Stuck in the Middle: Co-Parenting Children After a Separation or Divorce
Once you have separated from the other parent of your children, you may have an order from the court or an agreement as to who has custody of the children, and when each parent will exercise parenting time, but there is more to co-parenting than just setting up a schedule. When you are co-parenting with your former partner or spouse, sometimes you forget to consider the perspective of the children. There are tools to help parents keep the children as the focus of parenting time.
- INDIANA PARENTING TIME GUIDELINES
The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines offer guidance on how to protect your children from conflict, but many parents only refer to the Guidelines to deal with scheduling issues. It is important to point out the provisions that deal with rights and needs of the child. The Preamble points out the thoughts to keep in mind:
- Usually it is in a child’s best interest to have frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with each parent.
- Both parents nurture their child in important ways, significant to the development and well being of the child.
- Scheduling parenting time requires persistent effort and communication between parents to promote the best interest of the children, and parents should communicate with a spirit of cooperation.
- A child whose parents live apart has special needs related to the parent-child relationship, which change as the child matures.
- Parents should consider the unique needs of the child and their circumstances, when making a parenting time schedule.
- The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines represent the minimum time a parent should have to maintain frequent, meaningful, and continuing contact with a child, when parents cannot create their own plan.
To put a focus on healthy parenting and the adjustment of the children Section A of the Preamble lists A Child’s Basic Needs, as follows:
- To know that the parents’ decision to live apart is not the child’s fault.
- To develop and maintain an independent relationship with each parent and to have the continuing care and guidance from each parent.
- To be free from having to side with either parent and to be free from conflict between the parents.
- To have a relaxed, secure relationship with each parent without being placed in a position to manipulate one parent against the other.
- To enjoy regular and consistent time with each parent.
- To be financially supported by each parent, regardless of how much time each parent spends with the child.
- To be physically safe and adequately supervised when in the care of each parent and to have a stable, consistent and responsible child care arrangement when not supervised by a parent.
- To develop and maintain meaningful relationships with other significant adults (grandparents, stepparents and other relatives) as long as these relationships do not interfere with or replace the child’s primary relationship with the parents.
Additionally, the Preamble provides an explanation of the commentary that follows the guidelines to assist parents in understanding the application of the guidelines. I would strongly recommend that parents read the commentary to assist them with parenting time issues.
- PARENTING CLASSES
Several counties require parents to attend a parenting class focused on the needs of the child during divorce. Typically, the courts will require a parent to attend a one day, in-person class, and upon completion, a certificate is filed with the Court. Some counties also require minor children to attend the class, as well. Examples of In-Person Classes are: Children Cope with Divorce, Coping with Divorce & Family Conflict, and Families in Transition. The class you are required to attend may depend on the county in which your action is filed. Most of the in-person classes are designed for children in a divorce scenario.
Sometimes, however, schedules preclude your ability to attend an in-person class, or courts may require you to attend an on-line course in addition to the in-person course. Where work or distance precludes your ability to attend an in-person class, in some instances the courts may approve an on-line class instead. A class that is available to parents is www.uptoparents.org. This program also addresses the needs of the child and helps parents to look at the divorce through the child’s eyes. When parents were never married and end their relationship, the children also have adjustments to the new family dynamic. www.uptoparents.org offers a program for parents that were never married, as well. Did I mention that the www.uptoparents.org program is free? Even if it is not required by the court, you can still participate to make sure that you have the best parenting tools available to you in helping your children transition.
As a divorced parent I have attended the Children Cope with Divorce class, and as a family law professional I have completed the www.uptoparents.org program. From my personal experience, I can say that parents with even the best intentions of not putting their child in the middle of their conflict often overlook how a parent’s actions impact their children. For example, I know I have been guilty of saying “You are just like your father!” While the intention was certainly not to make my child feel bad, when a child knows that you do not get along with their other parent, those words take on a whole new meaning. Even if you DO get along with the other parent (which I do), the child still knows that their parents chose not to maintain the family relationship. These classes do help parents keep their children as the focus, especially if you actively participate and pay attention for your children, not because the court requires you to do so.
It is always best if you, as a parent, can keep your children out of your conflict. Before you speak poorly about the other parent, or make your child relay messages to the other parent, think about whether your actions and comments are in the best interest of your child. Putting your child’s best interests first will not only look good to the courts, but more importantly, it will benefit your child for years to come.
If you are in a situation where your child has been placed in the middle of your conflict with your former spouse or partner and you need assistance, contact the experienced attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC for a free consultation at (317) 870-0019 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.