Co-parenting and conflict – Director James Pirrie outlines strategies to promote harmony when co-parenting after divorce or separation.

There are no easy solutions when we are in conflict over the parenting of our children following a divorce or separation. When we live together, we can usually find ways to muddle through – but after divorce or separation, disagreements can arise over ground-rules, major choices such as schools or the approach to safety issues, quite apart from that terrible conflict generator – the calendar and timetable.

Divorce and separation will often fundamentally change the way that we view our former partner and the extent to which we can find ways around problems. Arguments about co-parenting may also simply disguise unresolved problems in other areas of the relationship.

Research shows us that the conflict over issues is generally the problem. If a compromise can’t be found, then either choice originally put forward would be better for the child than the conflict generated by the disagreement.

So, put simply, anything that can be done to make matters better, and any compromise or solution, needs to be embraced.

At FLiP we have had some success by applying:

  • principles…
  • then practicalities.

Work out the self-evident truths that should underpin the parenting of your child(ren) … the more specific the better. Then you can arrive at a set of rules that you can apply to any given situation and from which a practical arrangement can come.

For example, if you had principles so that:

  • you agreed to recognise your respective independence from each other (the continuing parents but former partners principle); and
  • you would seek consistency in the rules you adopted but that ultimately each parent could decide rules in their own home; and that
  • safety & the law was non-negotiable and recommended guidance would always be applied …

Then you have a framework for making decisions about, for example, the films that your 10 year old gets to watch in one parent’s home.

There are lots of things to be said about this scheme:

Principles are generally much easier to agree than the day to day practicalities [who wouldn’t sign into ‘we will support each other to be the best parents we can be” or “We will promote Jo to have the best possible relationship with each of us”  …?)

Compliance becomes easier:

  • if you and I spent the time crafting the ground rules and if I bought into them….
  • then I am less likely to see your complaints about my choice of films for our child as cramping my independence and you flexing your muscles …

Operating in this way is:

  • more likely to create fair outcomes (ie. balanced between the two of you as co-parents); and
  • consistent ones (reflecting the same principles and ones that promote the kids’ well-being) because you are constantly taken back to the centrality of the children’s needs by coming at issues from a set of child-focused principles.

If they don’t generate the complete answer, at least they will give you a framework and they will clarify some options that are clearly outside the range of solutions.

At FLiP we have in-house counsellors who can support you through your relationship difficulties. Our in-house counsellor Jo Harrison has a depth and breadth of expertise in working with clients who are separating or divorcing. She is sensitive to the impact of relationship breakdown and how it can affect individuals and families.

In the second part of this blog, James will discuss the process for unearthing the principles to enable parents to generate solutions.

For further information and advice on resolving your family law issues, please contact director James Pirrie or any of our top London divorce lawyers and family mediators on E: or T: 020 7420 5000.