Divorce is never easy and usually involves significant life changes. Choosing to co-parent amicably can help your child adjust and thrive in their new family structure.
When you decide to co-parent, you work together to raise your child. Both of you have an input into the decisions and share responsibility for your children. You document your plan for co-parenting with the court in your parenting plan when you divorce.
Joint Custody and Tips for Co-Parenting in Washington State
Washington state no longer uses the term “custody” when describing care and responsibility for a child after a divorce. Instead, every Washington divorce decree must include a parenting plan agreed on by the parents and approved by the court. The plan must consider the child’s best interests.
According to the Revised Code of Washington § 26.09.184 and § 26.09.187, divorcing couples must include the following in their parenting plan:
- A strategy for addressing future disagreements,
- Each parent’s decision-making authority,
- The child’s living arrangements,
- Each parent’s contribution to the child’s physical care,
- An assessment of the effect on the child’s emotional stability,
- A plan for the child’s care as they grow and mature, and
- Measures to limit the child’s exposure to harmful parental conflict.
Today’s parenting plans usually include shared responsibilities and time with the child (traditionally called “joint custody”).
Washington courts prefer plans that foster a relationship between the child and both parents while addressing the child’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The most successful parenting arrangements are the ones the parents create with amicable co-parenting as the focus.
Our law firm can guide you through the process of creating and managing your parenting plan, whether it’s your first draft or a contested modification. Since 1977, our lawyers have helped families in Tacoma navigate parenting plans and family court. We put together these co-parenting tips based on what has worked for our clients.
Tip 1: Communicate Effectively
Effective communication is crucial in co-parenting. If you want to communicate effectively, it’s helpful to do the following:
- Use clear, direct language;
- Listen actively and avoid criticism and blame;
- Focus on asking questions when things are unclear to help find solutions to problems; and
- Use the most effective type of communication, like phone calls, texts, or emails.
Remember that effective communication is a two-way street, and both parents need to be willing to put in the effort to make it work. With clear and open communication, co-parenting can be a positive and successful experience for everyone involved.
Tip 2: Set Clear Boundaries
Establishing clear boundaries and expectations can help ensure that each parent understands their roles and responsibilities. When drafting your parenting plan, clearly define each parent’s role in decision-making, discipline, and anything else you feel is important. Once you outline a schedule for pick-up and drop-off, holidays, and special events, stick to the plan. Treat such interactions with your co-parent as a business transaction and avoid discussing parenting issues with your children. Communicate openly and be willing to adjust to unexpected circumstances.
By setting clear boundaries, both parents will better understand their responsibilities and can work together effectively to raise their children. Remember that you may need to revisit and modify the boundaries as the children’s and the parent’s needs change over time.
Tip 3: Be Consistent
Consistency in parenting styles, discipline, and daily routines helps to ensure that children know what you expect of them. If you can manage to agree to similar rules and methods of discipline, this can help your child feel a sense of stability and security.
Tip 4: Focus on the Children
Remember that co-parenting is about the children, not the parents. By keeping the focus on the children, both parents can work together to provide a stable and secure environment for them. Make your child’s needs a priority. Avoid using your children as messengers to communicate with the other parent, and refrain from badmouthing the other parent at all costs. Encourage and support a positive relationship with the other parent.
Tip 5: Be Flexible
Flexibility doesn’t mean giving up your own needs or values. It means being open and willing to adjust when necessary to ensure that your children’s needs are met. If you are open to adjustments, this can help reduce stress and conflicts with the other parent—and this is always good for your child. Try to remain flexible and willing to adapt to unforeseen circumstances and your children’s changing needs as they grow. Trying new approaches can help to improve communication and cooperation. Be willing to listen to the other parent’s perspective and find a solution that works for everyone.
Tip 6: Seek Professional Help if Needed
Seeking professional help doesn’t mean that you’re failing as a parent. It means you’re taking steps to learn how to work with your ex so you can meet your children’s needs. A therapist or counselor can help you improve communication and cooperation and provide strategies for resolving conflicts. They can help you address the children’s emotional needs and support you if you deal with guilt, anger, or resentment. You can also use therapy to prepare for high-conflict situations that you see coming up in the near future. The right therapist or counselor has experience with co-parenting issues and is someone you feel comfortable with.
Tips for Co-Parenting with Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S.
Co-parenting can be challenging, but effective communication, clear boundaries, consistency, and a focus on your children’s needs can make it successful. By communicating effectively, being consistent and flexible, and seeking professional help, you can raise your children well with your co-parent.
When drafting your parenting plan, remember that co-parenting is about the children and their well-being, not the parents. These tips can make co-parenting a positive experience for everyone involved.
The attorneys at Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S., have helped hundreds of Tacoma families develop a parenting plan that fits them best. Our attorneys understand that parenting through a divorce can be challenging. We work collaboratively within our firm to develop the most efficient plan for you. You can trust our attorneys to resolve your parenting disputes quickly and efficiently. Call today.