The Most Important Question Co-parents Should Ask Themselves
Whether or not you were completely aware, some surprisingly may not have been, Family Law Courts makes custody determinations based on the ‘best interest’ of your child. They are looking at the situation holistically. Meaning, they’re not just looking at whether or not you’re a fit parent but whether you’ll provide a healthy consistent home while ensuring both (fit) parents have the opportunity to be an active part of the child’s life.
When we talk about the “best interest” of children in the daily grind of co-parenting, we are speaking of their essential needs (food, shelter, education, health, et al.), helping children grow and develop, and achieve their natural capabilities (ex. mentally, physically, emotionally, creatively) to the maximum extent possible. Needs are the essential nutrients to a child’s growth, development and integrity. In co-parenting, a truly child-focused approach positions children’s needs at the forefront of “best interest” considerations, along with corresponding parental responsibilities to these needs.
So when you’re in the throes of co-parenting and trying to cut through the conflict, the bickering, the silent treatment, and acrimony ask yourself: ’what is in the best interest of the child?’. The most difficult thing to swallow in that moment is that your co-parent’s request may, in fact, be in the best interest of the child. And, that’s okay. While one part of you may feel wrong for giving in, you may, in fact, be ‘right’ for making a decision that is in the best interest of the child.
If you are using that as an unbiased decider between you and your co-parent, you may begin to see a shift in how decisions are being made. Rather than having decisions made on what works for him or suits his idea of what his kid should have or what she wants, you are focusing on those fundamental ‘best interests’.
Now some may split hairs over exactly what those needs and interests are, and that is to be expected. Some may argue because there is no definitive definition it is hard to adhere too.
The focus in these cases is the kids and their needs. That is potentially the most important paradigm shift, away from what you (the co-parent) wants or doesn’t want to what is in the best interest of the child. Shifting away from the ongoing power struggles and conflict between co-parents to a more kid-focused effort of framing your children at the center of your decisions, not putting them in the middle of your conflict is a clear universal step to co-parenting in the best interest of your kids.
So, the next time your co-parent signs your kid up for a sport or activity without discussing it first and tries to push it back to you as a shared expense, you can look at it this way, -while the activity may be in the best interest of the kid, not being able to pay rent is not in the best interest of the kid. Perhaps setting some ground rules that there is some discussion prior to signing them up may be the best way to go.
Author: Dave Chartier - A single co-parenting dad, a freelance writer and former syndicated dad blogger with work published in USA Today, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.