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Are you ready to start co-parenting with your ex?

Marriages often end because spouses have grown apart or no longer relate to one another in a healthy, functional manner. 'Unfortunately, if you have children together, you can expect to have an ongoing relationship with your spouse for the rest of your life.

After all, your children are likely to want both parents present at major events, from their big game in high school to their graduations and weddings. Beyond that, you will also need to see one another several times a week to exchange custody of your children.

Co-parenting with a former spouse can be a very challenging prospect for many people. There are all kinds of concerns, from the possibility of getting into an argument to disagreeing about what is best for your children. No matter why your marriage ended, you will very likely need to maintain a civil and workable relationship with your ex in order to support your children as they grow.

The courts prefer shared parenting time and responsibilities

If you and your spouse can't agree on terms for child custody in your divorce, the courts will make that decision for you. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as chemical dependence, a history of abuse, abandonment or neglect, or extreme instability on the part of one parent, the courts prefer shared custody arrangements.

After all, the courts are trying to make a decision in the best interest of the children. Typically, that includes having a healthy and working relationship with both parents. In many cases, parents will share both physical custody of the children and legal decision-making power. You and your ex will need to find a way to work together for the well-being of your children.

Focus on your children's future, not the history of your marriage

It can be hard to need to talk with someone with whom you share a past. However, your children need you both to work together to raise them. Ideally, your kids will get to see you cooperating about critical issues. If both parents can agree about issues like discipline and school goals, you can help support one another and the development of your children after the divorce.

Children, especially older kids and teenagers, can use parental discord to their advantage. Good communication between you and your ex and an agreement about critical boundaries and rules can help ensure consistency for your children, regardless of whom they are staying with on any given day.

If you and your spouse can set aside your differences for the sake of your children, everyone will benefit. Being able to discuss parenting issues in a direct and positive manner is an important first step. If you still struggle to relate to your spouse as you head through divorce, focus on your kids.

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