If you and your ex share custody of your child, one of the biggest challenges you face is learning how to co-parent. This is, in some ways, similar to parenting together during your marriage. You need to make important decisions, make sure you communicate well, stay involved with the children and put their best interests first.
In many other ways, of course, it is very different. Now that you aren’t married, you have to split up the time that you spend with the kids. Though you are still co-parenting, you’re each doing it individually. You’re doing it in different homes and with different living situations and schedules. You may also not see eye-to-eye on some issues, which may be more likely to cause conflict now that you’re no longer together as a couple.
To make this go well, you need to work together and plan in advance. There are three main areas to address, summed up in these three questions:
1. What type of medical care should the child get?
If your child has an illness or disease, the questions about medical care become even more pressing, but they exist no matter what. Which primary care doctor should your child see? When do they need to go in for appointments, and who should bring them? Is your child going to get vaccinations? How are you going to split up the costs of medical care?
Specific medical issues also raise additional questions. Say your child gets diagnosed with cancer. What treatment options are you open to? Which clinic should they go to? What doctors do you want them to see? These are just a few of the hundreds of decisions you’ll need to make together.
2. What type of religious upbringing will the child get?
If you’re not religious, this question may not be important to you. For parents who are, however, it is one of the most critical points to address. This is especially true when both parents come from a different religion and want to bring the child up in that religion. Should they get exposed to both? Does one hold more weight? In some cases, religions may even conflict with one another, and you have complex cases where one parent does not want the child to get exposed to the other parent’s religion at all.
3. What type of education should the child get?
Some parents like private schools. Others like religious schools. Others like public schools. Even within these areas, parents may have a preference for one specific type of school, like a Montessori school. If the school costs money, who pays for it? Who buys school supplies? How do you coordinate rides? Again, these are just a few of the questions to ask.
Even within just these three areas, you can see that co-parenting raises a lot of questions. Make sure you know your legal rights in Pennsylvania.