The Difficulties that Come with Moving On
The divorce process is difficult on everyone, but over time, you can move past it. Though the process is different for everyone, you will likely date again. Learning how to navigate dating post-divorce can be challenging, especially when you have children. Furthermore, you may be concerned that your dating life will interfere with your co-parenting relationship.
Every family is unique, and co-parenting relationships are no different. A successful co-parenting relationship requires open communication and a willingness to be flexible. However, knowing how much to communicate about your new relationship to your ex can feel very nebulous. Despite the anxiety and stress that come with integrating your new relationship into your life, it can be done. Many families can successfully co-parent while also having a successful new relationship.
To learn more about adjusting to a new relationship post-divorce, read our blog on introducing a stepparent to your family.
How to Keep Your Co-Parenting Relationship on Track
When you have a new partner, you naturally want them to feel welcome and accepted into your family. But suppose you have children with an ex-spouse. In that case, you are also likely worried about ensuring that your children’s lives are stable and that your co-parenting relationship remains beneficial and healthy. This can be a tricky balance to strike, but not impossible. Below you will find some tips for keeping your co-parenting relationship on track after introducing a new partner.
Remember, the New Partner Doesn’t Replace Your Child’s Parent
It is not easy when an ex-spouse begins a new romantic relationship or gets remarried. Whether you are the custodial parent or not, many people fear the new stepparent taking over or replacing them in their children’s lives. However, you will always be your child’s parent, and no new relationship can change that. Work with your ex to find ways to nourish and reaffirm your existing parental relationship with your children.
When adjusting to a new stepparent, it’s helpful to think of the new addition as a bonus to your existing family, not a replacement or a hindrance. Even when you have mixed feelings, try to focus on the positives the new person brings to your child’s life.
Discuss Expectations and Boundaries with Your Ex
Whether you are introducing a new partner to your ex or vice versa, a huge help in keeping your co-parenting relationship effective is setting clear expectations and boundaries. Understanding the role the new person will play in the family is vital. Additionally, having an open discussion about expectations can help both parents feel more secure and prevent future misunderstandings.
Topics worth discussing include:
- How will the new relationship impact the day-to-day life of the children?
- Will any household rules or routines be changing?
- How do the co-parents plan to back each other up?
- Will the new partner have any child-care or household responsibilities?
- How will discipline be handled now that there is a new adult in the family?
- What will happen if the new partner is in a position where they have to discipline the children?
- How will the communication between the new partner and your co-parent be handled?
- How will special occasions, such as graduations, recitals, etc. be handled?
These discussions are also worth having with your children as well as a whole family. When appropriate, discuss what your new family will look like with the children. They will likely have their own anxieties and concerns. Addressing their fears openly can help smooth the transition as your blended family grows.
Even in the best of situations, problems will arise. It can be very difficult to avoid a “us vs them” attitude in these situations, especially if you aren’t on the best of terms with your ex. When this happens, do your best to communicate openly with your former spouse about what is going on, and try to approach the problem as a family. Typically, when co-parents work together, they are more likely to find a successful resolution.
In some situations, it may be appropriate to involve the new partner in discussions, especially if they are directly affected by the problem at hand. Typically, decision-making will remain with the co-parents, but there may be space for the new partner to join in conversations and offer suggestions.
Click here for more tips on communicating with your ex regarding co-parenting issues.
You May Benefit from Family Counseling
If you are struggling with a co-parenting relationship after introducing a new partner into your family, counseling may benefit you and your family. Often when someone remarries, difficult emotions associated with the divorce will resurface. Your children may be overwhelmed by the change or have other anxieties related to the dramatic change in their lives. Additionally, your new partner may be struggling to figure out how they fit into the family.
A qualified therapist or family counselor can be a great resource to help you and your family adjust smoothly. Whether seen individually or as a group, a counselor can also help you deal with co-parenting issues as they arise and generally help you feel more supported during the difficult transition.
Reach Out to Your Lawyer When Necessary
At TRABOLSI | LEVY | GABBARD LLP, we are passionate about helping families deal with the changes that come post-divorce. When people remarry or get new partners, existing parenting plans, custody, or support orders may be insufficient to deal with the change in circumstances. When this happens, you may wish to seek a modification to those orders. If this sounds like your situation, contact our law office to discuss your situation. Our attorneys are highly experienced and can help guide you throughout the modification process.
Consider Mediation when in a Dispute
Not all co-parenting relationships are amicable, especially if you just went through an acrimonious divorce. Sitting down to have a discussion with your ex may be next to impossible. In these situations, many co-parents find it beneficial to work out problems with a mediator. Mediation offers a dispute resolution alternative to going to court.
Click here to learn more about successful co-parenting relationships.