It can be very difficult for parents who no longer have a relationship with one another to agree on all aspects of how they will raise their children. Sometimes, disagreements about major decisions may result in a family going back to court to re-litigate certain matters or clarify who has the authority to make specific decisions.
Those who preemptively address topics that are likely to cause co-parenting conflicts may reduce the likelihood of future custody litigation and improve the stability of their co-parenting relationship. These are a few of the decisions that parents should anticipate, when possible, as they negotiate their parenting plans in order to better prevent tension down the road.
1. When tweens or teens will get phones
Even developmental psychologists do not agree on a specific age at which it is universally appropriate for a child to have their own phone. Factors ranging from cultural values to a child’s maturity level can strongly influence whether they are ready to have a mobile device and what degree of access to the internet they can handle. Parents may want to discuss both when they will allow their children to have their own phones and also how they will handle the costs associated with those devices and their parenting plans to stave off disputes with one another and possibly pleading from the children.
2. What limits should apply to teenage children
Parents sometimes fall into the trap of trying to be friends with their teenage children, especially in a co-parenting scenario where they want to feel like they win over the other parent. This may lead to lax enforcement of rules or very different standards at the two households. Clarifying matters like what time the children have to be home on the weekends, how old they should be before they start dating and what their grades need to be like if they want to play sports or get a part-time job will lead to more effective and consistent parenting across both households while also potentially preventing future disputes between the parents.
3. What kind of childcare is acceptable?
Especially in a scenario where one parent previously stayed home with the children and will need to re-enter the workforce, co-parents may find themselves at odds about childcare arrangements. There may be concerns about leaving the children with family members who have a history of drug use or new romantic partners who might behave inappropriately toward the children. Parents can potentially address childcare matters ahead of time by agreeing to stagger their work schedules or pre-approving specific childcare providers to reduce any source of risk for the children.
There are many other factors that can lead to disagreements later in a co-parenting relationship, and the best plans include rules for conflict resolution in addition to guidance for specific situations. Properly addressing likely sources of future conflict in a parenting plan will make it easier for a family to successfully transition to shared custody arrangements.