The Importance of Co-parenting – Part One
The definition of co-parenting as defined in the online Your Dictionary “is a process where two parents work together to raise a child even though they are divorced or separated and no longer live together. An example of co-parenting is when a divorced mother and father share legal and physical custody of a child.” Couples who have never married or even lived together but still share the birth or adoption of a child are also candidates for co-parenting. In fact, in the state of Florida where Family Law statutes use the phrase “In the best interest of the child” as their guideline, co-parenting or parallel-parenting is a requirement under the term “parental time-sharing” unless, for example, there is a situation where a parent is in jail, on drugs, or has been convicted of domestic violence.
Parental time-sharing involves evenly dividing the time spent with minor children both in overnights and time spent together with their child. Before final adjudication for a dissolution of marriage (divorce) or child support of non-married parents a parenting plan must be drawn up which will detail, for example, how such things as means of communication between parents and parent and child, places of pick-up and drop-off, who is able to care for the child when a parent is not available, the schedule for overnights and time spent with each parent, and what school and/or childcare for preschoolers and after school care will be used. Additionally, all decisions regarding medical, educational, religious, and discipline for the minor child will be made by both parents deciding, together, what is best. In Florida, a parenting class approved by the state must be attended by each parent as a requirement for final adjudication for child support and/or dissolution of marriage.
But why is co-parenting so important now when for many years the legal term of child custody with primary custody going to one parent was in place? It seems so much simpler for the parents not to have to confer each time a decision affecting the minor child needs to be made. Too, sometimes one parent doesn’t really want to spend much time with their child as Florida law now requires. Research on the effects post separation has on the healthy development, physically, mentally, and spiritually of children has shown that without a doubt a child suffers who does not feel equally loved and cared for by each parent. Co-parenting, at its best, will give this security and assurance to a child’s development. This form of post separation child rearing is “in the best interest of the child”.
A word of caution, however. When parents cannot get along and there is continual conflict due to one or both parents frequent put-downs and accusations of the other parent, often in front of the child, co-parenting does not work well. Another option is now available in most states, including Florida, which is called “parallel-parenting”. Part two of this blog will address the reasons for parallel parenting and how it can work to better ensure the healthy development of children following a parental separation.