Q We’re in the middle of getting a divorce and can barely be in the same room with each other. We each recognize how much our kids need each of us, though. Can we still come up with a workable parenting plan?

A: The most important thing to remember about trying to co-parent with your ex is that you don’t need to like each other to do it. Here are some steps you can take that can help you build a successful, long-lasting co-parenting relationship with your ex.

• Treat her like a business partner. Your children, of course, are the business.

• Write a parenting agreement. If you and our ex can’t sit down together, have a mediator help you.

• Respect each other’s relationship with the children. Unless your spouse is doing something dangerous or damaging to the kids, let him (or her) parent them the way he (she) wants to. Hopefully he’ll (she’ll) do the same for you.

• Keep each other informed. Let your ex know about anything important happening in your children’s lives that he (she) might not know about. The effort will be greatly appreciated – guaranteed.

• Come up with some ground rules for resolving conflicts. You’re going to have plenty of disagreements, so you should have a plan – probably including mediation – for how to handle them in place from the very beginning.

• Be flexible. Emergency trips, illnesses, out-of-town guests, weddings, and other impossible-to-foresee events can mean asking your ex to keep – or to let you keep – the kids a few extra days. Whether you’re asking for help or offering it, be nice and the favor will probably be returned.

• Agree on a fair custody schedule. If the kids are going to be living with one of you more than the other, there are dozens of scheduling options and you’ll have to pick the one that works best for you. If you’re dividing custody 50/50, two are especially good: One week at your place followed by one at your ex’s is fine for kids over eight. But for smaller kids, a week away from either of you is too long. So switch every two or three days.

• Respect each other’s privacy. You don’t want your ex asking a bunch of nosy questions about your private life so don’t ask him (or her) any either.

• Keep up your end of the bargain. If you make promises, keep them. If you agree to be somewhere, be there. And expect the same from your ex.

Armin Brott’s most recent books are “The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year, Second Edition” and “Father for Life: A Journey of Joy, Challenge, and Change.”

You can reach him through his Web site at www.mrdad.com.


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