Inside: What issues does a family lawyer see when it comes to co-parenting? How can co-parents resolve issues outside of court? What are some healthy characteristics of co-parents? Lindsey Easterling, a family law attorney in N.C, answered these questions and more.
Below is an overview with highlights from my podcast interview with Lindsey. To listen to the full interview click here or on any podcast player look for Episode 58 on Grace for Single Parents Podcast.
Lindsey is a family law attorney in North Carolina. She has personal experience with divorce from her parents and she is also is co-parenting as a step-mom. Lindsey is passionate about educating families about how to stay out of court, how to kind of understand the court systems, and to do what’s best for their family rather than put them in a box
Biggest issues you’re seeing when it comes to co-parenting relationships?
- Not putting the kids first
- Healthy communication
- Hurt and betrayal. Whether there’s an affair or not, there’s betrayal, there’s hurt. There’s so much lack of trust.
What do you tell your clients that are not communicating at all or poorly with their co-parent?
You can’t negotiate with crazy. If you’ve got someone on the other side and they have always been unreasonable and they continue to be unreasonable, this is the lot in life that you have, and you should hire a therapist to talk about boundaries and about how to deal with the frustration and stonewalling in the communication.
Other times it’s, Hey, it’s gonna be scary, but you have to be vulnerable and tell them what you need and what you think. And maybe they’re gonna use it against you. Maybe it’s gonna blow up in your face, but until you try or until you’ve done that you don’t know. In some relationships it’s just not safe to do that or it’s kind of futile, but a lot of times they’ve never even tried.
how do we know if we need a lawyer or if it’s something we can work out ourselves?
Lindsey discusses different scenarios where it’s helpful to consult with an attorney. She also talks about the kind of attorney you hire – some are always anxious to go to court while others are more cautious and may try to help you resolve issues outside of court.
Some are simply a fallback in case of issues and a skeleton agreement. But that won’t work for everyone. Some need to follow it to the letter of the law. If you’re divorced from someone that is going to be manipulative with the order, then really look through it with a fine-tooth comb before you sign it.
Thoughts on Co-Parenting Apps
Our Family Wizard – it logs all of your communication. Other professionals can get passwords and like lawyers can go in. Therapists can go in parenting co-parenting counselors can go in, see your communication and analyze it. That’s where you could add doctor’s appointments and share calendars.
But Lindsey cautions: if you don’t need it, don’t use it because it sets you up for preparing your brain for litigation. I would rather people not create an evidence box.
iMazing is an app for iPhone and it populates all of your text messages and it’s a really good way for an attorney to see text message threads. This is helpful if you want to use text messages as evidence, if you’re representing yourself, it’s a good way for the judge to see your text communication.
Google calendar is a good option to keep everyone informed of what’s going on.
More on Communication with Co-Parenting
Communication and writing are a lot easier than communicating verbally. I think you have more time to process it if you need it in a custody case it’s in writing and it’s not he said, she said whether that’s an email or a text message. But don’t write in the moment. Sometimes I’ve received this text message from him or her. I need to process it. I feel triggered. I feel like something is happening in my body.
Consider silencing the notifications from your ex and reading them when you’re ready. You can choose when you answer it. You’re not blocking them, but when you’re mentally able to process and communicate, you can.
Some people choose to get a second phone – one specifically for co-parenting.
When you are concerned for your children’s safety at their other parent’s house:
Hire a guardian ad litem. It’s an attorney for your children. That can be super expensive. They investigate teachers, therapists, everybody.
Put something in an agreement that your kids can have a therapist or a play therapist.
What a successful co-parenting relationship looks like:
- Being able to modify based on the children’s needs and sometimes different children have different needs in the same family.
- Putting yourself second as to what your kid needs
When your children aren’t with you, that it’s a break for you, you can fill your cup. recognizing that some of that time alone, yes, you can be sad. You definitely can miss your children. It’s not the ideal situation, but there are some good things, you can be more of a present parent when you get them back.
- Be present on important things with the children’s lives and make them the focus… whether that’s two separate sides of the bleachers or sitting next to each other… say, I’m doing this for my kid.
One of the things I say to my stepdaughter all the time is I love your mom. She’s so great. So she knows she loves her. You have such a great mom. She’s amazing. You’re so lucky. Encourage your kids so that they don’t feel like you’re betraying them or they’re betraying you by loving the other parent.
We discuss communication with our children when they are at their other parent’s house. Is this healthy or is it better to not have constant communication with them?
Jen shares how she managed this when her kids were little and Lindsey gives advice for parents.
It’s a hard job to be a parent, especially a co-parent with somebody that doesn’t communicate well with you. But it’s hard even when you’re in an intact family. Parenting is just hard. All you can do is your best and learn.
Where to Find Lindsey
Law Firm Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/easterlingfamilylaw/
Personal Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lawyerinthewild/
Note: Lindsey is based in North Carolina and law differs from state to state. Most of the stuff that we talked about today was generalized. But consult someone in your state if something resonated with you.