Coparenting can be hard. It comes with a general loss of control. You can’t manage what happens to your kids when they are with your ex, and that can be hard for many parents to accept.
Successful coparenting requires a lot of trust. Sometimes, that trust is broken, or it was never there to begin with. Your opinion of your ex’s parenting style may be one of the reasons the marriage didn’t work.
If you’re concerned about how your former spouse is raising the children, here are some options you can explore.
Creating or Revisiting Your Parenting Plan
If you are currently in the process of getting a divorce, or if you are about to file, you will need a parenting plan before the marriage officially dissolves.
The parenting plan covers all the major decisions concerning custody. In California, custody is granted in percentages. One parent, for instance, will have the kids for 75% of the year, and the other gets them for the remaining 25%. Your plan will also cover things like visitation, including the days, times, methods, and so on.
A good parenting plan should also cover broad decision-making powers. Parents must be granted final say on important matters such as education, healthcare, extracurricular activities, and so on. If there is little conflict in your parenting styles and decisions, you can have an equal say on such matters, or you can have equal negotiating power with one parent given the final decision-making power.
A parenting plan in California can be as specific as you wish. If you have strong feelings about the child’s diet, entertainment choices, screen time, etc., you can include these items in your parenting plan. This can help curb any concerns you have about your spouse’s parenting choices. For instance, if you don’t want the kids watching R-rated movies until they reach a certain age, you can put this in your parenting plan. If the other parent signs it, it becomes an official, legal document. This means that they could face legal consequences for going against the plan, even if they disagree with its stipulations.
You can also alter your existing parenting plan. If you disapprove of some of your former spouse’s parenting methods, you can revisit your original plan, adding the missing details.
All of this, of course, requires either the cooperation of your ex or the involvement of the court. If you can allow some things, even those that drive you crazy, to slide, doing so may be easier on everyone.
Evidence of Abuse
If you suspect your former spouse of being abusive to or neglectful of the children, you should take immediate action. You can plea to the courts, citing the other parent as a direct threat to the children.
You must be able to produce evidence to back up your claims. If there are marks on the children or medical bills you can cite, do so. Take pictures, and take the kids to the doctor to verify the injuries. Do whatever you can to legitimize your accusations, as your ex will have the right to deny them and defend themselves.
If the court agrees with your allegations, there are several possible outcomes. You may be able to get a protective order against your ex, keeping the children at a distance. There are a few types of orders. One, an emergency order, lasts only a few days and provides immediate protection. Above that, a temporary order keeps your ex at bay for a couple weeks while you prepare for a permanent order. Permanent orders can last indefinitely, depending on the need.
There are also scenarios where your ex will retain some degree of visitation. They could be put under observation, allowed only supervised visits. They may be ordered to work with a social worker who can help them quell their abusive behavior and teach them healthy parenting skills.
In extreme cases of abuse or neglect, you may be able to plea for the courts to have your former spouse’s parental rights removed altogether. You will need the help of a skilled lawyer to do this, as parental rights revocation is a serious matter, and courts do not remove these rights lightly.
Working With the Other Parent
Ultimately, when a court grants custody, it trusts that parent with the responsibility that comes with custody. When a parent is in direct possession of the child, they are, legally speaking, considered the full parent. They can parent however they choose, as long as they aren’t directly endangering the child.
This means that when you are unsettled by your ex’s parenting style, and the kids are safe and healthy, there isn’t much you can do.
Your only option, therefore, is to work with the other parent, pleading for congruity in parenting.
Approaching a parent, any parent, to tell them you disagree with their parenting choices is a highly sensitive proposition. You must handle the matter with care, caution, and compassion. Your ex will probably have reasons for their choices. Listen to them. Give this person room to explain themselves, and don’t be judgmental or condescending.
Most importantly, don’t go to war with them. It’s not worth the stress you will put on them, yourself, and the kids. Overt confrontation can have a lasting, rippling effect. Family members can draw battle lines, kids included. Ask yourself how important the parenting issue in question is. Remember that your ultimate goal is the best interests of the children, and conflict stands in direct opposition to that.
On the other hand, if your ex is receptive to your feedback, you can renegotiate your parenting plan, including the issues causing your concern. Consider taking the matter to mediation. In this process, you can hire a neutral, legal professional to help you draft a new plan. This person is not there to take sides. They are hired to help each party communicate their needs and come to a resolution.
If you need help creating or modifying your parenting plan, reach out to our firm for help. For a free consultation, call (949) 558-2624 or contact us online.