Maybe you get along okay with your kid’s mom. Maybe you think to yourself after a successful drop off, “This whole separation thing isn’t too bad,” or “We can totally do this. For the kids!” But then your ex calls spitting fireballs of anger because they can’t find your kid’s insurance information or doctor’s name. Or they freak out because they claim you promised them the day after Thanksgiving, but none of you can find the text message thread. Ask yourself: Am I making some of the biggest, but easiest to remedy, coParenting mistakes?
We’ve identified these six common coParenting mistakes plus easy solutions that any coParent can implement.
1. Spending thousands of dollars to create a Parenting Plan.
When it comes to a Parenting Plan, the schedule that lays out whose house your kids will visit and when, many coParents initially take their “time” schedule squabbles to court. But once the dust settles(and the divorce or separation does too), life can require changes to the court agreed upon visitation calendar. “You don’t have to go to court,” says mediator and retired judge, Hon.Sherrill Ellsworth. “Many common coParenting issues can be settled between parents without spending a dime.” If coParents are able to set aside their differences and can agree to the changes they’d like to make to their Parenting Plan, court involvement is not necessary. Documentation, however, is key.
Keeping track of any and all changes to a child’s Parenting Plan is necessary to make sure coParents stay organized AND have backup should one coParent “forget” what the two agreed on.
2. Not saving receipts for expenses.
Should you save receipts for every trip to Chipotle? Or only big things like soccer registration and recital costumes? The answer depends on you and your coParent’s relationship. It could be that child support and how you spend that support are sensitive subjects. Or timely reimbursement for agreed upon items is the issue. Either way keeping track can save you time — and money — in the end. Keeping as many child expense-related receipts as possible is a solid way to minimize money arguments down the line. Snap a picture of that itemized list of school supplies or stuff the receipt into an envelope in your car. Keeping track of what you spend and when will help remove any doubt from your coParent’s mind about how you’re using “their money.” And, as an added bonus, you may be inspired to create a personal or household budget too.
3. Not keeping ALL communication between you and your coParent.
Somewhere in the message chain between you and your ex you used a cuss word. Woops. Wanting to forget all about it you hastily select the delete button and then accidentally erase the entire thread. But your coParent does too because they’re in a bad mood. Now there’s no record of you calling out your coParent’s behavior, but there’s also no record of your upcoming Easter weekend with your kid. No one wins here. Using a system or platform that prevents messages from going missing is especially important when it comes to chats about your most precious asset – your children.
4. Not being flexible about holiday schedule changes.
Many families rely on lawyers and the court to finalize – and then change – their holiday visitation schedule. Families often believe they have to call their lawyer if something comes up – like a trip to Whistler over winter break. Unless stipulated otherwise, coParents can agree to change the schedule as needed WITHOUT spending big bucks and hours in line at the courthouse. Scheduling flexibility, especially during holidays, is a great way to build goodwill between you, your coParent, and your kids. Be sure to note, however, that tracking new agreements and the changes that result are extremely important.
5. Not keeping your kid’s important information in one place.
Here’s the scenario: Your daughter steals the ball from the opponent and dribbles her way across the court to score a game-winning layup, but when she lands she sprains her ankle. She’s with you because you switched Friday nights with your ex who’s out of town.Unfortunately, your ex has all of the new pediatrician’s info AND your daughter’s insurance card. Moral of the story: insurance, doctor, and other important information need to be updated as it changes and kept in a place where BOTH parents can easily access it.
6. Not seeking professional help.
Your coParenting relationship has always been easy until your ex met her new fiance. Now she seems distracted, is late for drop-offs and doesn’t remember to communicate important information. You’ve tried to talk to her, but she assures you that she’s “handling it,” but doesn’t seem too concerned about the lateness issue. You’re not sure what to do and are tempted to call your lawyer.
While attorneys can be an important part of your coParenting team and may be necessary at times, there are many other less expensive resources that can help you reach your coParenting goals. From mediators to therapists, don’t be afraid to Get Help. Even the most collaborative former couples can benefit from retooling their approach to coParenting. Balancing the responsibilities of life and raising children is no easy feat. Being willing to adjust your coParenting strategy to account for inevitable changes and save your family time and money will undoubtedly lead to happier coParents and children.
Are you making one of the six coParenting blunders we’ve identified above? Have a tip we haven’t thought of? Comment here or contact us.