What is Co-Parenting And Is It Right for Us?

29 May 2024 | Maria Kitsiou

Table of Contents

There is no single approach to parenting your children after a divorce or separation. How you and your ex decide to move forward often depends on the nature of your relationship, the age and needs of your children, and the practical logistics of your situation.

However, one option that many parents consider is co-parenting.

Co-parenting is a popular arrangement where both parents agree to share responsibility and arrangements for the children and play an active role in their upbringing. For couples who have divorced amicably, co-parenting can help maintain a stable environment for the children and minimise the disruption in their lives.

Studies consistently show that children benefit from a positive co-parenting relationship. Children experience less stress and better emotional and social outcomes when parents communicate effectively and cooperate on parenting issues.

What is co-parenting?

Co-parenting is a type of shared parenting where both parents continue to raise their children together, despite no longer being a couple. To the children themselves, it can look a lot like their pre-divorce family life, as both parents remain involved and present in their ongoing care.

Since every family is different, there’s no one type of co-parenting. For some families, it means equal parenting. For others, it means the children live with one parent but have regular contact with the other.

Co-parenting is not about where the children live or who sees them the most, but about parenting together in the best way possible from your respective households.

What are the benefits of co-parenting?

  • Both parents support and trust each other to prioritise the needs and welfare of the children.
  • Clear guidelines for communication, routines and decision-making are established, which helps both households provide stability for the children.
  • The children enjoy consistency and are less able to play one parent against the other, as they see both parents singing from the same hymn sheet.
  • The children maintain a healthy relationship with both parents, and each parent encourages their relationship with the other.
  • Parents work amicably together, reducing the likelihood of conflict and animosity between them, which benefits everyone.

Is a co-parenting arrangement right for my family?

Co-parenting can benefit many families, but it’s not necessarily the best option for everyone. If there is a history of abuse or conflict in the relationship, co-parenting may not be appropriate.

Other situations where co-parenting can become challenging include:

  • If one of you is relocating far away from the other, making it difficult to maintain regular contact with the children.
  • One of you meets a new partner, gets remarried or has a child with someone else, which may impact on the agreed-upon dynamics and routines.
  • A parent loses their job and worries that their financial situation is putting them at a disadvantage compared to the other parent.
  • One of you has a health issue or becomes seriously ill, making it difficult to care for the children according to the established arrangement.
  • You struggle to keep communication focused on the children and avoid bringing up past relationship issues.

What is a co-parenting agreement?

If you decide to co-parent your children, a solicitor can help you write the responsibilities and expectations of the arrangement into a parenting plan. This flexible plan can cover a broad range of matters, including:

  • Where your children will stay and when, during routine weeks and as well as special events and school holidays.
  • How you will make important decisions about healthcare, education, religion, extra-curricular activities and other matters.
  • How you will handle day-to-day parenting tasks, such as school runs, medical appointments, discipline, parent’s evenings and attending football matches, school plays etc.
  • How you will communicate and resolve disagreements.
  • Whether you can take your child abroad during the holidays, and how this will impact your contact arrangements.
  • Arrangements for spending time with grandparents and other close relatives.
  • Child maintenance and the payment of other child-related expenses, which many couples choose to include in their parenting plan.

You can agree the details by yourselves with the help of a family law solicitor, or use mediation if you cannot agree on specific terms.

The process of hammering out the details of a parenting plan requires both parties to think about the specific needs of their children as well as their own expectations and limitations as a parent. It isn’t uncommon for parents to feel like better parents, and more respectful of their ex’s parenting style, when they are forced to consciously communicate their wishes around visitation, communication, decision-making and so on. This lays good foundations for co-parenting going forward.

Is a co-parenting agreement legally binding?

A co-parenting agreement is not legally binding. If you would like it to be so, your solicitor can draw up a consent order and ask a judge to make it court-ordered, if they think you’ve made decisions in your children’s best interests.

What if my ex is not interested in co-parenting?

Often when one parent is reluctant to agree to co-parenting, it’s because they do not fully understand what co-parenting is or that it is flexible to the needs of both parties. If this is the case, then a conversation can often help to clarify the concept and alleviate any concerns.

However, if your ex is still not interested in co-parenting, or you think you could struggle to work together, it’s essential to seek legal advice before making any decisions. Other parenting options such as parallel parenting may be more appropriate and early advice may help you decide what arrangement is best for your children.

How can we help?

Remember, the most important thing is to prioritise the well-being and best interests of your children. An experienced child arrangements solicitor can help you approach the decision with care and find a parenting arrangement that works best for your family.

To speak with one of our solicitors, contact us by:

  • Filling in our online enquiry form; or
  • Calling us on 020 7485 8811

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