Divorce means the end of a marriage, that’s true. After a divorce, you’ll no longer be husband and wife – but if you have children together, you’ll always be mom and dad. That means that you’ll be co-parenting together, even after your divorce is finalized and life begins to move on in other ways. One of those other ways might include one, or both of you, finding a new partner and eventually remarrying. Wanting to do so is understandable, and the right partner can be a valuable addition not only to your life but to the lives of your children as well. It’s important to remember, however, that even when a new partner or spouse comes into the picture, you’ll still have to continue to co-parent with your ex effectively as well. The question is, how do you do that?
Regardless of how long you have been divorced, it can be difficult to confront the reality of moving on – whether it is you, or your spouse who has a new partner. Despite this difficulty, it is well worth it to make the effort to continue to co-parent as cooperatively and effectively as possible. While a new partner entering your children’s lives is a significant change, approaching that change with a positive attitude can make all the difference in the co-parenting dynamic you have going forward – and to the overall health and happiness of your children.
What is Co-Parenting, Anyway?
If you are divorced or separated but have actively been working with your children’s other biological parent to continue to ensure that you are both active and involved in your children’s lives – then you are already co-parenting. Co-parenting is simply just the act of sharing responsibility for raising your children and committing to communicating and cooperating toward that end. Co-parenting begins the moment you have your children, and hopefully, regardless of whether you remain married or not, continues as a committed, concerted effort by both parents throughout their children’s lives.
In relationships where the parents are still married, co-parenting is, in theory, more simple – although that’s certainly not to say that there aren’t bumps along the way. After a divorce, however, co-parenting can quickly become more complex – especially when you or your ex begins dating someone new. Co-parenting with an ex’s new spouse or partner can be a challenge, to say the least, especially in the initial stages of building the relationship. It’s hard to think of allowing someone else to have a measure of responsibility for your children’s well-being, and that’s understandable. It’s important to make the effort to do so, however.
If your ex’s new partner is a good person who is likely to be a good influence, it’s worth putting aside any hard feelings or difficulties you may have to ensure that your children’s best interests are put first. Let’s take a look together at a few tips to help you work towards that goal:
- Talk to your children: This is perhaps the first and most important step of all. Introducing a new person into any child’s life – particularly a person who will have a prominent role and who will be around the children often and helping you to co-parent– is a big step. It’s not something you want to spring on your children without warning. For anyone considering dating or remarrying, slowly introducing the new partner to the co-parenting process is important. Make changes gradually, and keep your children involved each step of the way. Allow them to be open and honest about their feelings and be willing to take the necessary time to listen. It will make the process easier for your children, and everyone else as well.
- Avoid attempts to influence your children’s feelings: Without question, the introduction of a new parental figure into the lives of your children can be emotionally difficult. That’s understandable. But it’s important to keep in mind that as new partners entering your children’s lives become more involved with your children, your children will likely form emotional attachments to them. While it’s only human to find a change of this nature a little painful, it’s important to encourage those new bonds that are forming and to avoid being disparaging about your ex or their new partner when your children are around. Ultimately, if the new partner is a good person, the chances are that they will likely be a good influence who can play a positive role in your children’s lives – and your children will simply have even more adults who love and care for them. That’s a good thing, and even though it may be difficult at times, it’s something to encourage.
- Talk to your ex and set boundaries: Moving on is part of life. After a marriage ends, it is likely that one (or both) spouses will eventually find someone new. Even so, it will always be true that you and your ex, together, are the parents of your children. As a result, you should be committed to discussing and deciding together how you will introduce new partners into your children’s lives, and what boundaries you will have. This will be unique to each family, but it’s important to think these issues through. Ask yourself important questions like:
- What role might the new spouse or partner play concerning making important decisions for, or on behalf of your child?
- Can the new spouse or partner discipline your children?
- Can the new spouse or partner attend meetings at school or other important appointments?
Certainly, as the co-parenting relationship grows, and the new partner remains in the child’s life for a longer period, their role might grow and change, as will the relationship they have with the child, and with the other co-parents.
- Always remain respectful: The value of this bit of advice can’t be overstated. In almost every life situation, proceeding with respect and courtesy toward the other person – even in moments of disagreement – is an essential part of the difference between productive, healthy partnerships, and stressful, dysfunctional ones. Your ex’s new spouse or partner may not be your favorite person – and that’s okay. It’s important, though, to be kind, respectful, and open to communication. You should be this way at all times – but especially in front of your children. Keep your children’s needs foremost in your mind and remember that disrespect and contention will hurt your children as well. If you have concerns or matters of disagreement that you feel you must address, speak with your ex and the new partner privately, or with the assistance of a trained therapist who can guide you toward effective resolution of your differences.
The Law Office of Dustin McCrary – Here for You
Co-parenting can be difficult, even in the best of circumstances, but when done right, it can make a world of difference to your children, and to everyone’s happiness. Certainly, learning to co-parent when an ex adds a new spouse to the mix can take time to adjust to, but doing so will be worth it. We are hopeful that the information provided here will be helpful to you as you navigate that relationship, and seek to find a balance that works for you, and for your children.
Helping families through the divorce process smoothly and successfully is what we’re passionate about – and we’re proud of our years of experience assisting countless clients in doing exactly that. We would be honored to help you too. Wherever you are in the divorce process, we’ll meet you there. At the Law Office of Dustin McCrary, we’re here to help. Call us today to discuss your case and learn how we might be able to help. We look forward to speaking with you soon.