How co-parents can plan ahead to address custody concerns

Parents who divorce or separate in Washington generally have to share parenting time with each other. They also have a degree of parental responsibility in the form of providing for the needs of the child. They may also need to mutually agree on decisions about a child’s health care, education and religious observations.

Whether parents establish their own custody arrangements or litigate and have a judge settle their disagreements, they may occasionally find themselves fighting over parenting matters while their children are still minors. Having a plan in place to reduce conflict can be a smart move, as conflict is all but inevitable in a co-parenting relationship.

How can both parents avoid tension and address co-parenting disputes when they arise?

Appropriately use a parenting app

There are a variety of parenting apps that range from robust to very streamlined. Co-parents can input the terms of their custody arrangement and their family schedule into the co-parenting app. They then have a shared centralized location where they can verify the schedule and make any updates that are necessary due to unusual occurrences, like a dental appointment. Especially in the early days when the family is still adjusting to the new arrangements, it can be particularly important for parents to communicate in writing as much as possible. Using the parenting app can help them both communicate calmly and can ensure there is a record of everything that they say.

Have a dispute resolution plan

Even if parents are calm and measured in their communications with each other, they may find themselves disagreeing about whether their child is old enough to start dating or can join high school sports given their current grades. Having a dispute resolution system in place for when disagreements arise can be very beneficial. Parents might agree ahead of time to work with a mediator, a minister, a neutral family friend or a co-parenting therapist to talk about their disagreement. In some cases, parents might even make arrangements ahead of time to give one adult the authority to make a decision in scenarios where the parents cannot reach a mutual agreement.

If parenting disputes prove impossible to settle, then litigation might be necessary. A family law judge can rule on individual matters or modify a custody order to reflect the current status of family relationships.

Being realistic about the likelihood of conflict eventually arising in a shared custody arrangement can help parents better plan for the inevitable. Graciously handling conflict when it arises can reduce how hard it ultimately is on the children and the adults in the family.

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