Illness and It’s Impact on Co-Parenting

May 26, 2022
Gary Direnfeld

Article written by Gary Direnfeld

Even in the best of co-parenting relationships, illness can be the wrench that sets things off orbit.

That illness can be of the child or parent. It can be minor or more severe.

If of the child, it can pull at a parent’s heartstrings causing them to seek more connection to the child. Seeking to be there to provide comfort. Of course, this can be met kindly, collaboratively or as a competition. Depending on the illness, it can also set off different views on care and/or treatment.

The challenge here as in any other issue or event that may be divisive, is communication. As well as reaching consensus on what to do. When communication or consensus is a reach, then the next reach recommended for parents is expert help.

In terms of expert help, recognize that yourlawyer is an expert at law. Occasionally in facilitating communication, but certainly not in matters of health. If your reach is to a lawyer, seek one who will help you maintain perspective. As well as seek to facilitate your referral to those whose expertise matters most to your situation. Using your lawyer in this manner draws on their expertise to a good end.

If using your lawyer to find your win in this situation it is likely to only escalate matters: ensure your intention is correct.

A selfish intention could leave your child more isolated and perhaps missing necessary care.

When the illness is within the parent, this too can undermine parenting plans as one may not be as available as the other. This may be a temporary or ongoing situation.

Thus, the illness of the parent may require a friendly rejigging of the parenting plan to accommodate the changing issues of that parent. Flexibility is key as well as not seeking to take advantage of such a situation. If having difficulty arriving at a change, be it temporary or ongoing, your lawyer can facilitate the wording to such a change such that both parents may feel safe and comfortable.

Regardless of child or parent sick, the challenge is to keep a focus on the child, provide mutual support and cause them to feel safe and cared for in the process.

Illness can bring change, uncertainly and fear.
The child seeks for both parents to get along and provide as stable and caring a situation as possible. The child also wants to understand as per their developmental capability, the nature and effect of any illness, so that they too have a realistic sense of what is at stake and what may transpire.

Finding your way through with as little conflict as possible, not that is in the interest of the child.

Go there and with that, we wish all to be well.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW is a Canadian Social Worker in private practice. He is recognized from his 65 episodes of the hit show Newlywed/Nearly Dead, to over 650 columns as the parenting expert of a major metropolitan newspaper, to more than 600 media appearances, to his book, Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout Canada and the US and helps family peacemakers grow their practice.