Joining together in this way is the best thing possible for the child, who needs to know he still has two parents who care enough about him to work together. Co-parenting is possible in most cases, except when there is domestic violence or control issues.
No matter what kind of custody and visitation schedule is in place, almost anyone can be co-parents. Co-parenting is not about equally sharing time or even making big decisions together; it is instead a state of mind. Your divorce has not ended your parenting relationship. In fact, you will be parents together for the rest of your lives, even after your children are adults. Co-parenting is a cooperative approach to the years ahead of you and a way of including both parents in the child’s life.
Co-parenting does not mean second guessing each other or having no individual freedom. Since you are each essentially parenting alone, you have to have the ability to make decisions on your own. What it does mean is trying to face the big picture of parenting together -- working together to solve problems in your child's life, presenting a united front on things such as curfews and household rules, and sometimes joining together in a happy way to celebrate your child's accomplishments or milestones. Viewing each other as partners in your child's life is at the root of co-parenting.
Co-parenting agreements are sometimes included as part of your divorce decree or family court order. Sometimes, though, co-parenting agreements are negotiated and created with the help of a therapist. Co-parenting agreements can be very short and simply list the schedule you will follow. They can also be quite long and incorporate other details about how you will parent together, make decisions together, and face problems as parents.
The first step in co-parenting successfully is to talk to your children about the divorce together. The news that you are separating or divorcing needs to be shared by both parents together. Talking to your kids about why you are breaking up (only general reasons should be discussed, such "mom and dad are fighting a lot and need a break" or "we have decided we don’t want to be married anymore" and it must be emphasized that none of it is the child's fault) sets the tone for your entire co-parenting relationship. It lets your kids know that you are still parents together and will continue to work as a unit. If you aren't comfortable talking to your kids together, then you need to seek help from a therapist who can assist you with this.
One key to making a co-parenting arrangement successful is respect. You must respect the other parent. You likely have a lot of bad feelings towards the other parent, but you need to find a way to separate your parenting from those feelings. Your goal is to create a good life for your child and you can do that by parenting together in a respectful and cooperative manner.
Flexibility is the other key to success. You have a schedule, but you need to be flexible with each other. Today the other parent may ask for a change, but tomorrow it will likely be you who is running late, suddenly has a business trip scheduled for your weekend, or wants to take your child to a special event on a day you aren't scheduled for. Cut each other some slack. Also, try to approach your time sharing on a monthly basis. Don't be uptight if you have three hours less with your daughter this week than you are supposed to. Things tend to even out over the course of a month, so try to look at the schedule in a long term way rather than an in a to the minute manner.
One of the biggest changes in co-parenting agreements in recent years is the wording. Custody and visitation were words that were always used to explain how parents shared their time with their children, but more and more people are realizing that there are better words. Parenting experts today prefer to talk in terms of parenting time, parenting schedules, parenting plans or just simply agreements. These words are much more family-friendly and do not degrade the parent who has the least amount of time. There is also more recognition of the fact that the time really belongs to the child and not to the parents, so parents are learning not to refer to "my time" and "my days."