How to Co-Parent With an Ex


Creating a safe, healthy environment (or two) for your child or children is important, especially when they spend time in two different homes. The term co-parent is being tossed about more and is more accepted, but it is still difficult to develop a good set of guidelines for co-parenting and becoming a good co-parent. While a child specialist can help with learning to co-parent during the collaborative divorce process, it takes hard work and possibly some professional assistance to create a working relationship with an ex.

Every divorce is different, and every family finds its own rhythm after their divorce, settling into a new routine and adapting to the changes that come with this significant transition. While this process is never easy, co-parenting is an effective way for parents to continue raising their children together in a way that minimizes the negative impact of the divorce on the children. Studies over the past decade have shown that co-parenting is the gold standard for parenting after divorce.

How to Co-Parent After Divorce

Though challenging at times, co-parenting, which is choosing to collaborate and parent together, leads to healthier, happier children in the long run. It can also make things easier for the parents after they settle into a routine and find effective ways of working together.

There are many things parents can do to co-parent successfully, including:

  • Noticing and, if necessary, changing the way parents communicate with one another
  • Sharing ideas with respect and keeping the lines of communication open 
  • Working together to solve conflict 

Running into occasional problems is inevitable when co-parenting or in any relationship. It will start with deciding on how to tell the kids about divorce.

Being willing to work through problems calmly while keeping the children’s best interests as the number one priority should be the most important element. Collaboration and working together can go a long way in helping co-parents succeed in parenting and teaching their children positive ways of interacting with others. It’s one of the best ways to stay positive during divorce, as well.

Basic Rules for Co-Parenting

Children’s Needs Come First

This may seem obvious. However, the whole goal of co-parenting is to ensure that the best interests of the child(ren) are being met. When stress or old negative patterns arise, it’s important to push through to keep the child(ren)’s needs front and center. If your divorce has been traumatic or if you are still dealing with issues with your ex or your previous relationship, speaking with a therapist can help create a safe space for you to discuss lingering issues without fear of having the kids overhear you.

Set Ground Rules

A Florida time-sharing agreement serves as the ground rule for co-parenting in that it highlights the obligations and responsibilities of each party. At the same time, you may need to create your own ground rules regarding your new arrangement. This can include how dropoff or handoff occurs, where items live, how things are communicated, etc. Some of this may be included in your time-sharing agreement, while others may not. When creating ground rules or adjusting them to fit your situation, remember how you would like to be treated and what can help you be the best parent you can be.


Open communication is important. Let your co-parent know if you’re running late or if your child has been having nightmares. Anything that you would like to know about your child(ren), they, too, may like to know. Find a method of communication, whether it’s a detailed email or a brief text, that works for both of you and allows you to do your jobs as co-parents effectively.

Stick to Agreements

Whether you and your spouse crafted a time-sharing agreement or a judge imposed on you, it’s important to understand your expected role and to meet your obligations. This goes beyond knowing which weekends or days you are responsible for the child(ren)’s care. Time-sharing agreements can also contain information regarding financial and decision-making responsibilities. Understand what falls under your purview and make a point of sticking to the agreement.

Talk to your co-parent if something happens and you need a temporary change to the agreement. If you need a major change, seeking legal advice may be necessary to request a court order modification.

Be Flexible When Possible

Sometimes, an opportunity arises, and you may be asked to be flexible with your co-parenting or
timesharing agreement, or you may ask your former spouse to be flexible. It may be as simple as switching a weekend or allowing your spouse to skip or attend a game. Whatever the case, as long as it is not a frequent thing, being flexible can help strengthen your co-parenting relationship by showing that you are putting the needs of your child(ren) first.

Cultivate a Network

It takes a village, they say. After a divorce, this couldn’t be more true. While in the past, you could call your former spouse to pick up a child because you were running late, that is no longer an option. Connecting with friends and families and building a network to get help when needed —whether as a babysitter or a shoulder to lean on—can make life a tad easier as you work through your transition. Co-parenting takes commitment. Learning to co-parent is no easy task—it’s an ongoing endeavor that will take time and patience. However, for the sake of one’s children, it’s a worthwhile investment.

Practicing Self-Care 

Self-care is critical for everyone, especially for parents living in exceptional circumstances, such as managing increased pressure to pay bills, raising children, keeping a house running independently, succeeding at work, and more. Ensuring that self-care is a part of each parent’s day-to-day life is imperative to healthy parenting. Whether that means engaging in a hobby, going for a daily walk, exercising, or doing something each parent enjoys on their own, nurturing oneself is essential for the long-term success of co-parenting.

Divorce and shared custody are difficult circumstances, and every family is unique in how they deal with their issues. However, collaborating and working together as mature adults can truly make a difference in the outcome of the divorce and the lives of the children.

Reach out to our Tampa collaborative divorce lawyers for more information.

Contact Our Experienced, Dedicated Divorce & Family Law Lawyers Today

As a dedicated family law practice in the Tampa Bay area, we work one on one with our clients, resulting in representation that is characterized by genuine care and understanding. If you are dealing with divorce or other family law issues, please contact at 813-223-7739  to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced family and divorce attorneys.