Divorce is it’s own difficult but necessary ordeal to go through when a marriage no longer works. Add kids to the mix and there is a whole other layer of decisions to go through. While divorce is final, parenting is an ever-changing landscape that ties you to your ex forever. Marriages end, parenthood never does.

Once you’ve been through the practical and emotional upheaval that your particular divorce has inevitably led to, you’re (hopefully) at a place of legal resolve. Custody, visitation, finances, etc. have been agreed on. But often there’s a host of parenting-related details that fall outside the juridsiction of the legal system. How amicable your divorce was, and how similar your parenting approaches were while still married will help determine how well you can co-parent with your ex. But believe me, every divorced parent encounters snags and contentious moments.

To avoid the possibility of bad behavior, and engaging in repeated patterns of regretful exchanges, it’s helpful to draft a co-parenting contract. This contract is an agreement covering more than the basics, one which can be tweaked accordingly as your needs, your ex’s needs, and/or the needs of your kid(s) shift over time. While a co-parenting contract is not a legally binding document it serves as a touchstone, a code of honor. It’s a written reminder of shared responsibility and respect.

Below are two examples of co-parenting contracts. The first is a basic template to start from. The second was drafted by a couple who took their co-parenting contract to a whole other level. It is incredibly and admirably comprehensive. Feel free to ‘steal’ their points while drafting your own contract. And pay it forward. In the landscape of divorce and co-parenting it’s good to share.


Contract of Agreement for Positive Co-parenting #1

1: We agree to make our children’s needs more important than our own territorial needs or needs for independence.

2: We agree to never use our children as confidants, messengers, bill collectors or spies.

3: We agree to abide by the rules of our fair and practical time-sharing agreement, and will make a serious effort to live up to this agreement.

4: We will tell the other parent in advance about any changes in plans. Any changes in schedule will always be discussed with the other parent, prior to informing the children.

5: We agree to respect the other parent’s parenting style and discuss any concerns at agreed-upon communications times.

6: We agree to work on our problems with the other parent in private, at designated discussion times. We will never discuss our issues within earshot of our children.

7: We agree to make it clear to our children that we value their time with ourselves and with the other parent.

 

Signed:

_______________________________             ___________________________________________

Name: Name:

_______________________                   _____________________________

date:   date:

 

One couple’s personalized contract 

1: We agree to make our children’s needs more important than our own territorial needs or needs for independence.

2: We agree to never use our children as confidants, messengers, bill collectors or spies.

3: We agree to abide by the rules of our fair and practical time-sharing agreement, and will make a serious effort to live up to this agreement.

4: We will tell the other parent in advance about any changes in plans. Any changes in schedule will always be discussed with the other parent, prior to informing the children.

5: We agree to respect the other parent’s parenting style and discuss any concerns at agreed-upon communications times.

6: We agree to work on our problems with the other parent in private, at designated discussion times. We will never discuss our issues within earshot of our children.

7: We agree to make it clear to our children that we value their time with ourselves and with the other parent.

8: We agree not to have new romantic partners around our child until the other parent knows about them. Additionally, we agree that there will be no ‘overnight vistors’ while we have the child in our care.

9: We agree not to speak or write derogatory remarks about the other parent to the child, or engage in abusive, coarse or foul language, which can be overheard by the child whether or not the language involves the other parent.

10: We agree not to permit the child to overhear arguments, negotiations or other substantive discussions about legal or business dealings between the parents.

11: We agree to permit the child to display photographs of the other parent or both parents in the child’s room.

12: We agree not to communicate moral judgements about the other parent of the child concerning the other parent’s choice of values, lifestyle, choice of friends, successes or failures in life (career, financial, relational) or residential choice.

13: We agree to permit the child to retain, and allow easy access to, correspondence, greeting cards and other written materials received from the other parent.

14: We agree to respect the physical integrity of items posessed by the child which depict the other parent or remind the child of the other parent.

15: We agree not to trivialize, or deny, the existence of the other parent to the child.

16: We agree not to interrogate the child about the other parent nor will either parent encourage or discourage comments by the child about the other parent.

17: We agree that neither parent will directly or indirectly attack or criticize to the child the extended family of the other parent, the other parent’s career, the living and travel arrangements of the other parent, or lawful activities of the other parent or associates of the other parent.

18: We agree that neither parent will say or do things with an eye to gaining the child as an “ally” against the other parent.

19: We agree that neither parent will encourage or instruct the child to be disobedient to the other parent, stepparents, or relatives.

20: We agree that neither parent will reward the child to act negatively toward the other parent.

21: We agree that neither parent will try to make the child believe he or she loves the child more than the other parent, by, for example, saying that he or she loves the child more than the other parent or over-informing the child on adult topics or overindulging the child.

22: We agree not to discuss child support issues with or in front of the child.

23: We agree not to punish the child physically or threaten such punishment.

24: We agree not to engage in judgmental, opinonated or negative commentary or interrogations once the child arrives form his/hoer other home.

25: We agree that neither parent will permit the child to be transported by a person who is intoxicated due to consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs.

26: We agree that neither parent will smoke tobacco materials inside structures or vehicles occupied at the time by the  child.

27: We agree that neither parent will be ‘under the influence’ while the child is under their care, or allow others that may be, to care for the child.

 

Signed:

________________________________                           _______________________

(Name)   (Date)

________________________________ __________________________

(Name) (Date)

 

Alice Kaltman, LCSW
Family Matters NY
info@familymattersny.com