One of the numerous transitions post-divorce is co-parenting children already dealing with the life-changing event. With hundreds of thousands of divorces annually, the percentage of children is at a high point. More kids are growing up in shared custody settings going back and forth between two homes.
Conflict resolution experts have weighed in on better co-parenting with a framework of four guiding principles. The goal is practical co-parenting to reduce animosity and conflict. The formal name is the BIFF Response (brief, informative, friendly, and firm).
Five situations where the principles can be applied include:
- Timing of custody changes – One parent picks up children a few minutes before the specified time in the custody agreement, while the other requests more time for extended family events. BIFF would lead to a compromise where a middle-ground exists about drop-off times.
- Introducing third parties to children – One parent dating leads to wanting children to meet their new significant other. The other parent may be uncomfortable with the introduction. BIFF could see one side expressing their lack of comfort, with the other agreeing to speak to the children.
- Written communication parameters – With text and email replacing pen, paper, and stamps, venting, particularly over the timeliness of picking up children, is easier without the immediate pushback in response to the admonishments. BIFF would encourage a greater understanding of the other parent’s busy schedule and perhaps step up to help more.
- Scheduling important events – A birthday party is planned without consulting the other parent, who will be out of town for work, putting them in an awkward position of putting one over the other. BIFF would identify the necessity of being more proactive and provide more advance notice to give the additional parent time to reschedule.
- Changing custody schedules temporarily – A last-minute vacation opportunity arises during the other parent’s weekend, violating the custody schedule. BIFF would suggest a reasonable request to change plans while admitting to the last-minute nature and detailing the trip’s specifics. Flexibility and a “make-up” overnight could balance things out.
Solutions to divorce-driven disputes should be fair to both parents and in the children’s best interests. When they can’t agree, help from a divorce attorney can help find a middle ground.