Co-Parenting After Divorce
In Lehigh County, and in other jurisdictions, parents who have entered the divorce process are ordered to attend a co-parent education class. “Co-parenting” is a term coined by the family law section to encourage cooperative parenting between parties who are no longer married or in a relationship, for the benefit of the child. The Court finds this concept to be so important that it will not allow two divorcing parties to proceed to trial without attending a co-parenting class. If one or both parties refuse or fail to show, the Court will go as far as to hold them in contempt.
Why do I need a class?
Co-parenting does not come naturally. Divorced parents are frequently so focused on splitting up, that coming together to parent shared children can be difficult. As family lawyers, we suggest our clients use a co-parenting counselor, usually a certified therapist, to learn how to co-parent successfully. It can be an uncomfortable process. Recently, a blended family in Texas went viral with their social media post of getting past the uncomfortable phase and successfully co-parenting as a team. While not all families are able to reach that level, we do find that those that utilize a co-parenting counselor are able to work out their issues in session, rather than in court. At the very least, this reduces court filings and can make the process less costly for both parties.
How do I co-parent successfully?
It is important to understand that it is not about you. This is about your children and putting their needs first. Communication is key and being a willing participant in co-parenting sessions will help with this. It is also helpful to set boundaries with your therapist and focus on parenting. Bringing up the past, talking about hurt feelings, and mentioning new relationships can be counterproductive.
What happens if we can’t co-parent?
When there is a failure to co-parent, parties are referred to “reunification therapy”. This only necessary when, generally due to lack of co-parenting, a child becomes completely isolated from one parent. That child must re-learn how to develop a relationship with the estranged parent, which is done with reunification therapy.
Judges frequently tell us that custody cases are the hardest trials on which to decide, as there is no “winner”. Co-parenting allows the family to solve problems more efficiently and with much better results. We find both sides tend to much more satisfied when they can come to agreement in session on what is best for their family, rather than allowing a third-party judge to make the final call.
Attorney Kellie Rahl-Heffner provides legal counsel to families and individuals facing separation, divorce, child custody issues, and other family law matters.