Most parents in Illinois who are getting a divorce must learn to co-parent. By following some guidelines, parents can make the process of co-parenting run more smoothly.

First, parents should make the best interests of the childparamount. This includes understanding that except in cases where the child might be unsafe, such as abuse, the child should have access to both parents. Parents should avoid speaking negatively about one another, blaming the other parent for the divorce or putting the child in the middle by having the child carry even the simplest messages back and forth. While it is not uncommon for divorced parents to disagree on specific parenting rules, they should try to be consistent in terms of general household expectations.

There are times when parents will need to attend a child’s event at the same time, and they should try to behave calmly at these times. Communication may be helped with websites or apps that keep records in case mediation is needed. A calendar in both parents’ homes with the custody and visitation schedule on it helps keep children and parents on track. Parents should avoid introducing new partners into their children’s lives until things are serious, and stepparents should act to enforce but not make rules. If parents are considering reconciling, they should not tell children until it is definite.

Negotiating the allocation of parental responsibility can be one of the most difficult elements of divorce. Unlike property division, issues around co-parenting do not end when the divorce is final but may continue for as long as the children are minors or even longer. Courts generally prefer for parents to try to work out differences instead of taking all their disputes before a judge, but major issues, such as modification of custody or support, usually require returning to court.