When child custody is contested in a divorce action, there is inevitably increased court intervention and heightened animosity between the parties, as both are competing to demonstrate that he or she is the “better” parent. Often times, in doing so, each party not only has to set forth their own parental merits, but must also bring to light the other parent’s perceived deficits. As one can imagine, this does not foster a warm and cooperative relationship between the parties. Unfortunately, when all is said and done, and custody is resolved by agreement or court Order, one thing is certain…………..the parties will need to parent their child(ren) together for a long time to come.
While residential custody refers to where a child will live, joint legal custody refers to how major child-related decisions will be made. When a party has sole custody, he/she is the parent who makes these decisions. In the event the parties have joint legal custody, they must consult with each other and try to reach an accord regarding major decisions. In the event of a stalemate, mechanisms are in place to allow the decision to be made expeditiously. Some of these mechanisms include: the use of a parent coordinator or “spheres of influence (one party has final say in certain child-related decisions and the other parent has final say regarding others).
Whether the divorce is amicable or acrimonious, co-parenting needs to be a conscious decision, which needs to be re-visited, assessed and adjusted on an ongoing basis, as the child(ren) get older, and/or other circumstances change.
The importance of co-parenting cannot be overstated, as it can have both short and long term effects on the welfare of the child(ren) and even the parties themselves. Divorcing parties do not have to like each other, but......they DO need to love their child(ren) more than they dislike each other.