COMMUNICATION AND CO-PARENTING

Parenting can be difficult even in an in-tact household wherein even residing together the time spent together as parents, uninterrupted in thought and time for discussion, results in many discussions occurring through text, email and in passing. Of course, the hustle and bustle of the world we live in as parents leaves much room for errors in schedules, forgotten appointments, and confusion as to who is where. This is even more difficult for two parents whom do not reside together yet share in one mutual goal- raising and being involved in their children’s schedules and lives on an equal basis.

Married or not, raising children takes a lot of communication. Unfortunately, communication in relationships that have already broken down for one reason or the other is made even more difficult and can create a host of issues for couples attempting to co-parent absent a close relationship or any at all for that matter. As family law attorneys, we are often faced with questions, concerns and issues from our client stemming from the lack of communication, i.e. the other side not providing information or not being response. Other times, the absence of communication is used to assert control and intentionally keep the other parent out of the loop. On the other hand, some parents utilize communication in a manner which is harassing such as incessantly texting, calling, or making things difficult. Either way, the reality is that communication in strained relationships can be incredibly difficult and as a result, children suffer by missing activities, homework assignments, family outings, etc. Therefore, focusing on simple ways to communicate, absent the need to involve lawyers and judges, is the most productive and cost-effective way to co-parent when the relationship with the other parent is less than ideal. The reality is that involvement of lawyers and the court’s not only costs thousands of dollars, there is a delay in resolution by virtue of the time needed for everyone to respond. Therefore, it is simply not practical on any level to require the use of your lawyer to communicate about every day issues regarding your children.

It is significant to note that communication is one of the primary statutory factors the court’s consider in determining custody and parenting time arrangements. Moreover, just not getting along is not enough to prove that two adults cannot communicate in a manner which would cause a court to minimize either parent’s role. In fact, the New Jersey Supreme Court has long held that joint legal custody is the “preferred” custody arrangement and that this requires sharing the responsibility for jointly making “major” decisions regarding the child’s welfare, developing a productive way of communication is key to the success of not only the co-parenting relationship but the children’s success overall.

That being said, family law attorneys as well as Judge’s are mindful of the difficulties parent’s may have communicating during less than ideal times. Therefore, the focus and trend has been to encourage the use of apps that parties can utilize to limit and focus the communication to just the issues versus the text message and/or email chains that seemingly increase in hostility with the back and forth involved. For example, one method of communication often utilized by co-parents, either by way of agreement or more frequently now being Court Ordered, is My Family Wizard. www.ourfamilywizard.com. My Family Wizard obviously cannot circumvent the use of communication as a weapon in contested or tension ridden co-parenting relationships, however it is designed to assist parent’s by having categories that limit and narrow the issues and minimize the probability of misinterpretation of miscommunication. Parents can download the children’s schedules, they can monitor parenting time changes in their schedules, and even scan in the children’s expenses, none of which can be altered if needed for use in Court. In other words, it is a protected forum which allows communication between parents about the issues relating to their children and provides clearer documentation in the event that communication (or lack of same) is the overriding issue.

In sum, learning and finding a way to communicate is essential to raising children regardless of the status of your relationship. Utilizing applications such as Cozi , My Family Wizard, and other applications which permit scanning, scheduling and limit the opportunity for emotions to supersede the issues is beneficial to everyone’s quality of life, especially and most importantly the children involved.

A list of the applications frequently seen and/or utilized are listed below:

My Family Wizard: www.ourfamilywizard.com
Cozi: www.cozi.com
Truece: https://truece.com
AppClose: https://appclose.com

Kelli M. Martone, Esq. is a partner at the Martone Law Group and has significant experience in handling high conflict custody matters. Kelli has been practicing exclusively in the area of matrimonial law since her admission to the New Jersey State Bar Association in 2005 and has significant experience handling all types of family law matters including, divorce, child custody, child support, equitable distribution, domestic violence, and issues relating to college expenses/college contribution. Kelli also has significant experience in handling abuse and neglect matters involving the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (f/k/a DYFS).