“The law’s concept of the family
rests on a presumption that parents possess
what a child lacks in maturity, experience,
and capacity for judgment required for making
life’s difﬁcult decisions.”
Parham v. J.R., 442 U.S. Supreme Ct 584,602 (1979)
Parenting versus Co-parenting?
nature and quality of parents’
are linked with children’s emotional
and behavioral well-being.
As such, many states require that
divorcing parents participate in
co-parenting education designed to
decrease parental conflict and
Malespin, T.; Oehme, K.; Bruker,
M. &Opel, A. (2016).
Advancing co-parenting education:
Toward a foundation for supporting
adjustment.Child & Adolescent
Social Work Journal,
is the creation and maintenance of
structures (limits and consequences;
boundaries that define space; routines and
rituals that define time) intended to guide
one or more children through the lifetime
course of development. It's important to
understand that (1) parenting continues even
when caregiver and child are apart, and (2)
that parenting occurs regardless of the
genetic or legal relationship between
caregiver and child.
entirely distinct from parenting. Co-parenting
refers to the effort that two or more
caregivers make to communicate, cooperate and
establish consistency among their parenting
Together, the quality of
each caregiver's parenting and all caregivers'
mutual co-parenting make up a very large
portion of the "best interests of the child"
Many jurisdictions require
that divorcing parents complete a parenting
and/or co-parenting course as part of the
divorce process. These brief courses intend to
help caregivers navigate adult separation and
divorce while keeping the child out of the
Read more here:
- The Cooperative Parenting
- Cooperative parenting and
- Child of Divorce
P., Sandler, I. and Wolchik, S. (2013),
Taking Stock of Parent Education in the
Family Courts: Envisioning a Public
Health Approach. Family Court Review,
A., Sandler, I., Wolchik, S. and Braver,
S. (2011). Do parent education programs
promote healthy post-divorce parenting?
Critical distinctions and a review of
the evidence.Family Court Review, 49:
J.L.; Crossman, K.A.; Khaw, L. &
Raffaelli, M. (2016). Marital
violence and co-parenting quality after
separation. Journal of Family
Psychology, Vol 30(3), Apr 2016,
Parenting Plan is the legal
document that details the post-divorce
allocation of parenting and co-parenting
rights and responsibilities. The adequacy of
the parenting plan will in part determine the
stresses that your child has to endure
day-to-day and the likelihood that you and
your co-parent will have to return to court.
Does your parenting plan meet your
needs or your child's needs?
Does your parenting
plan grow with your child?
Consulting PLLC and Dr. Ben Garber
provide expert insights into the
development of child-centered
parenting plans .
you love your children more than you hate
Wait ...! Before
you say "of course!" think again:
Do you pick your
battles with your co-parent,
letting the small stuff go because
you know that adult conflict harms
Can you put aside
your ego and defensiveness so that
your co-parent can't push your
Do you "take the high
road" every time?
Are you careful never
to expose your child to your
strong negative feelings about his
or her other parent even
Do you actually
encourage and support your child's
relationship with his or her other
parent despite how you feel about
him or her?
Do you compromise
with your co-parent in a way that
benefits your child with no
expectation of pay-back?
Do you recognize that
the parenting plan determines the
child's time in your care, NOT
your time with the child?
Do you sidestep
conflicts with your co-parent
because you know that no matter
which adult "wins," your child
Take the high road?
the high road" means making the best choices
you can, no matter what your co-parent does.
It means putting the child's needs first,
before your own needs -including your need
to win, your need prove that you are the
better parent, your need to show the world
that your co-parent is a jerk, and your need
to justify getting divorced.
"Take the high road" means
never lowering yourself to your co-parent's
level. He or she might play dirty, might
sling mud or call names or try to humiliate
you, but you will not.He or she might use
your child for leverage, demanding
hour-by-hour compensation for time away from
the child, but you will not.
Your co-parent may even
stoop to the level of damning you and your
family and your new intimate partner to and
around your child. This is alienation and
tantamount to abuse .
You would never stoop to this level because
you know that your child's needs come first.
Most painfully, you know
that no one can ever win a bidding war over
your child's affections. You will remain
firm and caring and consistent. You will
maintain the healthy structures that make
you a good parent even if your co-parent
undermines you, even if your child resents
you because you have rules and his other
parent does not.
"Take the high road" does
not mean that you stand by helplessly,
allowing yourself to be bullied or beaten.
It means that when you must respond, you do
so assertively without lowering yourself to
calling names, and you do so far away from
"Take the high road" means
that you are a healthy parent. You are your
child's emotional anchor and a model that
you'd be proud to have your child someday
What should I
tell the kids?
- That they are
- That its okay
to feel mad or sad or scared or
even relieved, what matters is how
they express these feelings.
- That even
though the love between mom and
dad has stopped, the love between
mom and the children and the love
between dad and the children will
- That they will
get to hockey practice and tuba
rehearsal and dance and drama and
the neighbor's birthday party,
What should I
NOT tell the
- That their other parent
is an ogre of any kid for any reason.
- That the family
transition is anyone's fault or that anyone
is to be blamed.
- That they must choose
between parents (rationalizing that the
child is mature enough to choose doesn't
- That you're filing a
motion, hiring a private detective, or
spending their college funds on the divorce.
- That you're ready to fall
apart, run away, kill yourself or otherwise
become unable to care for them.
- That they must carry
messages, deliver the support check or
otherwise play go-between.
- That they must spy on the
other parent, report what happens there or
otherwise serve your needs.
- That your son is now "the
man of the house" or that your daughter
needs to be your "big helper" or her little
sister's "other mother."
- That loving their other
parent means betraying you.
s/he's a jerk!
Maybe so. But the
kids don't need to hear that from you, even by
As long as the kids are safe in your
co-parent's care, your responsibility is to
support their relationship one hundred percent
in your words, in your actions and with your
feelings. That last part -your genuine
emotional support- is critically
important. Your kids read your emotions long
before and more powerfully than they
understand your words.
The fact that you're mad at your co-parent
exists in the adult-adult relationship. If you
allow it to contaminate the parent-child
relationship, you're being selfish and doing
your kids harm
And if you believe that the kids are not safe
with their other parent? Safety always comes
first. Work out the safety concern directly
among adults as best as you're able. In the
worst case, work with a lawyer and/or a child
psychologist to figure out how to keep the
kids safe without undermining their
relationship with their other parent.
Bottom line? If your co-parent really is a
jerk, let your kids figure that out on their
"But the kids
many parents' rationalization for promoting a
child into the role of ally, helper, best
friend or even co-parent. The reasoning goes
"My son knows
that his father's a jerk. Even though he's
only X years old, he gets it. He's mature.
He's 'an old soul.' So why shouldn't I tell
him? Besides, he wants to help me. He feels
better when he knows what's going on."
And then the lawyers or the
GAL or the court complicate things by talking
about your child as "a mature minor"
Its true: Kids generally
feel good about being trusted by mom or dad.
Being invited into the adult world. First-born
and socially precocious and smart, verbal kids
may be most likely to be adultified in this
way. The problem is that being promoted into
premature adulthood costs children their
childhoods. Important opportunities for
learning and growth are lost. Anger and
anxiety bloom. Your son or daughter may seem
ready and eager to take sides in the adult
war, but they're not emotionally prepared to
accept that burden.
Does the GAL or the custody
evaluator understand this reality? Do their
reports for the court adequately capture the
way that the child has been triangulated into
the adult conflict? Family Law Consulting PLLC
and Dr. Garber will review and critique their
work product, paying special attention to each
child's need and right to remain a child as
long as possible.
The pro se or self-represented litigant
the legal system without a lawyer is worse
than managing a foreign country without a
translator. Not only don't you speak the
language or know the customs, your emotions
As emotion increases,
thinking decreases. The decisions that you
make while you're lost and scared and enraged
and embarrassed in this foreign country will
be short-sighted and inadequate. You'll regret
them but you'll be forced to live with them
and -worse still- your kids will be forced to
live by them, too.
Better to hire a lawyer at
least for advice, if not representation. Once
you do, start by asking about ways to stay out
Family Law Consulting PLLC
can help. Dr. Garber is not a lawyer and will
not provide legal advice, but he will provide
a breadth and depth of experience with child
development, family functioning, the divorce
process and parenting plans that will help you
to get your feet back on the ground. To make
better decisions. To better understand and
fight for your children's genuine needs.
Read more here:
J. M. (2014), Self-Represented
Litigants, The Courts, and the Legal
Profession: Myths and Realities. Family
Court Review, 52: 662–669.
Expert consultation to litigants
Consulting PLLC and Dr. Ben Garber are
prepared to work directly with parents to
assure that the planned mediation,
collaborative law, and/or litigation genuinely
serves your child's needs. This includes
interpretation and critique of existing
academic and psychological records and
evaluations, review and critique of proposed
parenting plans, and assistance in assuring
that GAL investigations and forensic family
evaluations (a.k.a. "custody evaluations) meet
relevant guidelines, standards, ethics and
-most critically- the child's needs.