As a parent, it is human nature to put your children’s needs first in every part of life. In Virginia, courts adopt this same view when making determinations regarding child custody and visitation. Virginia courts are statutorily required to take each of ten “best interest factors” into consideration before making a ruling. Although all the factors are important, two factors may have swaying power when the court is faced with two genuinely good parents:
- “[t]he propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child;” and
- “… the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child.”
If a court finds that one parent more readily facilitates the child’s relationship with the other parent and is more willing to cooperate with the other parent when making decisions for the child, that parent may have a leg up in the courtroom. In other words, one parent’s stronger co-parenting skills may make the difference in the court’s custody determination in Virginia.
Research suggests that a strong co-parenting relationship has a positive impact on the well-being of a child. While each parent generally believes that he or she knows what is best for his or her children, the beliefs of one parent don’t necessarily line up with the beliefs of the other parent. It is not easy to raise a child when you are forced to cooperate with an individual you just spent a year divorcing. Some couples can’t even look at each other after going through a bad break-up or divorce, let alone work out the proper punishment for a teenager sneaking out past curfew.
Co-parenting involves communicating with the other parent about all things involving the child: education, schedules, medical needs, rules, discipline, extracurricular activities, friends and relationships, financial issues, etc. This should eliminate the need for either parent to grill the child about what happened while the child was in the care of the other parent.
Luckily for many parents, we live in an age where face to face communication has taken a backseat to text-messages and other digital communication forums. Several apps and websites have been developed to facilitate co-parenting when direct communication has not been constructive. These programs can provide (a) scheduling tools to outline custody and visitation schedules as well as events for each child, (b) a forum for sharing important family information, and (c) a method for tracking child-related expenses. Some of these apps and websites even allow direct messaging between parents and facilitate requests for additional visitation.
If you find yourself in a position where co-parenting is causing you an excessive amount of stress or you feel that your children are not adjusting well to the co-parenting strategy you and the other parent have put in place, it may be time to speak with a co-parenting counselor in your area. These counselors are trained specifically to help parents co-parent children even when the parents do not get along.
If you have questions about the impact of co-parenting on your custody case, be sure to consult with a family law attorney in your jurisdiction. The family lawyers at Livesay & Myers, P.C. have years of experience with custody and visitation matters in courts across Northern Virginia. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.