Co-Parenting During a Washington State Divorce: Advice from a Seattle Family Law Attorney

Divorce is tough, and trying to co-parent during one can be particularly difficult. To sucessfully co-parent and transition to seperate households while also coming up with a long  term parenting arrangement is no simple task even when the divorcing couple is getting  along.

Here are some tips to help you and your family reduce divorce related stress and transition as  smoothly as possible into co-parenting.

Know the law and monitor your parenting accordingly

Negotiating a residential schedule and comprehensive parenting plan will almost always involve some disagreement between spouses. So, it’s important to establish and maintain a strong legal position to pursue your preferred divorce outcome.In Seattle divorce cases, where a parent’s time is not restricted by law due to abuse, willful neglect, or related reasons, a court uses a “best interests of the child” standard and looks at 7 factors to determine a residential schedule. The factor given the greatest weight is “The relative strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent”. See RCW 26.09.187 (3). The key point to keep in mind is that your actions during the divorce process will be put under a microscope by your spouse and the court. This is the time to maintain and even increase your parenting involvement, strictly comply with court orders, and be the best parent you can be.

Incorporate routines to help lessen the chaos in divorce proceedings

With the significant changes to your children’s lives, it’s important to create a new routine that closely matches the one that they’re used to and comfortable with. The court favors maintaining the status quo that children know and do well with. Ensuring that much of their day-to-day life will be unaffected is a great way to help kids to adjust and realize that everything will be OK.

Consistency is the key to helping children adjust to the reality of co-parenting

Some couples get along well enough to manage with informal visitation schedules; others need to adhere to court-ordered plans. Whichever the case is for you, it’s vital that you remain consistent regarding spending time with your kids. If you have no choice but to miss a visitation, contact your spouse immediately and arrange a make-up time.

Parental consistency and stabilityarebeneficial for your children, but they also play a role in custody disputes. Family law judges and commissioners look poorly upon failure to follow visitation schedules without good cause (e.g., work related obligations, health emergencies, etc) when making decisions regarding the residential schedule.

Buffer your children fromdisagreements

Children don’t understand the dynamics of adult relationships. Avoid talking about the divorce with your kids. Age appropriate explanations of what is happening may be suitable to help a child understand the changes taking place in their life, but do not let provide details regarding the case or your relationship with the other parent. Save your “side of the story” for your friends and other adults.

In fact, expressing negative opinions and ratcheting up open conflict with the other parent will serve as a basis for a finding of parenting alienation or abuse of conflict that may limit your residential time.

Never engage in an argument with your spouse in front of your children. If you need to address a grievance with your spouse in the presence of your children, do so in a calm voice.Whenever possible ask to talk privately, and in no circumstances should you encourage your children to take sides in a dispute.

Unfortunately some couples are unable to interact in a civil manner. If talking with your spouse inevitably involves hostility, consider hiring a child custody attorney in Seattle to draw up a formal parenting plan to minimize face-to-face contact. Such plans provide detailed provisions governing exchanges of your children.

Weintraub Law Office in Bellevuehas substantial experience in managing divorces which involve child custody and can help create innovative solutions to avoid needless conflict with your spouse.

Don’t compare your situation to others you know who have hired a Seattle divorce attorney

Every family is different and there is no magic formula for determining the right visitation schedule for a family. An experienced family law attorney can assist in developing a plan that is tailor-made to your kids’ needs and legally feasible.

Communicate in writing, but be mindful of your words

Text messages and email are convenient mediums for you and your spouse to communicate about goals, concerns, and upcoming plans that relate to your kids. Often having access to a written record of your dealings with your spouse can help todiminish confusion and misunderstandings.As an added bonus, electronic communication with your ex lowers the risk of emotional flare-ups.

But – deliberate carefully before you push “send.” Remember that anything you write or publish could one day end up in front of the judge. Best practice is to completely avoid use of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter as platforms for talking about your divorce.

Your feelings are important, but keep the focus on your kids.

Few things in life are as difficult as ending your marriage. The accompanying anxiety affects the whole family, including the children. Not only are they concerned about you and your spouse, but they’re nervous about what’sgoing to happen to them.

Ask your kids how they’re feeling. Touch base with the other adults in your kids’ lives to make sure they aren’t falling behind in school or losing interest in extra-curricular activities. Teachers, coaches, and counselors can provide great insight into how your children are handling the divorce, as often kids put up a front when discussing the issue with their parents.

When spending time with your kids, stay positive. No matter how down you feel about getting divorced, it is not your child’s responsibility to be your shoulder to cry on. You need to be there for them, and not the other way around.