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Co-Parenting after a Separation or a Divorce

“Jane, daddy will not be staying with us any more.”

That’s simply saying “We’re getting a divorce!”

For some time now, the home that was once a sanctuary, was noticeably becoming more like a war zone with no place of refuge. She is caught up in a cross-fire of scorn and animosity. Soon, though she doesn’t know it yet, she will have to leave behind the familiar and to expect an uncertain future. She is sad, scared, and lonely all at the same time. She has more questions than answers.

Divorce resolves the issues between parents and enables them to move on with their individual lives. For the child, divorce traps them in a nightmarish reality. Once the beautiful fruit of the marriage, she is being fought over like a trophy for the more deserving parent.

The ‘more deserving parent’? Shouldn’t parents be more concerned about what the child needs and deserves? Most scholars agree that a child needs to be “raised by two biological parents” (Sara McLanahan and Isabel Sawhill) even when the marriage is dissolved.

Co-parenting (or shared parenting) after divorce helps the child to feel she still has two parents whose love and care for her remains unchanged by the divorce.

In Singapore, the courts differentiate between “Custody” and “Care and Control.” Child Custody grants the custodial parent(s) authority to make major decisions regarding their child, which includes: education, religion and health conditions of the child.However, Care and Control is only given to one parent, who will be involved in the child’s day-to-day matters. The other parent will be granted access to the child for certain periods.

Increasingly, Singapore courts are giving more joint custody orders to both parents after the divorce, while Care and Control is only given to one parent.The children typically end up in sole parenting care versus shared-parenting, with the other parent only spending little time with the child.

Numerous research, including those by Malin Bergstrom and Dr. Linda Nielsen, found that children in shared parenting arrangements have better outcomes - have less behavioural problems and psychological symptoms – than children in sole care.

Therefore, try to work towards Co-Parenting, though Care and Control may be awarded to a single parent.

Eight Co-Parenting tips

Before the Divorce

1)Seeing a marriage counsellor when you have decided on divorce is as important as trying to mend the marriage

Co-parenting is possible when marriage comes to an amicable closure. The couple counselling sessions will help couples to talk through their issues calmly with a good conclusion, enabling them to continue to communicate and share parenting responsibilities.

2) Agree and convey a consistent reason for the divorce

This helps your children not to guess and think they have caused it. Sometimes children can pick up the wrong message during parent’s arguments and blame themselves for causing the marriage breakup. It is therefore important to assure them that it is not their doing.

3) Break the news together to your children

Children need to feel they are important and parents have considered their interests in their decision to divorce. Sharing the news together shows that both of you will continue to be part of their lives. They will not end up solely with mum or dad.

4) Both Parents present to hear your children’s responses

Mum and dad are there for them and they can openly and safely express their feelings of sadness, anger and frustrations. They have a sense that both of you will hear their opinions, especially with teenage children. They might disagree and you may have to take time to help them accept your decision.

5)Assurance that living arrangements remain the same

Your children need stability and a sense of security in their lives. You may wish to consider allowing one spouse to live in the same house with the children as before, minimising the disruption to their routines of home life and school. They already have to accept that they will not see mum or dad daily, thus having some normalcy will help them cope better.

Post Divorce

6) Consistent Parenting style

It is an important factor in co-parenting that parents are consistent in their parenting style so that children will not be confused and insecure.

7) Routine schedule for the children to be with each parent

A routine schedule is assuring to the children and reduces anxiety. It helps them to adapt to their new life. Also, it minimises a sense of rejection and abandonment, affecting their secure attachment needs.

8) Parents are not hostile towards each other

This helps in managing arrangements for co-parenting and sleepovers. Also, children will not be caught up or triangulated in their parent’s continuous fight when they are spending time with their dad or mum. They would be freed from feeling conflicted whom they should help, allowing for quality time spent with each parent.


New Swedish Study Shows Shared Parenting The Best Arrangement Post-Divorce, September 18, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

10 Surprising Findings on Shared Parenting After Divorce or Separation, JUNE 20, 2017, Dr. Linda Nielsen, Professor of Adolescent and Educational Psychology, Wake Forest University. 

  • Life Affinity

How do you make your marriage work? Click the image and watch this live interview by Centre for Fathering , Dads for Life with our marital therapist, Ruby Lee, examining causes of divorce, its impact on the couples and their children and how to protect marriages. Also discussed are the Co-parenting tips after divorce, should the inevitable happens. It is important for children to feel loved and cared by both parents.

Key Points shared :

2019 divorce numbers showed couples who were married for 5 to 9 years accounted for largest share (29%) of all divorces. Median age of men 43.4years & women 39.3 years

What are the root cause and reasons?

“Couples say they don't know their spouse anymore”

Once married, couples transition to parenthood and focus on financial and family needs as well as career aspirations, resulting in a shift of focus from each other to many other demands. They lose their friendship and dependence on each other, living separate lives. Life is stressful and lacking fun. Some ended up turning to others for support and down the slippery road of extra-marital affairs. Without the constant communication and time for emotional bonding, issues become difficult to resolve and argument escalates. Marital satisfaction becomes lower and lower overtime till it is cold or hostile.

What are some of the common advice you give to your clients to improve their marriages?

1) Be a team through life transitions

Turn towards each other, make a joint plan and help each other cope, whether it is adjusting to parenthood or getting a new job or making major decisions.

Be really good friends. Allocate time to talk and bond with each other emotionally and inject fun and passion where possible.

2)Talk it out in conflict situations

Instead of gridlocked, dialogue about issues in a calm way. Talk about your needs and expectations, instead of criticisms, contempt, defensiveness and stone-walling.

3) Support each other’s life dreams

Share with each other about your hopes and dreams of couple, family and future plans. Help to make each other's dream and aspirations come true.

What if divorce happens, how do you Co-parent after divorce? Can it still work?

"Children need to feel they are still cared for and loved by both parents."

Co-Parenting is important to help children transition to divorce family life smoothly. Key factors to make this possible are amicable parental relationship, consistent parenting and normalcy. Read the 8 tips in the next post.

Updated: Aug 6

Happy 2020!

"The new year has started and I seemed to roll into 2020 without much thought and everything is back to routine again, after the countless feasts in December. Before I even realised it, CNY has arrived and more feasts!"

Sounds familiar? Does marriage life seemed the same too? Year after year, you just roll into your duties and responsibilities. Do both of you have a clear 20/20 vision and have discussed what you hope couple life will be in a new year?

Couples who discuss future visions and plans are better able to manage bumps and flareups along the way. It feels better too that one is not alone and both are onboard with the same dreams and goals.

Tips :

Arrange a time to chat and enquire each other how 2019 has been. It is not a blaming session but like a review of what's good and what needs improvement.

  • Appreciate each other for all the good stuff - "I appreciate .......your support, your effort in running the household etc..."

  • Suggest areas that need improvements - Use gentle startups, "I feel .........", Could we ......(need)". Avoid words "you", "always" and "never"for they are blame statements and invite an argument.

  • Throw in ideas for 2020 on how to make couple life more fun and and deepen connections. Dr John Gottman talks about Rituals of Connections to build emotional connections and turn towards each other, such as good morning rituals"good morning kiss, hug", welcome home rituals"kiss, hug" and "daily stress reducing conversations". Also plan weekly/monthly couple time and annual family vacations.

  • Remember to dream together too - listening and supporting each other's dreams and aspirations for the year. Together as a couple, you grow and become better people than on your own.

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up." a quote from King Solomon

All the best and may 2020 bring both of you closer and deeper in your love and care for each other!

© 2016 by Life Affinity LLP

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