It is valuable in a relationship of any kind to know where you stand and how you interact with your partner. Five stages of co-parenting relationships exist and are dependent on the level of communication and involvement with your co-parent.
Level 1– Level one encompasses co-parents who are still good friends, they communicate very well, and are extremely involved in one another’s lives. For example level one co-parents may choose to honor holidays together as a family instead of splitting the time between each parent. Level one co-parents will talk often, and not only about the child. They will share personal information about their current affairs, ask each other for life advice, and enjoy activities with each other that aren’t dependent upon their child. Be wary if you fall into this category that you are always putting the needs of the child above your own. This can be an easy relationship for the co-parents, but as lives change it can be extremely confusing for the kid. They might wonder if their parents will become a unit again, or if they are so agreeable with each other why can’t everyone live together. In addition this level has a tendency to fade, as the longer the co-parents are apart the more they grow in different directions.
Level 2– Level two is all about cooperation. Co-parents in this category excel in keeping their personal life separate from their parenting life. Duties and time is split evenly between parents, with a mutually beneficial agreement. Co-parents communicate well with each other about day to day items as well as on larger topics. In every situation the co-parents are putting their child’s needs above their own. Level two co-parents continue to have good relations as their child grows and many times when they increase their families individually. Finding yourself in this category means you are good at compartmentalizing, and have created a functional relationship with your ex. Many co-parents feel this is the ideal parenting style to achieve.
Level 3– Level three co-parents wish to have low interaction with each other and still find themselves very upset about past issues. Any battles for custody are usually for sole custody, with no thought to any joint arrangements. Most interactions with each other develop into some form of disagreement, and sometimes open hostility. Co-parents in this category often have difficulty putting the child’s needs above their own emotions. Level three co-parents need to be vigilant as their relationship can easily deteriorate into something unmanageable and unhealthy for the child. The good news is that these relationships can also find themselves changing into something closer to level two as time moves on. When the reasons why the co-parents were upset with each other fade, so does the need for hard feelings. A new relationship can form with the child being the number one focus if parents are willing to set aside past disagreements, one of the best reasons to put your child first.
Level 4– A level four co-parent does not have the ability to put aside any of their issues and think of the child involved. Every interaction with the other parent is hostile, and angry. The parties involved generally need some form of third party (such as a lawyer, judge, or counselor) to help them make decisions regarding their child. Parent’s in this stage rarely communicate with each other, they do not share information about the child, opting to exchange children without speaking or offering pertinent information only through e-mail if they feel the need to offer any at all. They have difficulty seeing any good qualities in their ex, and even endeavor to find ‘dirt’ on their co-parent to use against them. This is a highly dysfunctional stage of co-parenting and usually is the cause of emotional issues in the child. Co-parents in this stage should seek help in dealing with their feelings for their ex, and find ways to put their child’s needs ahead of their own wants.
Level 5– Level five is a difficult category as it is essentially a label for a non-existent relationship. Co-parents in level five find that they are basically parenting alone, with their ex uninterested in helping with the child. Parents in level five, are making all decisions, have custody of the child full time, and usually develop a one way communication with their ex if they still communicate at all. In many instances their ex has moved away, or given up their rights to the child. The parent in charge of the child struggles to involve the other parent, and tends to find assistance in raising their kid from other avenues. Whether furthering these interactions with the ex is beneficial depends on the individual and the circumstances. The co-parent could possibly be unable to participate with the child due to unforeseen reasons, and continuing in involving them will eventually lead to a functional partnership. The other option is that even with continued persistence and requests the other parent simply is uninterested. Pursuing this course of action can result in resentment, and confusion for the child.
The relationship you have with your co-parent can change at any time, and many times throughout the raising of your child it probably will. Perhaps you maintain a fine balance between two stages, or are predominately in one stage but have bits of another. You could have started as a level four co-parent and happily find yourself now as a level two co-parent or vice versa. It’s imperative to understand that we are all humans who make mistakes, and have differing points of view.
Raising a child between two parents in different homes has its own set of challenges and struggles.
The partnership with your co-parent is ever evolving, requiring your constant guidance and support. Acknowledging your co-parenting stage is one step in creating the perfect arrangement between yourself and your ex. The next is understanding you are cultivating a better relationship with your co-partner not to ease things between you, but to facilitate an open channel of respect so you may put your energies into raising your child.