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Co-parenting tips: Put your children first

You never wanted to get divorced, but you couldn't talk your spouse out of it. Marriage counseling didn't help. Talking to friends and family members didn't save the marriage. Eventually, your spouse filed for divorce and you had no choice but to watch your marriage come to an end.

Quickly, you made up your mind: You wanted to put your kids first. You may not have had any options left to save the marriage, but that did not have to define their lives, too. You wanted to work hard to prioritize them at every turn.

That means working with your ex. Co-parenting is not always easy. But your kids deserve two dedicated parents, and you need to know how to make that work. Here are some important tips that can help:

1. Encourage the kids' relationships with your ex

Never stand in the way of their relationships with the other parent. Encourage it. Work to facilitate it. If they're with you and they want to talk to him or her, let them call or use FaceTime. Give them options to stay close and never make them feel like they have to pick you or your ex. Remember that both relationships are incredibly valuable. Do what you can to make both of them strong.

2. Stay flexible

Scheduling out your custody plan at the beginning gives you a starting point, but remember that life can't always stick to those predictable lines. Sometimes things happen. Your schedule changes. Your ex has an emergency. The kids need to make a change. While you should strive to follow the schedule, you always want to remain flexible. Allow changes when they help the kids.

3. Communicate frequently

Remember that this new situation as divorced parents still means that the focus remains on being parents, not on being divorced. No matter how you and your ex feel about each other, you must communicate regarding your kids. Talk about their schedules, their grades, their health and all of their other needs. The more you share information, the better you can both do as parents. Do it for them.

4. Attend events together

Do not skip out on important events just because you don't want to see your ex. Learn how to get along and support your kids. For instance, if one of them graduates from high school, you both need to be there. Show your support. Take pictures together as a family. Let your child know that your relationship with them will never change, even after a divorce.

Your rights

These tips can help you get started, but it is also very important to understand your legal rights and what steps you can take to get this all set up during the divorce process.

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