2023Family LawLaura Hassan

7 Tips For Effective Co-Parenting


Child custody cases are much different than most other legal matters in that they are typically emotionally driven and can be traumatic for children.  Parents have a choice to do what is in the best interest of their children.  In order to do this, they must be willing to put aside their differences and to accommodate and cooperate with one another.  But, most importantly, parents must strive to put the needs of their children first.

This guide was created to provide separated and divorced parents with a guide to assist with the challenges associated with co-parenting and to reduce the ill effects of parental separation on children.  This guide will provide tips on improving communication and co-parenting.  It is designed as a tool to assist you.  It is not legal advice, and it should not be used as a substitute for legal advice.


Children may go through different stages when dealing with the separation of their parents.  Some feelings may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Confusion
  • Anger
  • Shock
  • Denial

Children do not always have the tools to effectively deal with these emotions and can oftentimes blame themselves for the separation and/or divorce of their parents.  Children should be assured that their parents are both reliable people who they can count on to care for them.


The first step to creating a good foundation for a successful co-parenting relationship is to look at the family code.  Cal. Fam. Code § 3040(a)(1) requires a Court making a child custody or visitation decision to consider “which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the [other] parent…”  With this in mind, some tips to creating a strong and successful co-parenting relationship include:[1]

  1. Be Professional. Treat the other parent as a business associate.  Creating a business mindset can help keep your mind off the emotions you feel for the other parent and can help keep the focus on your children. Keeping written communications brief and informative can help avoid any emotional responses from the other parent.  Avoid admonishments when possible.
  2. Be Polite. When communicating with your co-parent, be polite, just like you would be at work.
  3. Be Flexible. Things happen.  Maybe one parent needs to go out of town for a work-related event or a death during their custodial time.  Perhaps a child has a sporting event that is scheduled to take place out of town.  It is essential for both parents to be flexible and reasonable when unexpected situations arise.
  4. Advance Notice. Give as much advance notice as possible to the other parent about special occasions or traveling.
  5. Control Your Emotions. This can be one of the most challenging parts of co-parenting.  Try to detach and not react! Stay focused on the issue at hand.
  6. Using Children as Messengers. Avoid asking children to relay messages to the other parent.  If you have a court order currently in place, doing this will likely violate the court order.  Instead, try using a co-parenting communication tool such as OurFamilyWizard, TalkingParents, or AppClose.
  7. Keep Conversations Kid-Focused. Never let a discussion with your ex-partner digress into a conversation about your needs or their needs; it should always be about your children's needs only.  Remember, it’s about the children.



You are always late picking up Johnny from school. You are letting him down. I’m worried about Johnny feeling let down when he is not picked up from school on time. Do you have any ideas about how we can fix this issue and make him feel better?
I need to switch weekends with you because I have a work function to attend next weekend. Would you be willing to switch weekends with me so that I can attend a work function next weekend?
You need to stop feeding Ava so much sugar; it’s not healthy for her. Can we try reducing the sugary foods we give Ava?  I am concerned about her health.



Parallel Parenting.  Parallel parenting refers to a method of co-parenting in which each parent has their own parenting approach when the children are with them.  In parallel parenting, parents do not attend the same functions, appointments, or child-related events.  Parents are unable or unwilling to discuss their children’s needs with one another and their communications are strained.  Communication in parallel parenting often occurs solely through email, text messages, or a co-parenting app.[2]  There is little consistency between homes.  There is less flexibility for both children and parents.  This style may be necessary in a high-conflict situation.

Cooperative Parenting.  Cooperative parenting is characterized as a low-conflict parenting style.  It involves frequent communication, joint planning, coordinating and some flexibility in parenting schedules.  While it is almost impossible to have a 100% conflict-free co-parenting relationship, this type of parenting relationship involves the ability for parents to work together in raising their children in two homes and to resolve disputes amicably.  This type of parenting provides more consistency between homes and transitions are usually smoother for children.  Cooperative parenting benefits children more than parallel parenting.  This ideal parenting relationship sounds easy in theory, right?  It really takes both parents to be on the same page.

Co-parenting can be difficult.  It is important to find the right style that suits you.  If you are having trouble co-parenting, consider maintaining a confidential journal describing in detail any instance of the other parent’s failure to co-parent properly.  This may be helpful should you decide to seek judicial intervention or seek the assistance of a mediator.

Laura Hassan, Esq



[1] A great tool to reference is a book entitled BIFF for Co-parent Communication – Your Guide to Difficult Co-Parent Texts, Emails, and Social Media Posts by Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.; Annette T. Burns, JD; and Kevin Chafin, LPC.

[2] In re Marriage of Birnbaum (1989) 211 Cal.App.3d 1508, 1516

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