If you feel pressured to co-parent your children because friends, family members and society as a whole seem to think you should, that puts a tremendous amount of pressure on you and the other parent. The fact is that co-parenting is not for all Illinois parents.

In order to make sure you and your future former spouse are adequately equipped to maintain some semblance of a relationship after your divorce when you couldn’t prior to it, you may want to consider some things first. Even though you are willing to do what it takes to make your children happy, you deserve some happiness as well, especially since your relationship with the other parent will continue to affect your children — good or bad.

Here’s what co-parenting expects of you and the other parent

Co-parenting is a way of life, not the fad the media often makes it out to be. In order for this parenting method to work properly, you and the other parent will need to come to certain agreements on subjects that may have been a source of contention during your marriage, such as the following:

  • Consistency: While each parent should enjoy their time with the children as they see fit, creating a set of house rules provides your children with the consistency they need in order to thrive. Otherwise, they could end up confused, which could cause them to act out.
  • Discipline: In order to provide consistency for your children, you will need to agree on a method of discipline, along with what behaviors will require it. If one parent allows certain behavior the other parent does not, it creates confusion and resentment from all directions.
  • Equitable time: At its best, co-parenting provides as equal an amount of time with each parent as possible. Not only do the children benefit from ample contact with each parent, but it also keeps one parent from taking on the majority of the daily routine, responsibilities and discipline.
  • Flexibility and compromise: As co-parents, you need to be willing to compromise and work together. Life is rarely predictable and you cannot always keep schedules, so you will need flexibility to get through those times.
  • Positivity: You can’t discuss what you believe to be your ex-spouse’s failings in front of the children. You may want to reserve any negativity regarding the other parent for discussions away from them.

Perhaps above all else is the ability to communicate effectively with each other. You will continue to spend a certain amount of your time with your future former spouse as co-parents. Those interactions need to be as free from conflict as possible. You could address this issue in your parenting plan, along with a roadmap of how to deal with inevitable disputes.

If you can agree on the above, co-parenting may be a good choice for you and the other parent. Even though you may amicably resolve your child custody issues as you create a parenting plan with these principles in mind, you may also want to remember to protect your rights. Regardless of how friendly your relationship with your ex may seem right now, it could turn sour at any time. As the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.