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Co-Parenting and Joint Custody Tips for Divorced Parents: A Case Study

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Co-parenting can be challenging, but it is an essential part of post-divorce life for many parents. When couples with children decide to end their marriage, it is critical to establish a co-parenting arrangement that benefits the children’s well-being. In this article, we will provide tips for divorced parents on co-parenting and joint custody based on a case study of John and Sarah (not real names).

Case Study: John and Sarah

Sarah and John are divorced parents who share joint custody of their two children Jasper and Aiden (not real names), ages 7 and 10. They have been struggling with communication and conflict resolution since before divorce, and continued after their divorce. Sarah and John’s co-parenting conflicts often centred around their personal issues and Sarah was struggling to be flexible with access arrangements, fearing unwanted complications and conflicts. With the help of a counsellor and following some tips for good enough co-parenting, John and Sarah were able to create a positive and successful arrangement for their children. Here are some of the tips that helped them along the way:

Tip 1: Prioritise Communication

One of the most important tips for co-parenting is to prioritise communication. Sarah and John needed help talking and listening to each other as their current process led to conflicts and misunderstandings. They were encouraged to establish open lines of communication which welcomes open sharing of information about the children.  To reduce the stress of co-parenting, both parents need to feel comfortable reaching out to the other parent on all issues related to the children’s well-being.  In many families, the majority of child-related matters are handled primarily by only one of the parents. For children to function well while living in two distinct households, both parents need to communicate and share information when it comes to major – and sometimes not so major – decisions with regards to their children.

  • Communicate directly with each other: Don’t use your children as a messenger between you and your co-parent.  Instead, communicate directly with your co-parent about any issues or concerns.

  • Relearn how to listen and speak with each other: It is easy to project wrong assumptions and misinterpret words and actions when we do not speak directly.  Slow down your communication by taking time to listen without interruption.  Clarify each other’s intentions and meanings and seek to understand the other parent’s views and be willing to compromise.

Always show respect for each other.  Remember your children are always watching and modelling you.

Co-parenting apps can be a useful tool to keep each other informed, share calendars, track tasks and have automatic reminders to facilitate communication.  Look out for our local co-parenting app by the Community Justice Centre (CJC) in the near future.


Tip 2: Be Flexible

Another key tip for co-parenting is to be flexible. Sarah and John’s schedules often conflicted, leading to difficulty coordinating pick-ups and drop-offs. Parent are encouraged to be flexible and work together to find solutions. Below are some examples on how one can be flexible in co-parenting relationship:

  • Adjusting schedules: When John had a new job that required him to work longer hours on certain days of the week. Sarah adjusted her schedule to pick up the children from school on those days, which allowed John to continue working without having to worry about child-care.

  • Sharing holidays: Both John and Sarah agreed to alternate holidays each year, but they remained flexible and open to making changes if needed. For example, when John’s family was having a special celebration on a certain holiday, they decided to switch years so that the children could participate.

  • Making accommodations for special events: When Jasper, had a school play, both Sarah and John made an effort to attend, even though it fell on the other parent’s parenting time.

  • Being willing to compromise: Both John and Sarah disagreed on which primary school the children should attend. Eventually, they were able to find a compromise by agreeing to enrol the children in a school that was not their top choice, but that met most of their criteria.

Tip 3: Agree on What is Children’s Best Interests and Putting Children’s Needs First

Parents need to discuss and agree on their children’s best interests, and keep this in mind as a guide to making decisions.  Parents are also encouraged to separate adult issues and put their children’s needs first.

  • Separate adult issues: Sarah and John’s co-parenting conflicts often centred around their personal issues rather than their children’s needs. Keep your personal relationship with your ex-spouse apart from the co-parenting relationship.  It is difficult to do so but set aside your feelings of hurt and bitterness and focus on stabilising your child’s routine and well-being.  Through counselling they learnt to separate adult issues from their children’s needs when making decisions.

  • Support your children’s relationship with their other parent: Your children need both of you to be present in their lives.  Encourage your children to have a positive relationship with the other parent.  Avoid speaking negatively about your co-parent in front of your children.

Tip 4: Seek Support When Needed

Co-parenting can be emotionally challenging, and parents should seek support when needed. Sarah and John struggled with unresolved feelings and resentment, negatively impacting their co-parenting relationship. Individual therapy and support groups helped them work through their emotions and improve their co-parenting relationship.

Co-parenting after divorce can be a challenging and emotional journey, but it is critical to establish a co-parenting arrangement that benefits the children’s well-being.  Divorced parents can establish a co-parenting relationship that promotes their children’s happiness and well-being with time and effort. Sarah and John’s experience shows that successful co-parenting requires a commitment to communication, flexibility, respect, and putting the children’s needs first.

If you are going through a divorce and would like emotional support for yourself or your children, reach out to us via [email protected] or call us at 62355229. We provide counselling and support group programmes for divorcing families.  If you would like to join an online support group, we welcome you to register your interest at go.fycs.org/transcendingdivorce

Written By: Debbyrina De Thomas, Counsellor, Fei Yue Community Services