. The biggest advantage of this type of schedule is that it alternates weekends so that each parent gets time away from work and school to be with the children. However, it can be complicated to keep track of.

2-2-3

The 2-2-3 schedule is often used for younger children because there are no long stretches away from either parent. An example of this schedule is:

  • Parent #1: Monday, Tuesday
  • Parent #2: Wednesday, Thursday
  • Parent #1: Friday, Saturday, Sunday
  • Parent #2: Monday, Tuesday
  • Parent #1: Wednesday, Thursday
  • Parent #2: Friday, Saturday, Sunday
2-2-3 custody schedule template

This schedule also allows for alternating weekends and can be simpler to keep track of than the 2-2-5-5 split. However, it does require a lot of shuffling between houses, which can be difficult for children who feel like they don’t really have one main home. There are often also reentry issues when the children switch between houses, especially if the rules between the two are very different. In this type of schedule, the children are almost always coming from or going to a house, so these issues may be worsened.

How 60/40 Custody Schedules Can Affect Other Issues

If you are still trying to decide how you are going to share custody, it’s important to keep in mind that your physical custody schedule is different from your legal custody. For example, it’s common for parents to have shared physical custody so they both get ample time with the children but for one parent to retain sole legal custody. This means that one parent still has the decision-making power for things like education, religious and medical decisions. Always make sure that you know exactly what your physical and legal custody division is.

If you do decide to go with a 60/40 custody schedule, it can affect the amount of child support you receive or have to pay. In a 50/50 shared custody split, it’s common for judges to not award child support to either party because they are sharing the time equally, and the assumption is that they are also sharing the cost of living for the children equally because of this. In a 60/40 custody schedule, the judge may award some child support to the parent with the 60%, particularly if there is a large income disparity between the two parties, but it’s likely to be much less than the custodial parent would get in a sole physical custody schedule with the noncustodial parent only getting the children every other weekend.

The last consideration for any type of shared custody schedule is that it requires a great deal of communication and coordination between the parents — particularly in the case of the 2-2-5-5 and 2-2-3 splits where the children are changing houses frequently. If you have a positive co-parenting relationship with the other parent and are able to keep the lines of communication open, this can work very well. However, these kinds of schedules can be difficult if for high-conflict situations. In these cases, it may be better to stick to the 4-3 split or a long weekend schedule so that the schedule stays the same from week to week.

60/40 Custody Schedules and 2houses

Co-parenting apps like 2houses can make it much easier to track and manage joint custody schedules. For example, the calendar app lets you put the custody schedule directly on to the calendar so that you can always see at a glance who the children will be with when. This is especially helpful in the case of more complicated 60/40 custody schedules like the 2-2-5-5 and 2-2-3 options. You can also add all important dates, extracurricular activities, doctors’ appointments or anything else that needs to be taken care of to the calendar so that both parents know exactly what needs to happen on their parenting time without the other parent having to tell them or remind them.

The message feature is also helpful for shared custody situations because it provides an easy way to coordinate with the other parent in a secure way. Children who are often changing houses might have medication that needs to go with them or may forget a sports uniform or report for school, and being able to take care of these things all within the same app is very helpful for efficient communication and automatic documentation purposes.

Find out more about how 2houses can help make your co-parenting journey less stressful and more productive by checking out our features rundown and then signing up for our free 14-day trial so you can see the benefits for yourself.

Tips, Tricks and Talking Points for Setting Up Joint Custody

Joint custody agreement

When it comes to custody situations, there are two main types of custody orders: sole custody and joint custody. Decades ago, sole custody was much more common than joint custody, with most children living with one parent and the other parent being awarded a standard schedule of one afternoon visit a week and every other weekend. However, in recent years, the courts have recognized how important it is for children to have ongoing, close relationships with both parents and have started to move toward more joint custody arrangements. In some states, such as Maine and North Dakota, joint custody is even considered the default standard, and sole custody is only awarded if there are exceptional circumstances that make joint custody not in the best interests of the children.

3 Reasons You May Want to Consider Joint Custody

Whether you are just considering filing for custody and wondering if you should consider a joint custody situation or are wanting to switch from sole custody to joint, there are many reasons why joint custody can be beneficial for both the parents and the children.

1. It Keeps Both Parents Involved

For those that are able to co-parent well, joint custody arrangements can be very helpful. It ensures that both parents can stay active in the children’s lives, which has been shown to be beneficial for the children especially. With a joint custody arrangement, it’s more likely that both parents will be seeing the child on a more frequent basis, and both parents will also have the opportunity to transport the child to extracurricular activities, host sleepovers and playdates and get to be involved in more of the day-to-day aspects of parenting.

2. It Lets You Share the Decision-Making Burden

Having joint legal custody also keeps both parents equally involved in the decision-making process for important issues such as medical care, education and religious upbringing. When all of the burden of making these types of decisions falls on one parent, such as when there is a sole legal custody arrangement, it can be stressful. Many parents find that having joint decision-making ability lets them work together to consider ideas, bounce different options off of each other and come to a decision that both are comfortable with.

3. It Can Give You a Built-In Support System

Joint custody schedules can also ease some of the burden of being a single parent. Being the only parent in the household means there is a lot of responsibility, with most single parents juggling working, taking care of the children and managing the household. If you have a joint custody schedule and a good co-parenting relationship, the other parent can step in and provide some relief if you get called in for an extra shift, need some time to deep clean without children underfoot or just need a night to relax after a stressful day.

Some joint custody schedules include a specific clause for this called the first right of refusal. This basically means that anytime one parent isn’t going to be with the children and would be having them stay with friends or family or hiring a babysitter, the other parent gets the first opportunity to take that time. Only if the other parent refuses, does the first parent then have someone else watch the kids.

Filing for Joint Custody

Filing for joint custody is something you can do yourself, or you can have a lawyer fill out the paperwork. Which way is best depends a great deal on your unique set of circumstances. For example, if you are doing an initial filing for joint custody and your divorce has been amicable and both you and the other parent are in agreement on the custody arrangement, filing with the courts yourself can save you money over getting an attorney.

However, in situations where you are asking for joint custody when a sole custody order is already in place or if the custody situation is already contentious, it may be best to have an attorney handle things so that you can be sure the paperwork is filled out appropriately and all of your specific needs have been addressed in the filing.

Exactly how to file for joint custody varies by state, and the process may also be different if you are trying to change an existing custody order instead of doing an original filing. Below, we’ve listed the general steps as well as special considerations to be aware of depending on your situation.

1. Find Out What Paperwork You Need

Every state has a specific form that must be filed for joint custody. If you already have a custody order in place, this may be called something like a Motion for Reallocation of Parenting Responsibilities. If it’s the first custody filing for the case, it may just be the Shared Parenting Agreement that you file along with your divorce paperwork. Make sure you have the correct paperwork for your situation.

2. Gather Your Documentation

If you are requesting a modification to an existing custody order, you will need to show the court cause as to why the change is needed. Keep in mind that courts always go by what they believe is in the best interests of the children, which means your documentation needs to reflect that. It can be difficult to change from sole custody to joint custody, as some states have laws that only allow for this change if certain circumstances, such as a job loss, addiction issue or abuse, are happening. A change in custody also often affects child support, so you may need to provide recent income documentation so the courts can decide if the child support order also needs to be adjusted.

3. File With the Courts

Once you have all of the correct paperwork and corresponding documentation, you’re ready to file. If you are filing yourself, you may have to pay a small filing fee when you file the papers with the clerk of courts. You may also need to pay for the other parent to be served the papers. If you are using an attorney, these fees are usually included in the retainer amount, and you will receive an itemized statement that shows what the cost was.

4. Attend the Hearing

While it may take a while to get it completed and ready to send in, filing the custody paperwork with the courts is really only the first step. Once the filing has been accepted, you will be given a hearing date. Both parents will need to attend the hearing, and the best-case scenario is that the final decision will be made that day and you will leave the courthouse with temporary paperwork that explains the updated custody arrangement while you wait for your official copy to arrive from the court.

However, custody decisions are notorious for being drawn out, especially in cases where the parents are not in agreement. If you want joint custody and the other parent doesn’t, your case may be sent on for further hearings where both sides will be able to present documentation and even have witnesses and experts provide testimony as to why the proposed joint custody arrangement is or isn’t in the best interests of the children. Even after the judge has made a decision, there is still the possibility of an appeal.

5. Keep Your Paperwork

Once the custody agreement has been finalized, make sure to keep your official copy from the courts where you can access it easily. You may need it as a reference for how to handle things like summer vacations, birthdays and other holidays as well as other special circumstances like the children participating in extracurricular activities on the other parent’s time.

Making Joint Custody Arrangements Work

When it comes to any situation that involves parents who are no longer in a relationship and their children, the focus is always on the best interests of the children. This is what the courts look at in making custody determinations, and it’s what both parties should keep in mind as they co-parent.

Frequent, open communication and a focus on the children is the best way to facilitate joint custody, and 2Houses can help. 2Houses makes it easy to keep dates and custody schedules straight with its joint calendar feature, and you can easily upload practice dates, birthday parties and parent-teacher conferences so both parents have access to the children’s schedules at all times. Keeping track of splitting payments for program fees, school supplies and medical care is easy with the financial tracker that shows who is responsible for which portion of what bill. And there’s a built-in messaging feature so you can keep all communication and information in one place and not have to worry about keeping records of texts or emails.

No matter what kind of custody schedule you end up with, keeping the lines of communication open and making the children the number one priority can help you better navigate co-parenting.

Co-Parenting With a Narcissist – Learn How to Deal

Co-parenting

Many people don’t hear the word narcissist to describe their partner until well after the relationship has ended, but once they start learning more about this type of personality disorder, a lot of what happened with the relationship, the breakup and the attempts at co-parenting after starts to make sense.

The Mayo Clinic defines a narcissist as someone who has “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.” Learn more about this type of behavior and some tips on how to deal with a co-parent who is a narcissist.

4 Signs You May Be Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

How do you recognize a narcissist? The general traits are lack of empathy, a disregard for other people’s feelings and an extreme need for approval and attention from others. But what does this look like when it comes to the co-parenting relationship? Here are just a few of the common signs of a narcissist co-parent.

1. The Blame Is Always on You

Narcissists often live in a world where they can do nothing wrong and any issue is always the other person’s fault. In co-parenting situations, this can manifest in a variety of ways, but one of the most common is surrounding scheduling issues. For example, they cancelled a weekend with no notice, but they send you a message saying that you just make it too hard for them to see the kids. Or they miss a recital and blame you for not telling them about it even though the information was readily available to them.

2. They Lie

Narcissists are not known for their honesty, and they often lie with little regard to the consequences it has for other people. A narcissistic parent might say they are on their way to pick up the children only to inform you an hour later that they aren’t coming at all, or they might promise the kids a big birthday party only to go away on a solo trip that weekend.

3. They Seem to Enjoy the Conflict

Co-parenting has its conflicts no matter how good the overall relationship is, but narcissists often create conflict where there isn’t any and actually enjoy the attention and focus that comes from that conflict. For example, maybe the other parent has asked to switch you weekends and you’ve agreed. The narcissist parent may then try to create drama by saying something like, “I don’t know why you don’t want me to see the kids.” This creates confusion for the healthy parent because they have given the other parent what they want but is being accused of something that’s not happening. These tactics are often referred to as gaslighting.

4. They Use the Children Against You

One of the most common characteristics of a narcissistic parent is that they use the children as weapons against the other parent. They might insist on using the children to communicate messages that should be sent directly from parent to parent even after being asked not to, or they may threaten to treat the children badly or disappoint them as a way to punish the healthy parent for establishing boundaries.

For example, the narcissist is texting you several times a day, telling you what a bad parent you are or how you aren’t doing a good job. You decide to start ignoring the messages and not responding. The narcissist might escalate their behavior by refusing to come get the children for their weekend because you wouldn’t “communicate” even though answering those texts had nothing to do with the visit. In this case, the narcissist is trying to make you feel bad or guilty for not doing what they wanted you to do because now the children will be disappointed that they are missing their visit.

Another common tactic with this is to speak negatively about the healthy parent to the children. Narcissist parents might tell their children how sorry they are that the other parent isn’t a good parent or tell them that the other parent lies, does drugs or any manner of other things that aren’t true but are designed to make the child question the healthy parent.

Strategies for Parallel Parenting

We talk a lot about co-parenting at 2Houses, but there are times where it’s just not possible. A situation where one parent is a narcissist, or is exhibiting narcissistic behavior, is one of those times. Co-parenting requires both parents to be actively putting the children’s needs and interests above their own and to be mature enough to be able to have a cooperative, civil relationship with the other parent. With narcissists, this usually is not the case.

So, what can you do to improve the parenting situation when you are dealing with a narcissist? One of the best strategies to use is called parallel parenting. Basically, it’s taking an approach that — as much as possible — what happens at their house is their business and what happens at your house is yours. Here, we provide some tips for making parallel parenting work.

1. Practice Gray Rock

If you haven’t heard of gray rock before, it probably sounds a little weird. But it comes from the premise that narcissists need fuel from the other parent in the form of emotion. Narcissists actively try to get you emotional so that you will be upset, be angry or lash out. Now, think about a gray rock you might see in your yard or at the park. It’s not very interesting, right? All one color, nothing remarkable about it. This is your goal when dealing with narcissists — to become like a gray rock.

This isn’t as easy as it first seems because, again, a narcissist’s main goal is to get you upset, and they are usually very good at it. Couple that with the fact that this person has been in a very close relationship with you for probably a substantial amount of time, and they know just what to do to get that reaction from you.

When you’re trying to gray rock, focus on being as unemotional as possible and responding with facts. Try to stay out of arguments, responding only when there are direct questions relevant to the children that you must answer. The less you can communicate with a narcissist the better.

2. Set Yourself Up for as Little Contact as Possible

Even parallel parenting requires a certain amount of coordination with the other parent, but again, the less contact you have with the narcissist the better. This is where the 2Houses co-parenting app becomes a very useful tool. It allows you to put all of the information, such as important dates, sports schedules, reimbursement requests and even scheduling issues all on the app, removing the direct contact between you and the other parent.

By doing this, the other parent doesn’t need to ask you for things like Social Security numbers or insurance information — those things will already be in the information bank that they can access with you. If the other parent does send messages about this type of information, you can reply with a simple, “It’s in the information bank on the app” — a very gray rock response.

In extreme cases, you may also need to limit contact to only the app and refuse to communicate through phone calls, texts or emails. Some family court judges even mandate this type of in-app communication in high-conflict cases now because there is an instant and easily accessible record of when messages were sent, when they were read and what was in them.

3. Have a Conversation With Your Children

Whether you suspect the other parent is a narcissist or you know they have been diagnosed as such, it’s important not to tell your children this or otherwise speak negatively about the other parent. However, it is a good idea to explain to them matter of factly and without emotion how you are going to handle things.

For example, maybe your children complain at your house that they have a bedtime while at the other parent’s house, they are allowed to stay up as late as they want. You can just explain that “there are different rules for different houses” or simply state that you can’t do anything about what happens over there so you are just going to focus on how things are in your own home.

Children are quick to figure out many of the narcissist’s manipulation tactics including gaslighting, speaking negatively about the healthy parent, pitting siblings against each other or using the children as pawns to get to the other parent. The best thing you can do is model healthy behavior, refuse to engage with the narcissist and let your children know that you are there for whatever they need.

For more information on what makes 2Houses special and how it can help you co-parent with a narcissist, check out our features explanation and contact us today.