What is coparenting? What isn't coparenting? Help!

Coparenting could be a new word for you, especially if you just entered the divorce world.  It is a critical word if you have children of divorce.  Divorced parents that have a successful coparenting relationship often find that their divorce has a smaller impact on their children than those divorces with high conflict.  But if you are getting a divorce you will want to know what coparenting is and what it is not.

Co-parenting is

  • Continuous conversations about your children’s needs and interest This means that just like you would have had conversations about your children if you stayed married, you are committed to having conversations about your children after your divorce. Your children need to have both parents interested in them, watching them and hearing about their day and their struggles.

  • Continuous joint decision-making about your children’s needs and interests When you make decisions about your children you do it together. Rather than inform the other coparent, you consult with the coparent. This tells the coparent and your children that you respect the other parent and their opinion matters to you, and that matters to your children. See my other blog post about communicating with your coparent.

  • Coming to terms with sharing both time with children and parental responsibility Its hard to have to come to terms with an empty house when your children leave for the weekend or are not with you all week. But freely sharing them with the other parent without guilt or shame is a gift you give to your children. It also allows the other parent to share in the responsibility of raising the children as well as gives a much-needed break to the custodial parent.

Co-Parenting might be

  • Being at the same event at the same time with the other parent

Making kids choose which parent to sit with at an event is unfair and cruel. It puts undue stress and anxiety on the child that does not need to be there. Give your child the freedom to enjoy themselves.  Sit close enough to the coparent that your child does not have to choose.

  • Being at a family holiday at the same time as the other parent

While this may be awkward at first, it can give the child a great sense of relief to have both parents there. Do it for your child. Feel awkward. You are the adult. Its your responsibility as a parent to act like one instead of the victim.

Co-Parenting is not

  • Putting your needs above your child's

  • Staying negatively engaged with your former spouse because you can’t let go of the marriage relationship

  • Staying in your marital roles as husband and wife

  • Trying to use coparenting as a means to get “back together” with the other parent

Coparenting is only recommended for those families where both parents are deemed as safe and appropriate. Of course, if there has been a history of domestic violence than coparenting will be more difficult and potentially unsafe.

Children have a right to have both their mother and father regularly involved in their lives. Studies show that children who have frequent access to both parents

  • Have the most successful adjustments

  • State the most contentment with life after the divorce

The biggest obstacle to successful coparenting is EMOTIONS


  • Lets children still have a family. Even though you got a divorce the former family will always be the child’s family.

  • Gives children stability when the family is coming apart

  • Gives children something to rely on

  • Shows children how to get along even when it is hard

Remember just because your marriage is over, does not mean your role as a parent is over. Your child needs you forever.

To see what kids said about their parents divorce watch this video.

If you are stuck in your co-parenting relationship and not sure how to move forward, co-parenting counseling with me can help!   Please email at sara@sparrowcounsel.com or call me at 205-538-3978 or go online to schedule an appointment.

Sara Dungan, M.Ed, LMFT, ALC, NCC, Certified Parenting Coordinator, Divorce and Family Mediator (Domestic Violence Trained) has her private practice called Sparrow Counseling in Birmingham, AL.  She specializes in Parenting Coordination, Co-Parenting Counseling and Divorce and Family Mediation.  Her passion is helping parents learn how to become successful coparents, so their children can thrive after their divorce.  Contact Sara at sara@sparrowcounsel.com.

Sara is an Associate Licensed Counselor (ALC) under the supervision of H. Hobart (Bart) Grooms, M. Div, MEd, LPC-S, LMFT-S, Supervising Counselor.