Divorces are messy. Custody hearings are worse. The child or children are the innocent bystanders that get hurt in a divorce. As parents, you do not want to see your children hurt. Cut the pain as much as possible by keeping focused on what is best for the child or children. Put your feelings aside about the non-custodial parent.
You will always have a relationship with your child(ren)’s other parent. There is no way to avoid that unless there are extenuating circumstances. Just because you have to have a relationship does not mean you have to pretend to be married or do as he or she wishes. It does mean that you need to be amicable regarding the child or children. Do not let the child or children see you fight and NEVER talk negatively about the other parent. You will look like the bad guy in the end.
The best way to keep your child’s non-custodial parent involved is to keep communication open. The only way to keep communication open is to rein your feelings in and be neutral. Only discuss the kids and what is happening with them. If the other parent tries to start an argument, ignore it or walk away depending on the circumstance. If you are on the phone, say there may be a better time to discuss it and give everyone ample time to cool off. As the custodial parent your word is usually final, but give consideration to the non-custodial parent.
If the child is old enough, let him or her call the other parent. Encourage it. Let the child know the other parent. You must have thought they were parenting material at one time or shame on you. Either way, the parent has a right to know their child too. Let the child do the calling and you do not have to be involved unless plans are being made for the child to go to or with the other parent. If you are worried you can always listen to the phone conversations.
When the child is having a special event at school or is having a special event in his or her life, like a recital, play, or show; have the child invite the other parent if the child wants him or her there. Make sure it is truly the child’s decision and let them know that it is something the parents should go to. Do not push the child because you want to see your ex and do not push the child because you want to avoid your ex. Truly be responsible and give your child all the options available to them. They might even want to set up a schedule where you come to half and the other parent comes to half of all the events. Some of the events both parents should be at.
If there is a decision that needs to be made concerning the child, a great way to keep the non-custodial parent involved is to ask for their input. The decision could be about a summer camp, a special school or even an after school activity. Let the other parent know if they do not want to know about changes that will not directly affect them to let you know. Give the non-custodial parent a choice. Some parents like knowing everything and others feel the custodial parent is using it as an excuse to “spy” on them or talk to them. Respect each other’s privacy and separate lives. Keeping the non-custodial parent involved does not mean keeping them involved in your life. It means keep the non-custodial parent involved with the child and let the other parent have a choice in the involvement.