Tracy Attorney Blog

Coparenting Corner

Posted on 2014-10-01 13:46:14

CO-PARENTING CORNER by Debbie Belmar

 

As a mom working in family law, my initial concern is always for the children.  This series of our Family Law Blog will focus on tips to help parents work together for the sake of their children.

 

We know that co-parenting after a break up or divorce is difficult.  Parents may be able to reach an agreement outside of court, but often one or both is unwilling to compromise or take responsibility for issues or behaviors that place the children at risk or to even consider each child’s feelings.  We encourage both parents to be flexible.   Putting your kids first during this financially complicated and emotionally traumatic period is extremely important.  Each family member struggles to cope with the transition in their own way.  Surviving the break-up of your family unit starts with helping your kids feel secure.  Feel free to share this blog with the other parent in your family.  Show your kids that they come first by following the tips in this blog series.

 

This week:  COOPERATION

 

Make a conscious effort to set aside your hurt feelings and attempt to cooperate with the other parent to work together to resolve custody and visitation disputes.  It is inevitable that disputes will arise whether you have a temporary agreement or an order in place.  The most common disputes include scheduling conflicts, changes in work schedules, travel arrangements, special circumstances, and other disputes.  If you are unable to work together, it is the kids that pay the price.

 

We especially encourage parents to avoid involving the police in these types of disputes.  Involving the police can be stressful and scary for the children.  Police involvement should be limited to dangerous situations and abduction issues like out right refusal to return a visiting child or to allow a scheduled visit.  If it is a minor accommodation, it is wiser to simply try to work together to make alternate arrangements.  If it is an ongoing issue, we encourage our clients to keep a continuing record of the instances as they occur and to contact us to address the issue.  If necessary, the court may need to become involved in a contempt action. 

 

Judges want to see parents working together in the best interests of the children.  Likewise, judges also want to see a spirit of cooperation from attorneys while working toward their client’s best interests.  California appellate courts are increasingly making it clear to divorce lawyers that "[Z]ealous advocacy does not equate with 'attack dog' or 'scorched earth'; nor does it mean lack of civility."  Marriage of Davenport (2011) 194 CA4th 1507, 1536.  Some clients want to set their attorney to attack mode against the other parent and may feel like a logical or professional approach is too soft.  However, it is important to remember that we do not want to make a bad situation worse, especially for the children involved. 

 

It is particularly important to keep all communication “clean” (especially written communications) as they may be introduced as evidence in court at a later date.  It is difficult to introduce evidence against the other parent when our client is hostile or uncooperative in their messages.  It can reflect very poorly on the parent.  Sometimes a parent standing up for their rights escalates to the next level and gets ugly.  Imagine that the judge is reading your texts and emails over your shoulder as you write them, and think about how it may impact your case later.  Contact your attorney for assistance before problems escalate and get nasty. 

 

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