Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
The co-parenting conundrum
I think I'm finally through with it. Those awful winter blahs. All it took was one Sunday afternoon in the backyard, sun on my face, and the funk was officially over.As an added bonus, the sunny day happened to be Mother's Day, which was already shaping up to be one of my happiest mom's days in a while. I guess that's the beauty of having a big family of biological and stepkids, you have more to celebrate.Plus Mother's Day had stretched out to being more of a weekend thing, with the first of the celebrations on Friday prior to the girls leaving to be with their mom. And even though my boys were with their dad for the weekend, they came home to spend much of the day with me until later when I did the hand-off back to him.It's hard to believe there was a time when those hand-off moments were filled with tension and anxiety. Time has fortunately reduced all that into a vague memory and left in its place a respectful and cordial bond based on a common goal of raising kids.It's a good place to be with an ex. I hated that feeling of being at odds with the only person in this world I could share remember when stories with about our babies' beginnings, walking the floors at 3 am or first days of school. Not that we often reminisce about the past, but the comfort is in knowing we could.Getting to this utopia co-parenting stage didn't come without effort and is the end-result of striving to maintain a mindset of fairness while deciding how to split assets and co-parent kids from different households.I'm not saying there wasn't animosity as each of us struggled to come to terms with what is fair, but in the end I think fairness prevailed. It also involved getting rid of a lawyer or two along the way.My experience has taught me there are many old-school divorce lawyers who fail their clients miserably with a 'winner takes all' approach. What they seemingly don't understand is this screwing over mentality perpetuates bitterness, increases hostility and continues to pit one parent against another. How can this be good for anyone?Yet, long after the lawyers have pocketed their $10,000 to $30,000 (or more!!), the divorced couple is left with the lifelong task of co-parenting their kids. The exes are forever linked by their children and in most cases will be seeing each another at big and small occasions for years to come. I know many people who struggle to be in the same room as their ex simply because one person's spirit of greed was exacerbated by an even greedier lawyer.It's especially sad when the kids pick up on the tension and it overshadows the special occasion that brought them together in the first place. If there's a bright spot in any of this, it's the increasing popularity of divorce mediation and family conciliation in recent years that is less costly (in some provinces, including Manitoba, the cost of mediation is subsidized or offered at no cost) and when done successfully is far more beneficial to the kids than a winner-takes-all battle in court.You can find more information about mediation at www.gov.mb.ca/fs/childfam/mediation.html
or by contacting the Family Conciliation branch at 204- 945-7236 or toll-free at 1-800-282-8069.