You’ve had about all you can take, and you’ve decided to move out of your girlfriend’s house. But there’s a little problem, one that weighs about 25 pounds and follows you around a lot—your 2-year-old son with her.
Or on the other side, you’ve asked him to leave, but you know that your little girl will need her dad in her life—in some way or another.
So what do you do? As always, I suggest (assuming that there’s no high-conflict or domestic violence) that you start with a conversation with your soon-to-be-ex.
Once you have a kid (or 2 or 3), your live-in arrangement becomes like a marriage, and your breakup is going to affect your little urchins in ways you never imagined. As I said in my last post, the studies show that kids do better when they have warm, involved relationships with both their parents.
So, step one is to have that difficult conversation, and start your co-parenting relationship off on a solid footing. If your youngest is 2, you have about 16 years left in your sentence, and starting off your co-parenting relationship with a terrible fight is going to insure that it remains contentious for some time.
I therefore recommend that you begin by understanding that breakups are rarely mutual—that is, there’s almost always a leaving and a left partner. So express some understanding for his or her feelings. But hold fast to your decision, because, let’s face it, if reconciliation is impossible, your best option for the children is a clean break.
Use the “and” stance: “I need to leave this relationship, and I really mean it—for me it’s over, and I’m not going to change my mind, and I know you’re hurt and devastated, and I know you’re a good mom, and we need to think about how we’re going to co-parent the kids.”
For having the difficult conversation, I have a tried and true guide, a book from the Harvard Negotiation Project called Difficult Conversations.
Next, you’ll need to think long and hard about what parenting schedule you’ll ask for. What kind of parent do you want to be? Are you an involved, hands-on parent, or more of a dad who takes his kid on a fishing trip once in a while? There is no shame in the latter, but in that case, you’ll be ill-advised to go with the “50-50” time share coveted by so many divorced and separated fathers.
Think about your work-life balance, the developmental stage of your kids, and then plan for a regular schedule that builds predictability and stability into the kids’ lives.
I’ll talk about the pros and cons of different parenting schedules in a later blog. For now, I’ll just urge you to start off in a spirit of cooperation, to make certain your kids have stable, loving relationships with both parents.
And, if you are stuck about having the hard talk, contact our office to get started on the mediation process.
I am your Carlsbad divorce, child custody and family attorney and mediator and I am…
Very truly yours,
Disclaimer: Thomas D. Ferreira is an attorney licensed only in the State of California. The information set forth in this blog or on our websites are not intended to create an attorney-client relationship, nor are they intended as legal advice on your specific matter. This information is not intended to apply to cases or jurisdictions outside the State of California, and those viewing this information outside of California, or having business before jurisdictions outside of California, should consult a local professional or lawyer. The information in this blog is not a substitute for the advice of competent counsel, and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as a guarantee, warranty or prediction regarding the results of your legal matter