I recently read a thought-provoking and pragmatic piece in the Huffington Post titled “Because We Both Love You” — New Year’s Resolutions for Divorced Parents”. The author set out a long and often touching list of child-centred “resolutions” for divorced parents; it indirectly illustrated in a realistic fashion some of the challenges of co-parenting, the latent ego battles amongst divorced parents, and the fact that children often struggle with being put in the middle. Overall, the article’s likely intent was to serve as a gentle admonishment that – for the good of the children – divorced parents should vow to “play nice” in the coming year.
But – not to be cynical, especially at this happy and optimistic time of year – I caught myself wondering how feasible the list really is, despite parents’ own best intentions. The truth is that in my own practice, I seldom see the type of co-operation that the article advocates, particularly in connection with routine issues that crop up frequently.
For example, the article suggests parents listen with open minds to the wishes of their child when it comes to scheduling, and also accommodate any harmless natural preference the child may have that favours one parent over the other. It also suggests that each parent taking an accepting approach to differences of the other in connection with matters such as overall permissiveness and lifestyle choices, disciplinary approach, and joint-decision-making.
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The hopeful optimism of the article aside, under Canadian law if parents cannot agree to resolve these kinds of matters on their own (despite their best intentions) the courts will be called in to resolve them by way of a formal order. This typically involves one parenting bringing one or more Motions before the court, which is both time-consuming and sometimes needlessly costly. Unfortunately, in some divorce and custody disputes these Motions become the default go-to solution for resolving differences between parents, many of whom started out very well-intentioned in their desire to making the process as conflict-free as possible for the good of the children.
As we soon look ahead to 2015, it is my hope that that separating and divorced parents everywhere can make a commitment to ensure the upcoming year is a positive, productive, and child-focused one.
Happy New Year!