Co-parenting With Someone Who Cheated
Choosing to co-parent with a former spouse who cheated on you can be a painful and emotionally charged decision, but many divorced parents nonetheless make this decision for the wellbeing of their child. In other cases, when a divorce court orders that parents take joint custody of a child, co-parenting may be the only option, especially considering that New Mexico law prefers joint custody in divorce cases.
Thankfully, you and your former spouse usually have the freedom to define your own boundaries. Those boundaries include the manner and degree to which your parenting overlaps, and there are some tried-and-true strategies that will make the co-parenting process easier for everyone involved — even when former spouses may not particularly enjoy working together.
Open and Clear Communication is Key
Maintaining open, clear, and honest communication (verbally and written) is the most essential step to ensuring success in a co-parenting arrangement with a former spouse who cheated. This communication begins during the divorce process, before finalization when the details of your custody arrangement are being worked out.
Be Honest During the Divorce Process
Your custody arrangement will be recorded officially in your divorce decree, and it will result from negotiations between your lawyer and your former spouse’s lawyer. An experienced New Mexico divorce attorney will ensure that your custody arrangement is specific, detailed, accurate, and genuinely reflect the best interests of everyone involved — including you, your spouse, and your child or children.
But before your attorney can do that, you have to be honest and open with your attorney (and with your former spouse, at your attorney’s direction) about what your expectations, worries, and hopes are for your custody arrangement. To the fullest extent possible, you should anticipate what problems will arise so that you can resolve issues on the front end.
When those issues inevitably arise, you will then have your divorce decree, a formal court order, to refer back to and to use in resolving disputes with your former spouse. Without a detailed divorce decree, you could end up having to take your former spouse back to court to resolve issues, which can be a taxing process for you and your family.
Keep Everything in Writing
For the same reason that your divorce decree is a powerful document, you should work to keep written records of your communication and interactions with your former spouse in writing. In the event that you need to enforce your divorce decree after your former spouse violates it, written records serve as better evidence than oral recollections. Take as many notes as you feel you may need to, and keep these records in a safe place.
Be Consistent and Follow Your Custody Agreement
If you’re anticipating that issues are going to arise with your former spouse in co-parenting your child or children, you are best equipped to deal with those issues if you have a better track record yourself. In other words, you should ensure that you personally honor every term of the divorce decree to the best of your ability, respecting drop-off and pick-up times, contributing financially where you are required to, and otherwise making a good faith effort to co-parent with your former spouse.
If you are not consistent in following the terms of your custody arrangement, your former spouse may start pointing fingers if and when you try to hold them accountable to the same arrangement — and they may have good reason to do so. By ensuring that you are consistently following the terms of the custody agreement, you are setting yourself up for success if and when you may need to enforce your custody agreement against your former spouse.
Use Your Divorce Decree to Resolve Issues
Your divorce decree is a court order that contains all of the details about how your divorce ended, including the terms of your child custody arrangement. As previously stated, you and your attorney should work to ensure that your divorce decree contains all of the details of your co-parenting arrangement.
When one parent does not honor the divorce decree, it functions like a contract. You can go to a judge and ask for your former spouse to be ordered to follow the decree, and if he or she doesn’t do so, the judge can issue an order of enforcement or possibly hold your former spouse in contempt of court. But to the fullest extent possible, you should refer back to your divorce decree to resolve issues before involving the court.
One example that might be contemplated by a divorce decree is medical treatment and decision-making. If a child becomes sick and needs surgery, what if one parent says yes to the surgery, and another says no? Hopefully, in that case, the divorce decree will state which parent has the final decision-making authority over the child when medical issues arise. But if it does not, the parents would need to come to an agreement or go to a judge to obtain a court order deciding which parent is in charge of the situation.
Getting a court order isn’t an easy process, and it requires time and legal fees. For that reason, you should try to work out issues using your divorce decree whenever possible.
Be Objective About Your Grievances
At the end of the day, situations are going to arise in a co-parenting arrangement where the parents disagree on how to handle a situation. When these situations arise, it is imperative that you remain objective about what grievances come from genuine issues with your former spouse and what grievances come from your own feelings.
Ultimately, remember that your feelings about your former spouse are separate from your duties as a co-parent. While you may feel hurt and may distrust the other parent of your children, you still have an obligation to uphold the child visitation schedule and parenting plan as arranged by your divorce decree.
At the same time, don’t feel as if you have to ignore behavior that falls out of line with your agreement or that you feel puts your children in danger. If a parent is acting as an immediate risk or danger to the children, report them to the police and inform the presiding judge over your divorce case immediately.
If a parent is not presenting a danger but is still not upholding the divorce decree (e.g., ignoring your visitation days, skipping child support) then file a motion for civil contempt of court.
If your issues are either vague or don’t fall into the above two categories, document it! Create a file and email it to yourself, an attorney, a partner, etc. Speak to an attorney if you need further assistance
Get Help Managing a Contentious Divorce or Modifying Your Divorce Decree
Your child’s wellbeing should be at the forefront of your co-parenting arrangement, and that is because your child’s wellbeing is at the forefront of your own parenting. Thus, if you believe your child’s wellbeing is at stake, you shouldn’t hesitate to take action to enforce your divorce decree and custody arrangement.