This blog has frequently discussed the value of good co-parenting. A common problem many couples face following a divorce is how to parent together in different homes. In general, most cases involving parenting time or decisions invokes New Hampshire’s “best interest of the child” legal standard. This particular legal phrase is frequently found in RSA 461-A, the main statute covering the legal rights and responsibilities for parents. While this legal standard may seem “squishy” to some, the flexibility it provides the field of Family Law helps to ensure that children are properly protected when parents disagree about what is best for their children.

Frequently, co-parents attempt to take their spouse to Court for contempt for failure to follow the parenting plan. A New Hampshire parenting plan has several sections of form language where it encourages the co-parents to put aside their anger with one another to focus on their children. One such section reads, “[e]ach parent shall promote a healthy, beneficial relationship between the child(ren) and the other parent and shall not demean or speak out negatively in any manner that would damage the relationship between either parent and the child(ren).” The inclusion of such language is to help enforce the idea that even if the parents do not get along in all other aspects, they still have a child to raise together.

Unfortunately, there are times where one parent will use the child as a tool in an attempt to worry, anger, and/or alienate the other parent. From a practical standpoint, there is not much a Court can do to make a toxic co-parent refrain from being toxic unless the other parent can prove how such toxic behavior is affecting the child’s best interest. Proving such toxicity can be quite difficult, even if the non-toxic co-parent takes copious notes, writes emails, texts, and generally tries to keep a record of the other co-parent’s bad behavior. In a series of photos, the Facebook page, “Solutions Counseling,” posted a letter from a son to a toxic co-parent, after his age of emancipation from a parenting plan.

Now the letter is not signed, posted anonymously, and potentially typed using a cell phone application, but even the most skeptical eye should consider the letter’s message.  At some point, children grow-up. However, well before that point, children will understand the nature of their parents’ actions long after their parents have split-up. Good co-parenting should never be about “winning” an argument, or who has “more time” with the child. Good co-parenting is fostering a sense of unity so the child does not feel used, scared to talk about issues/problems they are having, or generally unwelcome at home. Good co-parenting assures children feel loved and welcomed in two homes, knowing both parents are there to support them, and not to simply “get back” or “hurt” the other parent.

The first step to good co-parenting is to make sure there is a well-developed parenting plan that addresses the needs of the children during both parents’ parenting time. The parties do best when they put their self-interest aside and listen to their co-parent’s goals when raising their children. At Parnell, Michels & McKay, our attorneys always counsel our clients to develop a parenting plan that provides for your children’s best interests. We listen to your input and provide advice at each step of the legal process. Our mission to advise people through the difficulties that arise when drafting a parenting plan, modifying an existing one, or simply dealing with a difficult co-parent.

If you are interested in learning more about parenting plans, divorce, child support, or any other legal concerns in your life, please contact us to learn more. We want to help you be in the best position to have a positive co-parenting experience.