Co-parenting: The challenges of raising kids together
29 Jul 2020 FAMILY
By: Natasha Archary
No one sets out with the ambition of being a single parent. Circumstances and relationships don’t always end with the white picket fence and happily-ever-after, they promise you in fairytale land.
The picture-perfect family, where mom and dad raise 2 suburban kids together may not be a reality for many families. A majority of children in the country grow up in the absence of a parent or with parents who are co-parenting.
In an ideal world, both parents will respect each other and provide meaningful communication about the child/ren. But this isn’t an ideal world and often adults behave immaturely and as a result, the children are impacted.
It becomes a messy territorial battlefield between wanting to prove a point and taking control. The ultimate power struggle between two individuals who once shared intimacy and now can’t stand to be in the same room together.
Another common factor is when one parent shows little to no interest in regards to the child/ren. Taking no responsibility for the welfare, development, or financial support in raising and caring for the child.
As a parent, your primary concern should always be the child. Your relationship with the other parent, may be over, but you will both be connected by the bond that ties you together (the child) forever.
Finding commonality should come easily when your priority is ensuring the safety, educational, nutritional, health, and wellbeing of the child is met. Raising a child is no easy feat. You make a concerted effort every day to put their needs above your own and that means negating all the issues you have with the other parent.
Pettiness and selfish behavior will have you both fighting ugly and blurring the lines of fairness. There is nothing more heartbreaking than watching your on-going feud with the other parent affecting your child’s emotional state.
Conflict can leave a traumatic residue and it is toxicity is harmful to the child. Growing up watching angry parents hurl hurt and resentment toward each other creates a cycle of abusive mannerisms.
Maintaining the child’s lifestyle
Once the relationship between you and the other parent turns sour, holding them accountable for contributions to the child’s living expenses could prove problematic. Many have been guilty of disappearing without a trace and default on monthly contributions towards educational and living expenses.
This is where a maintenance order comes in. Do not think that you and the other parent will never reach such bad terms that you can’t agree on the child’s expenses. Regardless of how long you were married or together for, once it’s over between you, the lengths one will go to, to spite the other is unforeseeable.
Approaching the courts for guidance and assistance in obtaining a fair contribution is your only option. The courts are there to ensure that both parents provide equally toward the child. Irrespective of who has primary residence, you’re both liable for a 50/50 split of costs for the child.
A default on payment should be brought to the courts immediate attention, which may result in a garnishing order on the defaulting party.
Intervention may be necessary if both parents are unable to reach an agreement with regards to the child’s upbringing. Family court may be the only option to bridge the divide and create a working parenting plan that is legally binding.
This plan will detail all arrangements between the two of you in raising the child/ren amicably. From educational requirements including aftercare, visitation, and right to access down to the pick-up and drop-off stipulations. A violation of the parenting plan may be brought to the court’s attention and in severe instances, the right to access may be denied.
As much as one would like to give the other parent the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the safety of children in this day and age and the rise in abuse cases, a parenting plan is a necessity. Regardless of how well you both co-parent, it’s in your child’s best interest to approach things with a level-head and to follow the ambit of the law.
Define the boundaries
One of the most difficult parts of co-parenting is the introduction of new partners into the equation. If one or both parents have moved on and are with other people, it presents a new dynamic altogether. Your new significant partners do not have any legal right or claim over your child/ren and this needs to be established.
As long as the other parent is still in the picture and has made it clear that they would like an active role in the child’s life, no new partner should take on the role of surrogate parent. They are your ex-partner’s significant other and a caregiver to your child, but they do not legally have a role or say in your child’s life.
To do so, they would need to obtain legal guardianship of your child and unless you are deemed unfit by a court of law to parent, they do not have any claim over your child. If the other parent is forcing the issue by including their new partner’s views or decisions in raising your child, this should be ironed out in family court. The magistrate may ask a family advocate to intervene to resolve the dispute.
It is a huge issue, one that seeks to undermine your role in your child’s life and should not be taken lightly.
While there are parents who co-parent positively and with mutual respect, the vast majority of single parents struggle with basic communication and behave childishly, and this only hurts the child. People bring children into the world and then abandon their responsibilities as an adult and it’s heartbreaking to watch them go through life devoid of any emotional attachment to the child.
It’s an endless cycle of abused people raising broken children who become hurt and angry adults who then raise broken children of their own. One can only hope we become the change we want to see in our children, so that one day they won’t need therapy to heal from the trauma of their painful childhood. Where they were made to feel insignificant because their parents couldn’t see eye to eye.