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Here's how you can make co-parenting work

Even when divorce is the best solution to an unhappy marriage, parents still have challenges to overcome afterward. This is especially true for parents just like you who choose to share joint custody. Co-parenting is a lot different compared to past norms when only one parent -- usually the mom -- took on the majority of parenting duties.

You will need to keep several different things in mind as you move forward in your co-parenting journey. Some approaches are the same for virtually all custody arrangements, like not speaking badly about your ex in front of your child. Others are unique to the co-parenting experience.

Can you work with your ex?

Co-parenting gives both parents the opportunity to foster lifelong, loving relationships with their child. What many overlook is that it also requires a long-term commitment to working with an ex-spouse. To make co-parenting work, you have to be prepared to keep communicating with your child's other parent. Establishing acceptable lines and methods of communication early on can make this easier, and it also demonstrates what healthy communication should look like for your child.

Communicating is about more than just giving one another a head's up about plans or what went on at your child's school that day. You should be prepared to compromise as needed, which includes being flexible with custody plans. Although it might be tempting to rigidly stick to the agreement, life frequently gets in the way of even the best-laid plans. Staying flexible will benefit all of you -- especially your child -- in the long run.

Consistency is key

There will undoubtedly be differences when your child spends roughly equal amounts of time with both you and your ex. Maybe you prefer to cook dinner most nights while your ex enjoys ordering take-out. Or you make sure that the kids finish homework after dinner, but your child has to work on it right after school when he or she is with your ex.

These small differences can be a lot for anyone, much less a young child who is still adapting to life after his or her parents' divorce. You can do your part to make things easier by providing consistent routines at both households. Maintaining the same -- or at the very least similar -- bedtimes and morning routines has both physical and emotional benefits for your child.

You can do this

Your life looks a lot different now, and you probably feel a lot of pressure to be the perfect parent for your child. But it is helpful to remember that your child does not need a perfect parent -- he or she just needs you to do your best. Taking away the pressure to be perfect can help you approach child custody with a more open mind.

Understanding your rights as a parent is important when asking for joint custody even if you think that you and your ex are on the same page. If things do not work out as planned and you end up in court, you will be prepared to show how co-parenting with your ex will be in your child's best interests. One of the best ways to learn about your parental rights is by working closely with an attorney who understands the nuances of New Jersey family law.

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