Alternative Co-Parenting Arrangements
By Brian Perskin, Esq.
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Our society is shifting to one that places a high value on the benefits of co-parenting, and non-traditional custody agreements and parenting plans reflect that. Parents who opt for an amicable divorce over a contested court battle will often research alternative parenting and custody arrangements to help their children transition and process the divorce more effectively. Gone are the days of a mother having sole physical custody, and the father only seeing his kids every other weekend.
However, there are instances where ex-spouses are unable to get along and co-parent successfully. These feuding couples will require specialized custody and visitation agreements with a focus on alternative forms of co-parenting. Many will benefit from the use of apps to help with communication difficulties.
DIVORCED… BUT LIVING TOGETHER
Couples who have an uncontested divorce will have an easier time co-parenting their children, compared to those who have contested cases. In an attempt to have a child centered divorce, these couples will remain in close proximity to each other, oftentimes residing in the same neighborhood. In some situations, former flames will continue living under the same roof as their spouse.
In a recent article in The New York Times, Brooklyn parents Cristina Gitti and Matteo Bologna discussed their unconventional living arrangement post-divorce. The pair, who share custody of their two daughters, decided to opt out of selling their multi-family marital home, and instead, they each live in different units within the brownstone. Living this closely to an ex may seem unusual, but it is becoming more common in New York City, where real estate and rental prices are skyrocketing. Even though Gitti and Bologna had an amicable divorce, they met with a therapist prior to finalizing their custody agreement and living arrangement to make sure the transition went as smoothly as possible. The pair created an agreement that allowed them to foster a peaceful environment for their children, as well as set ground rules regarding dating and privacy.
This kind of unique living and co-parenting arrangement is not for everyone, and requires high levels of mutual respect between former spouses. Children can benefit immensely from this kind of environment, but only if their parents are able to execute it seamlessly. Meeting with a therapist or mediator is strongly recommended.
THE BIRD’S NEST
An unusual, but growing, trend in parenting after divorce is known as “bird’s nest co-parenting”. This strategy for co-parenting is uniquely child centered, and allows for the children to permanently reside in one home, as opposed to moving between two different households. With this arrangement, ex-spouses will take turns living in the marital residence with the children, and will maintain separate living quarters when it is not their parenting time.
Bird’s nest parenting, like all custody arrangements, has its pros and cons. It helps children to cope with their parent’s divorce, and transition into a new lifestyle more easily since they are remaining in a familiar and stable environment. Bird’s nest parenting runs the risk of being less cost effective than traditional forms of custody and visitation, since families will need to maintain three households instead of two (marital residence, and separate apartments for each parent). That being said, former spouses can save money on housing costs by sharing a second residence. In this situation, Spouse A would live in the marital home for one week, and Spouse B would live in the second residence. They would alternate as their parenting time changed. Rent and utilities would be split evenly between parties.
Because of the cooperative nature a bird’s nest co-parenting arrangement requires, this alternative form of parenting should only be attempted during amicable, uncontested divorce cases. A clearly worded parenting agreement and schedule must be drafted and agreed upon by both parties. Bird’s nest co-parenting is not easy, so each parent must have a high level of respect for their ex, and be willing to spend extra time making this form of co-parenting work.
Parents involved in especially contested and high conflict divorces will not be able to practice the of the amicable co-parenting strategies mentioned above. Instead, they need to put their differences aside and take the emotion out of co-parenting. One could say that these parents would need to treat raising their children as a business arrangement. It may sound cold, but parallel parenting has proven to be very successful for divorcees who are unable to get along.
Children can sense tension between their parents, and they are unable to properly cope with divorce if they are constantly being put in the middle of their parent’s arguments. Parallel parenting allows parties to make their children’s best interest a top priority by eliminating the need for direct communication with each other. To make sure children are not exposed to conflict, parents need to:
Use a third party facilitator to communicate, and communicate only when necessary
Create a clear and detailed oriented parenting plan that leaves little room for interpretation or flexibility
Run households separately (each parent is responsible for decisions made while children are under their care)
Remember: children should always be the top priority in divorce. Their best interest needs to come first. If at all possible, parallel parenting should be temporary, and used to help ex-spouse’s transition into a more successful and amicable co-parenting relationship. Children, regardless of their age, will always benefit from their parents getting along.
Technology is playing an increasingly large role in co-parenting. Mobile apps and websites give divorcees the tools necessary to co-parent effectively, while helping to eliminate conflict and miscommunication. Shared calendars, notepads, media galleries, and contact lists allow parents to stay organized and “in-the-loop” when it comes to their children.
Websites and smartphone apps are especially useful for parents who are unable to communicate directly. Some platforms, such as 2Houses and Custody Junction, allow multiple users to access the same account, which is great when a third party mediator is needed to facilitate communication between parties. Click here for more information on the best co-parenting technology currently available to divorced couples and their families.
GET HELP WITH YOUR DIVORCE
Divorce can be complicated, especially when children are involved. Transitioning into a co-parenting relationship with a former spouse is tricky, and it is important that parties develop a plan that allows their children’s best interests to come first. The New York City law firm of Brian D. Perskin & Associates P.C. focuses their practice on matrimonial and family law, and have helped to create custom parenting plans that are specific to each individual case. Contact us for more information, or to schedule a free and confidential consultation, today!
(Cross-posted from www.newyorkdivorceattorney.com)