Making Co-Parenting & Child Custody Work with an Ex-Spouse You Hate

Children frequently become the forgotten parties when their parents split up. Co-parenting arrangements only work when each parent commits to making them work. Family law attorneys know that friction and animosity between parents may cause co-parenting arrangements to fail. Parents willing to focus on the best interests of their children may find co-parenting to be possible even when they hate each other.

What Does “Co-Parenting” Really Mean?

Before discussing how parents at war with each other can make co-parenting arrangements work, it helps to understand the terminology used by child custody attorneys in Virginia. Virginia child custody laws make reference to legal and physical custody.

Legal custody refers to the ability of one or both parents to make decisions regarding the care and control of a child. This may include decisions about a child’s medical and dental care, religion, and education. Couples may be granted joint legal custody and share the authority to make important decisions, or they may agree upon or a court may award sole legal custody to only one parent.

The legal custody of a child is not the same as physical custody. When divorce attorneys in Virginia discuss physical custody, it refers to the living arrangements for a child. Joint physical custody involves parents splitting the time a child resides with each of them. Sole physical custody results in the child residing in the home of one parent with the other parent having visitation or parenting time with the child.

Child custody arrangements usually try to maintain the relationship between parents and their children with an opportunity for both parents to be involved in making child-rearing decisions. Joint legal custody under Virginia law that allows both parents to have a say in making important decisions affecting their children would be what most people mean when referring to a co-parenting arrangement.

The fact that two parents cannot get along with each other could make it impossible for them to reach agreement on important decisions affecting the lives of their children. When that happens, it may be up to the courts to decide whether the existing custody arrangement should be changed.

Child Custody and the Best Interests of the Children

Judges in Newport News and other local municipal family law courts resolve child custody disputes or approve custody agreements reached by the child custody attorneys for the parents. They strive to achieve a custody arrangement that meets the best interests of the child rather than focus on demands made by one or both of the parents. Virginia law allows courts to award sole or joint custody as long as it achieves the following goals:

Child Custody and the Best Interests of the Children (cont.)

  • Primary consideration shall be given to the best interests of the child;
  • Parents shall share the responsibility of rearing their children;
  • Minor children shall have frequent and ongoing contact with their parents;
  • No presumption shall be made favoring one parent over the other.

Bickering parents may have a hard time convincing a judge in that a co-parenting child custody arrangement is in the best interests of their children. One of the factors the law asks judges to weigh is the ability of each parent to support and encourage a relationship between children and their other parent. When one parent hates the other one, it could influence judge to refuse to grant or terminate an existing co-parenting arrangement.

Other factors courts take into consideration in deciding whether a custody arrangement is in the best interests of the children of a marriage may include the following:

  • Age and physical and mental condition of each parent;
  • Age and physical and mental condition of each child;
  • Role played by each parent in the care and raising of each child;
  • Ability and willingness of each parent to cooperate to resolve disputes related to raising the child;
  • Role played by each parent in raising and caring for each child;
  • Access to a child unreasonably denied to a parent by the other parent.

Courts have discretion to look at all aspects of the past and future relationship of the parents with each other as well as their relationship with their children.

Parents at war with each other risk losing co-parenting rights. For example, retaining a child support attorney to fight in court over the amount that should be paid under Virginia child support laws may indicate an inability of the parties to cooperate and work together. A better solution may be for each parent to use their child support attorney to negotiate a support obligation that is fair and reasonable for both parties under Virginia child support laws.

Making Co-Parenting Child Custody Work

Parents at odds with each other can make co-parenting work and avoid ending up in court fighting over changes to child custody agreements or court orders. Some tips to make co-parenting successful include:

  • Parents should avoid derogatory comments about each other in front of the children;
  • Parents should put aside how they feel about each other and focus on what is best for the children;
  • Parents should consult with each other about important decisions about their children;
  • Parents should encourage and support their child’s relationship with the other parent.

The key to making co-parenting child custody work is for parents to never lose sight of the fact that the person they hate for being a terrible spouse may be a terrific parent.

Speak With a Newport News – Yorktown Family Law Attorney

Parents experiencing co-parenting challenges due to conflicts with a former spouse may find solutions under Virginia child custody laws during a consultation with one of the family law attorneys at Denbigh Law Center. Serving the communities of the Virginia Peninsula for almost four decades, their divorce attorneys offer outstanding legal advice and guidance on all family law matters.