Problem solving with someone with whom you have broken-up is difficult, to say the least. Even if you get along, when faced with a problem, it’s hard to know exactly what to do to find a solution–together. One of the primary things I suggest to co-parents do is to establish a Forum for Conflict Resolution to aid them in problem solving–otherwise they will just problem solve the way they always did when they were together. Some fight. Some clam up. Some avoid and withdraw. Some call names and threaten. Some cry. None of these tactics help parents figure out how to solve conflict. If it did, they would probably still be together. They need a problem-solving plan in place before there’s a problem and then they will know exactly what to do when faced with a possible disagreement.
Many who break-up know that, and the plan they put in place is to agree that they will go to a mediator prior to going to court. I can’t tell you how many court appointed mediations I have done when I have heard the following conversation:
“You said we would never go to court, and here we are. All you had to do is call me.”
“I did. You never answer the phone.”
“You could have text’d me.”
“I did. You don’t return my texts.I call the kids when they are with you and you don’t ever let me talk to them. It’s like they are in a black hole when they are at your house.”
“I answer your calls.”
“No you don’t. The only way I can get you to listen to me is if we go to court.”
“We said we would never go to court! All you had to do is talk to me!”
“You don’t answer my calls. How am I supposed to talk to you?”
If this sounds familiar, then you are the parents who need a plan in place to help you–and it’s not just that you agree you will go to a mediator. A “plan” will head off the need to go to a mediator–it’s for the time between “the problem” and the mediator. It’s for when you are living the problem.
The premise is this: Agree how you will approach the problem and follow the agreement to the letter. Do it! Make a contract. Make it a check list, and each time you fulfill a step, check it off. The last step is going to court. If the step has a check, then you have attempted it and hitting the last step, going to court, will not be a surprise. And, as you work down the list, it may be incentive to figure things out–because if you can’t, you’re giving up your power to a judge to make decisions about your kids.
I’ve designed a contract that I use for my clients. We often tweak it a little to suit the parents/situation, but most of the time, this contract works for everyone. I call it the Good Ex-etiquette® for Parents Contract .
Live long and prosper…