What Does Bad Co-Parenting Look Like?
- “Bad” co-parenting often occurs when lingering feelings of resentment, anger, and betrayal, as well as competition between parties (i.e., wanting to have more time with the child, the need to have your house be the “fun house”) get prioritized over the wellbeing of the child or children.
- Texas has conservatorship rather than custody. There are two kinds: managing conservatorship and possessory conservatorship. Managing conservatorship is akin to “full custody”, with total rights over essential decisions in a child’s life at all times. Possessory conservatorship is more limited and is usually conditional to emergency decision-making when the party is in “possession” (i.e., physical custody) of the child.
- In Texas, co-parenting does NOT have to rely on the legal custody agreement proposed by the law. In fact, it is arguably better if co-parents can work out what’s best for their child and put it into action, crafting a specialized plan for each individual family..
- There is usually some degree of co-parenting dysfunction in every divorce or separation case. However, most can be remedied relatively easily.
- Even if there’s a good co-parenting relationship between separated or divorced parties, that relationship takes work, commitment, and communication to maintain. This should be an area of concerted effort for co-parents.
Bad co-parenting often happens when the co-parenting relationship is dominated or disrupted by negative feelings, including distrust, anger, or resentment.
There are many ways that these feelings can find their way into the co-parenting relationship. Often, there are residual feelings of betrayal from an event that led to the dissolution of the marriage or romantic relationship, which is the reason the need arose to develop a co-parenting relationship between two separate homes in the first place.
It’s perfectly understandable for co-parents to still feel anger or resentment in some ways when it comes to their former significant other. This is especially true if there was a major betrayal or harmful act perpetrated by the former partner that led to the dissolution of the marriage/romantic relationship.
However, if you’re bringing that anger, distrust, and resentment into the co-parenting aspect of the relationship, then that will very quickly lead to “bad” or unsuccessful co-parenting.
Additionally, co-parenting tends to become unsuccessful when co-parents are in competition with one another in unhelpful ways. For example, if one or both parents are focused more on ensuring that they have the most time with the child, or that the child has the most fun at their home, then that arrangement is likely to devolve into unsuccessful co-parenting.
Therefore, I would discourage any individuals involved in co-parenting from allowing feelings of resentment, anger, and betrayal from dominating their co-parenting relationship, and also from laying the foundation of their co-parenting on competition and getting the most time or being “the fun house.”
In General Terms, What are the Legal Guidelines for Shared Custody?
In Texas, the laws regarding a parent’s time with their child is determined by conservatorship status, which is similar to the phrase “custody”. It’s a very common phrase in popular culture, and is the phrase that people usually use to refer to the underlying concept. Just about everybody who calls up a law office or walks into a courtroom uses the term “custody”. Just today, I heard a client say, “I need to get a custody agreement quick! I’m fighting my husband for custody in this divorce.”
However, Texas law doesn’t actually use the paradigm of “custody”. Instead, it specifically defines the rights to children between two parents or caregivers with another term: Conservatorship.
Furthermore, in Texas, there are two types of conservatorship.
- Managing Conservatorship: This type of conservatorship involves a parent or caregiver for a child or children. The parent/caretaker makes all of the decisions about what’s best for the child. For instance, they decide matters about the child’s life such as where they go to school, where they live as their primary residence, and the specifics of their moral, religious, and educational upbringing. It also gives the conservator power to grant or deny certain permissions, such as permission to marry or join the armed services before the age of 18. There are many other rights afforded to a managing conservator. When there are two parents or caretakers equally splitting the conservatorship, it is said to joint managing conservators. Texas law presumes that it is in a child’s best interest to have both parent’s appointed as join managing conservators. Specific facts and circumstances must be proven to rebut that presumption.
- Possessory Conservatorship: Possessory conservators have a different set of rights and responsibilities over a child. At the simplest level, possessory conservators have a right to receive information about their child that third parties would usually be barred from receiving. Possessory conservators may receive information from educational institutes, doctors’ offices, psychologists, therapists, and counselors, for example. However, it is important to note that possessory conservators do not have the same ability to make decisions about a child’s life as managing conservators.
Instead, the role of a possessory conservator is more primarily focused on receiving the information. They do have some rights—i.e., the rights to “possession” (i.e., physical custody) and access to the child—but in terms of decision-making, they are limited. Specifically, they can be limited to making decisions only in emergency situations during which they are in possession (i.e., have physical custody) of the child.
Does Co-Parenting Always Have to Involve a Legal Custody Agreement?
Co-parenting absolutely does not have to involve a working custody agreement. This is important for co-parents to know, and is also important for non-legal professionals working with co-parents and children (i.e., counselors, therapists, etc.) to know.
Going to Court can be expensive, sometimes prohibitively so for many families. In many cases, it may be a number of months or even years before the parties can work with legal professionals to craft a court-ordered custody or possession arrangement. If that is the case, we want to focus on helping each individual caregiver work together to create a co-parenting relationship, rather than establishing a legally binding Court Order.
Ideally, we want to get to parties to the point where they are able to determine and agree on what is best for their child, and implement those actions without costly litigation and courtroom battles.
How Often do you Find That Divorcing or Separated Parents Have Issues When it Comes to Effectively Co-Parenting?
In most cases involving divorce or the end of a romantic relationship—especially in cases where there is a dispute regarding conservatorship of the child, or that involve disputed child support, or even cases where paternity of the child is in question—there is almost always some level of unsuccessful co-parenting involved.
Oftentimes, these co-parenting issues can be quickly remedied. The most effective way to remedy the issues depends on the case, the co-parents, and the situation in question. However, we often simply provide some education—either from the perspective of a legal professional or a counseling professional—and incorporate that into each caregiver’s perspective in creating a working agreement. It may just be a matter of one or both parties needing a simple expansion of their perspective.
Still, I would say that almost every case that I see comes in at the beginning with at least some level of co-parenting dysfunction. People usually just need some help to get on the right track.
If there’s already a great co-parenting relationship, similar rules apply to the marriage or relationship that used to exist. It’s not going to continue without a good deal of effort, work, and communication.
In other words, even if their co-parenting relationship looks great today, the parties need to be reminded of the skills and the foundations that are required in order to keep that co-parenting relationship successful in the future. They need to establish and use successful communication patterns so that if any conflicts ever arise, they can be handled effectively.
For more information Family Law in Texas, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (903) 964-1122 today.