Going through a divorce is one of the most traumatic, emotional and expensive times in any person's life. It's sometimes hard to know what to do first, where to go for help, and how to put the pieces of life back together as you and your children navigate through the days to your new normal.
If you're divorcing and have children, one of the most important things to understand is, your relationship with your spouse never ends. You both will always be family to your children. One of the ways to put that new normal into play early is through mediation, a process by which you and your spouse come to an agreement about the terms of your divorce. You'll meet with a neutral third party, a mediator, and talk through the issues you need to resolve to move ahead with the divorce.
One of the most powerful and positive things you can create through mediation is a co-parenting agreement. It is a joint, non-binding contract that lays out, ahead of time, how you will parent your children from different households.
A co-parenting agreement is designed to outline your shared responsibility and how you will handle not only custody of the children but how you both will parent them going forward. It is intended to head off typical sources of disagreement and discord between ex-spouses. Types of discord that can occur: Who picks up the children at school on which day? What sorts of information about school and activities do you share with each other? Remember, if one child had a meltdown at school and got sent to the principal's office on any given day, you and your spouse would be talking about it together after dinner. If it happens again when you're divorced, are you obligated to call him or her? These are the types of issues a co-parenting agreement works out.
What you choose to outline in the contract is up to you. Here are some starting places:
- Activities: Who can go to school events and other activities, regardless of if they fall on their custodial day.
- Information sharing: This can include communication about school events, homework expectations and extracurriculars. It can also include names and phone numbers of friends and other parents, and information about a child's school life, and any emergency medical treatment the child receives.
- Decisions: Decisions about the child will be made with input from both spouses.
- Disagreements and problems: How you and your ex-spouse will resolve any issues that come up. It may or may not include mediation or law enforcement.
- Code of conduct: This states that you cannot denigrate or demean the spouse to your children, you must treat each other with respect and dignity, and make the child's needs the first priority. You will not intentionally be late to pick up your children and generally act like a human being with your child's needs coming first.
At Harbor West, we specialize in helping people going through divorces, so that you can concentrate on getting through this emotional time without worrying about money.
This information is provided for general purposes and is subject to change without notice. Every effort has been made to compile this material from reliable sources; however, no warranty can be made as to its accuracy or completeness. Before acting on any of the information, please consult your Financial Advisor for individual financial advice based on your personal circumstances.