If you have children and are getting a divorce, chances are it will not be a clean break with your ex, even if you want it to be. You will still need to work with the other parent on custody decisions, see the other parent during custody transitions, and you will both be involved in the children's lives going forward.
And whether you will be in contact with your soon-to-be ex reluctantly or you're looking forward to co-parenting following the divorce there are some legal steps you can take to make the whole process easier.
1. Put Your Kids First
Any decision a court might make regarding child custody will be made in the child's best interests. So you might as well get a head start and keep your children at the center of all of your decisions. Showing your ex respect, making the transition as comfortable as possible, and being involved in your child's life will all help when it comes to finalize custody.
2. Keep Communication Lines Open
Silence, while preferable to angry or spiteful speech, still does little to get things done. Open, civil lines of communication can help both of you stay on top of what's going on in your children's lives. Good communication can also avoid misunderstandings and keep your children from being caught in the middle passing messages between parents.
3. Get It in Writing
Any oral agreements you might have about custody, visitation, and care of the children should be put down in a parenting agreement. Ideally, the agreement can then be ratified by a court order. Having everything in writing can clarify things between parents and they will be more likely to abide by the agreement's terms. And in some states, violating a legally enforceable parenting plan can result in criminal or civil penalties.
4. Make Documents Accessible
Parenting agreements, school schedules, contact numbers ... there's a lot of information to keep track of. Creating a shared document or file that both parents can access can help both parents quickly share all of the essential information about your children. Google Docs or other cloud-based services are perfect, or you can go old school and have hard copies readily accessible.
5. Hire an attorney
A divorce can be confusing and stressful, emotionally and legally speaking. Having someone familiar with child custody issues, both in court and out, is essential to ensuring a smooth co-parenting plan.