Meeting the Challenge of Shared Parental Rights and Responsibilities:
According to a recent study by the National Institute of Health, one of the most commonly reported causes of divorce is “conflict and arguing” between couples. In another study of 886 divorcing parents in Hennepin County, Minnesota, the two most common reasons given for seeking a divorce were “growing apart” (55%) and “not able to talk together” (53%).
When a divorce is finally granted, however, the court will usually issue a shared parental rights order. By law, this order requires parents to communicate regarding their children’s welfare and important decisions such as those involving education, medical issues, religious issues and activities.
A logical parent might ask: “If our poor communication was one of the key reasons we got divorced, how in the world can we be expected to communicate and make decisions together about our kids?”
Kids First was created, in part, to address this question and to give divorcing and separating parents new skills to co-parent. Why? We know that parents who are excluded from decision making are more likely to have negative feelings towards the other parent which of course will have a detrimental impact on the children who are exposed to parental conflict or lack of communication.
I have had the privilege of teaching these skills to hundreds of parents over the course of my 20 years as a Kids First facilitator. Here are five ways to help develop a workable co-parenting relationship:
Of course, co-parenting is a journey that requires vigilance, persistence, and patience. My own parents divorced when I was a teenager and although they had disagreements, they maintained a positive relationship and kept the conflict away from me and my brothers. The bottom line: Your children will benefit when you develop better communication habits that allow you to make decisions together with your child’s other parent.
DAVID C. WEBB, Esq., is a lawyer and mediator specializing in family, special education and civil rights matters. He has been a Kids First Facilitator since 2002 and has facilitated conflict resolution workshops in Israel and Ireland and at the Seeds of Peace International Camp. David is a Co-Recipient of the 2010 Cleaves Award from the Maine Bar Association for his work with high conflict divorcing parents.
 Of course, Parents should not communicate with each other in the event that a protection from abuse order has been issued by the court or if other potential domestic violence issues exist between the parents.
“I learned how important our behavior (verbal and non-verbal) is, and how it impacts our children. How I can rise above all issues, and just focus on my babies.”
“What I learned was that the best thing I can do for my kids is to say something good about their other parent!”
“I appreciated the focus on how many different relationships my/our kids are dealing with.”
“I learned I am in control of my behavior; I can’t control my co-parent!”
“I received validation; it helped to know that I’m not alone. I appreciated the section on preparing for court – that is coming up soon and I am scared.”