Dedicate yourself – it takes effort to cooperate – A-Z guide to Cooperative Parenting





According to Dr. Stahl mothers and fathers will parent their children after divorce either through conflict, parallel or a cooperative style of parenting.  Stahl, P. (2000). Parenting After Divorce. San Luis Obispo, CA: Impact Publishers. In my divorce practice I have found that no bright lines exist between these parenting approaches.  It is also in fact possible that parents transition from cooperative to parallel to conflict styles of parenting before their children graduates high school.   The parent’s ability to communicate will depend on what style of parenting is implemented.

Of the three styles, conflict parenting causes the most damage to children.  Parents will litigate, fail to cooperate or instigate conflict until their ex is alienated or otherwise removed from having a relationship with their children.   Dr. Ludwig F. Lowenstein noted that there were “specific problems of children suffering from the effects of parent alienation” include anger, lack of impulse control, low self-confidence, separation anxiety, depression, sleep and eating disorders, education problems, drug abuse, and obsessive compulsive behavior. 2 (“Problems Suffered by Children due to the effects of Parent Alienation Syndrome”  Ludwig F. Lowenstein (Justice of the Peace,  Vol. 166, No. 24, 2002 P. 464-466).  The damage to children carries into adulthood, as children from divorce lack the necessary coping skills to be happy and maintain healthy relationships.  “Long Term Effects of Divorce on Children” – C. Giles Feb. 18, 2014.

One local judge in San Antonio was famous for reviewing divorce files by first determining how thick its contents were.  If the Judge determined that the file was excessively thick he would pronounce from the bench that the parties had committed child abuse because of nonstop litigation.  The Judge instructed the parties that they needed to reach an agreement within the next ten minutes.  The Judge further instructed the parties if they could not reach an agreement he was going to contact Child Protective Services, remove the child from both parties  and place the children in a loving home.  The Judge then left the bench and left it to the lawyer’s to draft an agreement that needed to be acceptable to the court.  Not every case I was involved in ended in an agreement and on at least one occasion the Judge was true to his word.

It is important than to contrast and compare parallel and cooperative parenting styles.  Parallel parenting is the traditional approach which governs how individuals parent children after their divorce.  Parents look to their attorney’s and state family courts to receive their respective rights and duties over their children.  The party’s decree of divorce, parenting plan or other court order creates the rule book by which both parents interact.  Parallel parenting benefits litigants who no longer wish to involve themselves with an ex spouse after a bitter divorce process.  The question parent’s must ask themselves, “Is parallel parenting the right choice for my child?”

To children of divorce, parallel parenting creates two separate homes to live in, two sets of rules, two holidays and two birthdays.  Children need guidance, and need their mom and dads to act like their parents who are there for both of them.  Parallel parenting and court orders do not lend to an environment that inspires parents to communicate and focus on how to interact and address their children’s needs.   It is easy for children of divorce to be lost and feel that their voices are not heard due to their parent’s inability to communicate.

Parents who subscribe to parallel parenting find themselves forced back to their attorney’s office to resolve conflict with their ex.  It is easy to see how parents who consistently find themselves back into court may eventually adopt a conflict style of parenting, based upon a perception that they are consistently harassed by their ex-spouse.  The key ingredient that demoted these parents from parallel to conflict parenting is simply a lack of communication.

Cooperative parenting allows the parent’s to interact and focus on the needs of their children.  Cooperative parenting techniques open the door for parents to communicate openly about their concerns and long term goals for their children.  Cooperative parenting requires a mom and dad to focus on issues a kids first parent second mentality.  Cooperative parenting gives a mother or father the ability to look at their ex as their child’s other parent.

Most experts agree that cooperative parenting practices provide the best environment to meet children’s needs after their parent’s divorce.   Unfortunately, most of these experts acknowledge that only a small percentage of parents truly subscribe to the principles of cooperative parenting.  From this we can presume that most parents will not adopt a cooperative parenting style immediately after they separate and divorce.  It is should be the goal of parents, and professionals involved in the divorce process, to providing cooperative parenting techniques so parents can gravitate toward cooperative and not conflict parenting.

Children have the ability to adjust to life after their parent’s divorce, and in fact can grow and thrive.  The main factor as to how children can adopt to life after divorce will be based on how their parent’s coexist and avoid constant conflict. Children will understand that a court order dictates how they can interact with their parents.  Children want to know they are loved and feel the love of both parents.

I would suggest that you use more of your resources in determining how you can settle your divorce suit than preparing for your case for trial.  You will find that there are many professionals out there who will help you and your ex focusing your settlement negotiation on how the NEEDS of your child can be met.   Find an attorney in your local area and speak to them about the direction you should ultimately take.

By opening the door to communicating with your ex you have changed the rules of the game.  You might fail in your attempt to co parent with your child’s other parent.  You might find that you are only successful in achieving a parallel style of parenting.  Many ex’s at the onset are unable to separate emotion from the objective need to parent alongside their child’s other parent.  That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with creating a starting point.

Think of cooperative parenting as a journey, and to be successful you must have DESIRE, DEDICATION, AND DEVOTION.  Cooperative parenting techniques can be fused into an existing parallel parenting plan and develop to such a degree that you find that you changed the style of parenting you and your ex share with your child.

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