Coparenting Through Divorce Audio
Hannah: [00:00:00] Welcome to Happily Ever After, the podcast where we talk about life's big stories, from breakups and breakdowns, to icky secrets and happy endings. It's the stuff that makes us human. I'm your host, Hannah Harvey. I'm a writer and a parenting blogger at mumsdays. com. I'd be really grateful if you could subscribe and leave a review because it basically means more people can find the podcast.
And I also absolutely love hearing from you. So please do contact me through Instagram @mumsdays, M U M S D A Y S, with any of your stories and any thoughts you might have on the episode or any questions. You can find all the details from this episode in the show notes.
Hello and welcome to Happily Ever After with me Hannah.
Today I would like to talk about co parenting through divorce and I've [00:01:00] asked Katie to come in because she is a child of divorce.
Katie: I am a child of divorce, hello everybody.
Hannah: When was the last time, why were we talking about that?
Katie: Christmas, divorce time at Christmas.
Katie: Divorcemas, yes it was.
Hannah: Of course. So yes, this time last year, well. In December anyway, we were talking about how to sort of manage the Christmas period when you're a separated parent and it was very helpful to have your opinion on this.
Hannah: I thought it would be good to talk about, well, I'll be honest, it's a bit of a daunting subject talking about co parenting and children.
Hannah: Because it's definitely, well, it's just not desirable is it?
Katie: Well no, nobody wants to be in this situation, but it happens.
Hannah: It does. And I think it's very common when you're in conflict to think that the other person is a narcissist or [00:02:00] awful or toxic. Like all of these words get banded around a lot.
And yes, that is definitely true. But it's also true that people in conflict behave crazy.
Katie: Absolutely, yeah. Not yourself.
Hannah: I did my best during our break up, but I'm certain there were times that I made the wrong choice.
Hannah: Because you're just doing your best in a really bad situation.
Katie: Yeah. Well, it's a trauma, and it's stress, and it's anxiety, and they can all make you behave in ways that you wouldn't normally. It's to be expected.
Hannah: It is. So, with that in mind, neither of us are experts.
Katie: No, that's true.
Hannah: I've lived through it from a parenting point of view. You've lived through it from a child's point of view.
Hannah: Let's see how we get on.
Katie: Yeah. But please seek help from an actual expert should you need it.
Hannah: Should you need it. So I guess one of the first things is to say that Cafcass has got loads of [00:03:00] advice about this. So if you go to court for the sake of children's, what's the word? Like, what's going to happen with the kids? Like, who's going to have the most what's the word?!
Katie: Cu- Custody.
Hannah: Custody, yeah. We don't really use that word as much these days, but that is basically it. Like what is the custody going to look like? And if you can't agree it outside of court, then you go to court and Cafcass come in as the people that represent the child,
Katie: Right. Yes.
Hannah: So you've got the mother with their barristers or solicitor.
Katie: Mm-Hmm. .
Hannah: You've got the father with theirs and then you've got Cafcass that is there to represent what they believe the child needs and you've got your judge. So when you go to court, you're sent out a pack from Cafcass to say this is kind of how we believe you should behave.
So with that in mind, CAFCAS have got loads [00:04:00] of advice online and it's actually really helpful when you're in conflict to step back and look at it from your child's point of view.
Hannah: Because, you know, all sorts of different things are at play here. And if you're very hurt by what your partner's done, or they're very hurt by what you've done there's naturally going to be conflict around the kids as well.
That just is what it is. But if you can kind of take a step back and go and look at some of the advice that they've got. So they've got things like parenting plans online courses that support you, especially if you're going to end up in court, but it's things like you can't use your children as pawns.
Katie: Yeah. Yeah.
Hannah: And that is just, it's just classic divorce, isn't it?
Katie: Yeah, it is. Yeah.
Hannah: And from a mother's perspective, I had to go through the process of being like, they should be with me. I'm their mother.
Katie: Yeah. [00:05:00] I know, and, but we can't think like that anymore, you know? And it, yeah, I guess it must be, you'd probably go into it thinking, well I would never use my kids as a way to negotiate this and nobody would ever think that they would do that. But I bet it's loads easier to do than you think it is.
Hannah: Yeah, and I think you can do it from the perspective of thinking it's in their best interest.
Katie: Yeah. Mm hmm without even knowing. Yeah.
Hannah: But in this day and age when you go to court the judge is very keen on 50 50.
Katie: Really? That's good.
Hannah: Yeah, so unless there's any mitigating circumstances, that is what they're going to go for. So you need to bear that in mind. If you think you're going to go to court and be like, Oh, they're, you know, I should have the kids more. The chances are it's not going to work out like that.
Hannah: So if you can avoid going to court, because it's really fucking expensive.
Hannah: Bear in mind that you're probably still going to end up with 50 50.
Katie: Yeah, that's interesting. Because I'm, I mean, I don't [00:06:00] know, but I think probably when my parents got divorced, it won't have been like that. I don't think they'll have pushed them towards 50 50 custody./
Hannah: I don't think so, and I think they would take into account things like how much each parent is working.
Hannah: So if somebody's doing, you know, got a full time job and the other person's at home, it would make sense for the person at home to have more custody.
Hannah: But generally, it has to be agreed.
Katie: Yeah. Yeah, well I think, I mean both my parents were working.
Katie: But I ended up with my mum and all of my friends whose parents were divorced and things, they all ended up with their mothers as well, so.
Hannah: That's definitely, like, what is this, the 90s?
Katie: Yeah, so I think it must have changed quite a bit since then.
Hannah: Yeah, I think now it's like, it's very important that children have contact with both parents.
Hannah: I think there's been a lot of research since about the importance of both parents being in a child's life.
Hannah: For all sorts of different reasons.
Katie: Mm, yeah.
Hannah: And I'd say the [00:07:00] only time that you need to really challenge that, Is if they aren't safe.
Katie: Yeah. I guess that's like first and foremost, and the only thing that you need to keep, like, at the forefront of your mind the whole time.
Hannah: Yeah. Are they safe? And if you feel like they're not, or there's any doubt, take it all the way.
Katie: Yeah. Yeah.
Hannah: Just to get, you know, reassurance from the court, from Caffcas, that actually everything is okay. And you know that you've done everything you can in your power to keep them safe. But even then I've heard stories from friends and people that I've got in touch through the podcast where that isn't the case.
And they didn't feel like the court was signing up for what they needed and what was right for the kids.
Katie: That's interesting.
Hannah: So, you know, I think that's probably a subject for another day, but we can't, I personally feel like I have to trust that the system is right.
Katie: And also, well, they're the professionals, really, aren't they? Like, they do it a lot more than [00:08:00] you do. So you'd hope that they would have more experience than you have with this particular topic.
Katie: You know?
Hannah: And it's the only way you're going to get some kind of an investigation if you are concerned?
Hannah: Because if Children's Services are involved, they basically will say to you, I don't know, for example, no contact with Dad unless it's supervised.
Hannah: And as long as you're doing that, they then close the case.
Hannah: That's the end of it. There's no investigation done.
Katie: Mm hmm.
Hannah: There's only, like, those instructions given, and as long as you're adhering to what they've suggested, that could go on for the rest of eternity.
Hannah: And then you're like, well, how am I ever, how are we ever going to move on beyond that situation?
Hannah: Without court.
Hannah: Because that's the only time then that there'll be an investigation and Caffcas will look into it properly.
Hannah: Yeah, it's a bit of an odd one.
Hannah: And it's a lot of pressure on the other parent to uphold what they've said.
Hannah: I've been told this by an official body, so [00:09:00] therefore I must adhere to it. And it's not fair on the other parent if they feel like it's, that that's like not the case.
Hannah: Because there's no other way to prove it.
Katie: Oh that's, yeah, that must be hard.
Hannah: Without court, and then it's all money, money, money.
Hannah: So it's a very tricky one, but obviously, first and foremost, kids gotta be safe. And then once you know that they are, I personally believe it's good for them to have the 50 50 split.
Hannah: And it also allows me... The time that I was looking for and was missing in the past. And allows me space to do the things that fill me up so that when I'm with them they can have my full attention.
Katie: Yeah, that's good.
Hannah: It's good batching, it's good for my brain.
Katie: Yeah, and they'll get their role from their dad as well and they're with them, you know. That's interesting. I think that's a good way of doing it, you know.
Hannah: And I think if you were in the traditional set up when you were in a relationship where mum did all the [00:10:00] child caring and dad did all the other stuff. It's quite liberating.
Hannah: And you know that, like, everybody's doing their fair share of the unpaid care?
Katie: Well, I know, yeah, because it's very, like, anti feminist to expect the women to do it all, isn't it? You know?
Hannah: You've got to live on your own, have the children, and somehow provide for everybody. But I know people that are in a situation where dad doesn't want to really be involved.
So there is that side of it and you might take them to court to be like, Yeah, I really think you should be more involved in your children's lives. But I suppose you can't force it.
Katie: No, no.
Hannah: You'll get court proceedings at the end, but you don't necessarily...
Katie: It might not be the outcome you want.
Hannah: It might not be the, I can almost guarantee it will not be the outcome that you want.
Hannah: Everybody will leave that situation feeling slightly hard done by, and you need to take a week or two to let it settle and look for the good in it. [00:11:00]
Hannah: Because it's tricky.
Hannah: Because everybody's fighting for different things. Yes. So I've put here see 50 50 as a blessing, even though it's hard, and you do have to go through a process of being like, from a mother's perspective, I'm the mum, they should be with me, who even am I if I'm not being a mother?
Like, there's a whole, it can feel like a chasm when they're not around because they distract you and they keep you going. They're a reason to get up. And then the days when they're not there, you're like.
Katie: What do I do?
Katie: Yeah. And obviously when you were with your partner, they were there all the time, and you were there all the time, and there wasn't any sort of- there would have just been a natural order of things where you did take care of them all the time, wouldn't there?
Hannah: Yeah, and you were always the one, like for me I was always the one. Would you always read a story, always put them to bed, and you're not doing that anymore?
Katie: And adjusting to that [00:12:00] must have been so hard.
Hannah: Hmm. Well it was a weird, it was again one of these double edged sword things where you're like, half of you's going, Oh my god, I can just watch telly on my own and I don't have to put anybody to bed, I haven't got to fight anyone.
But then you're also like, I feel so guilty that I'm not there for them.
Katie: Hmm, yeah. Yeah, but then, like, when you think about it, I think that getting their all from their mum when they do see them, and then getting their all from their dad, because they've both had personal time to do their own things as well, I think must be pretty magical for them, you know?
Like, because I'm sure being a parent is really hard, you know, like I bet you're really worn down by it and to have time to actually do your own thing as well will mean that you've got more energy for them.
Hannah: Yeah, exactly. I'm definitely finding that. The next one is particularly difficult, but it's don't [00:13:00] slag off your ex in front of your kids.
Katie: Yeah. I bet that's another one of those things where you think, well, I would never do that. And then it happens a lot easier than you think it's going to.
Hannah: Especially because they've got very big ears.
Hannah: They can be in another room on a different level of your house and they can still hear what's going on.
Katie: You become hypersensitive to that as a kid, I think. Especially when you're not sure what's going on with your life, I guess.
Hannah: Yeah. So, yeah, and just suddenly being like, Oh, I can sense that something's being talked about and I want to know what's going on.
Hannah: And they'll just, it's like you see them in the movies sitting at the top of the stairs and you think, that's it, that's what's going on, so you do have to be really careful about that.
Katie: Yeah. And it'll, like, I bet they can sense the tone as well, so it's not, they don't even have to be able to, Like, understand which words you're saying. It's just like the way [00:14:00] in which you're saying them. They'll understand, yeah.
Hannah: They feel eye rolls.
Katie: Yeah, yeah. I bet they do, yeah.
Hannah: But it's, that's totally a thing because, you know, from the age, you're born being able to pick up body languages and cues. And it's not until you're older that the language develops. So little children pick up on all the other stuff before they pick up on what you're actually saying.
Katie: Yeah, and I bet it's even more. I bet you're even better at it with your parents as well, because they're the ones that you need to be able to understand and read their body language for survival. Interesting!
Hannah: Very. So yeah, it's very easy to do, but apparently it's more damaging than slagging the kid off to its face.
Hannah: To hear something bad about their parents.
Katie: My parents were so good at that. Like, they really, like, I'm pretty sure my mum went through a hard time, and it would have been hard for my dad as well, but she never said anything bad [00:15:00] about him. And still doesn't really, like, even though like I'm a real old adult now, like she still avoids saying bad things about him. Even though you can tell she thinks them, you know.
Hannah: So you're still picking up on those cues.
Katie: Well, yeah, yeah. But like, no, they did a really good job of protecting me from that. And look, I've turned out okay.
Katie: I think it was important not to hear that.
Hannah: Yeah, definitely. But yes, when you're in the middle of it, it can be very tricky. When you're being triggered. When friends come over and they're like, tell us everything! You know, try and get the kids off. There's still, just remember they've, yeah. The walls have ears.
Hannah: I think it's important to remember when you're in the midst of the chaos that it won't be like this forever.
Hannah: The chances are you'll still have your challenges with your ex but it won't be the same level [00:16:00] of conflict. So to bear that in mind now, that in a future point, it won't be this bad. So try not to react, maybe be so reactionary. I always say to a friend of mine who's going through it, I'm like, you, you can take time. You don't have to get an email and immediately reply to all the demands in it. You can sleep on it, which is horrible, by the way. You wake up in the night going, writing emails back.
Katie: Yeah. I guess you can still do that, though. You just don't send it.
Hannah: Yeah, maybe write it out so that it's not in your head, because if you're awake anyway, you may as well get it out of your head.
Hannah: But yeah, sleep on it, get advice, take your time, and then reply. It doesn't have to be immediate all the time.
Katie: Mm hmm. Yeah, because actually, I guess the decisions you're making at that point are going to affect the rest of your life as well, so, you need to make sure you take your time on them.
Hannah: Yeah, and don't, you know, [00:17:00] say things that you're going to potentially regret later. I mean, we all do, but, you know.
Hannah: Yeah, so with that in mind, like, even if everything's going to shit, still communicate for the sake of the kids.
Katie: Yeah, that must be so hard as well. Like.
Hannah: Just keep it practical.
Hannah: When are you picking them up? Can I have them on this day? You know, and if it's really bad and you don't want to communicate with them at all, you still need to, but you can use there's an app.
Katie: Oh, you've told me about this. Yes. Go on. It was interesting.
Hannah: Why can I not remember what it's called? Talking Parents.
Katie: Yeah, okay.
Hannah: And it's admissible in court as well. So it's an app where you can communicate with each other. Nothing can get deleted. And it's all there and you can use it in court if necessary.
Katie: Yeah, great.
Hannah: That's a really cool, great tool to be very specific. Like, this is just for parents. This is just for [00:18:00] talking about the children. I don't want to talk about money. I don't want to talk about the house. Don't want to talk about your ex girlfriend, or your new girlfriend, or anything else. Only about the kids. So it's quite a nice technique when you feel like everything else is spiraling.
Katie: Yeah, great.
Hannah: That at least you can keep the communication open using this app.
Katie: Mm hmm. Yeah, that's such a clever idea. And I guess you must have to almost reframe it as like a business transaction.
Katie: You know, talk to them as if...
Hannah: Just keep it professional.
Katie: Yeah, exactly.
Hannah: Yeah, but it's, yeah, it's not very fun. And when you go to court, like I say, like the judges hate time wasters and they can tell.
Hannah: So if you can avoid going to court by doing mediation or whatever else, it's, I would say do that because they know how to make you feel absolutely fucking tiny.
Katie: I bet, yeah. I mean I guess that [00:19:00] helps put things in perspective though.
Hannah: Yeah. And, and remember that they are going to push for 50 50. So even if you think you're going in with a really strong case that they shouldn't be. Unless Caffcas come back and say, yeah, these children are not safe. And even then it's questionable. It can be seen that you're trying to keep your kids away from the dad.
Katie: Right. Yeah.
Hannah: Yeah, they'll be pushing for that.
Katie: Which is good. That's how it should be.
Hannah: I say 50, 50, like that's the ideal, but definitely contact.
Hannah: They'll be wanting the kids to have contact. And the last thing I have to say on the subject is. Living in transition and that, like, limbo is awful, but the best thing you can do is sit in it and be patient.
Hannah: Like, time is the biggest healer in all of this.
Katie: Mm hmm.
Hannah: Because there's so many other emotions going on in the [00:20:00] background, they're gonna constantly get in the way of progress.
Hannah: So until the dust is starting to settle and things are not as chaotic as they were, You're going to struggle to get to some kind of agreement anyway.
Katie: Yeah. Well, and when it's a breakup as well, there's so many emotions involved, isn't there? So like, it's almost like you have to deal with it, like it's a really serious, sensible thing when it's to do with the kids and to do with court and everything like that. But then at the same time, it's all of your emotions on the table and like having the breakdown of a relationship, it must be really hard to separate those two things.
Hannah: Yeah. And then if you add in other things, so we've talked about conflict and we, you and I did an episode about conflict resolution and like how to manage your emotions during that. And that was episode 49. But, you know, say a different type of crisis also comes in. Something's happened to one of your kids.
Hannah: Something's happened to one of your parents and you have to take on a carer's role. Mm hmm. [00:21:00] Like, all of these things need to be taken in consideration and you kind of have to put your feelings to one side and go, this is what my children need.
Katie: Yeah. Mm hmm.
Hannah: Which is difficult.
Katie: Yeah, I bet. Mm hmm. And, and I guess at that point, like, it's like you become, you have to become a team again. Like, there's no choice.
Hannah: It's a very strange dynamic.
Hannah: Yeah. Like, we're going to need to work together. So something happened with one of my kids in that kind of setup where my ex and I had to come back together and we actually got some therapy to support us with co parenting to support one of our children.
Hannah: And it's difficult because really it was like, you know, we're divorced now and there's still unresolved stuff. Not so much on my side, but I think my ex is where he feels like there's still things he wants to talk to me about.
Katie: Yeah. To do with your relationship.
Hannah: To [00:22:00] do with our relationship. And we have to put that to one side and say that is not what we're talking about in here. We're talking about our child and how we can support them. It's really, yeah, interesting. But yeah, like you say, it's like the same as going into work or something. You leave your problems at the door. We're now professionals. We're professional co parents.
Katie: Yeah, exactly, yeah.
Hannah: And we're gonna do what is best for the children at all times.
Katie: Kind regards, Hannah Harvey.
Hannah: The end.
Katie: Yeah, I, like, I guess, like, in those times, it might be helpful to remember the reason that you were with them in the first place.
Hannah: And there's plenty, like, even in the midst of all of the conflict, there's plenty to be like, but I know he's a good dad.
Katie: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Hannah: And the fact that, you know, I'm very, very lucky that he even wants to be around his kids, because not all dads do.
Hannah: Not all mums do.
Katie: Yeah. And you guys get to be a team in a crisis. [00:23:00] Yeah. Like, some people have to deal with this on their own.
Hannah: Yes, they do.
Katie: And it, so you should utilise that team, I guess, if you can.
Hannah: Yeah, if you can look past, past hurts and all that kind of stuff and just be like, right, we've done with that. Professional Co Parents, let's do this.
Katie: Professional Co Parents, LLC.
Hannah: Yeah. Ooh, I'm going to franchise it.
Hannah: But with that in mind, Caffcas have got this like online course that can kind of support you through the process of trying to deal with the child element of divorce anyway.
Katie: Great, yeah, we'll link to it in the show notes, because that sounds good, helpful.
Hannah: Good. Anything to add from a childhood divorce point of view?
Katie: You know, it's difficult looking back on it because I was a kid, so like, you don't, Like, you're very wrapped up in your own little world. You think that you're the centre of the universe when you're a kid, and your parents are just kind of on the periphery, you know? Like, taking care of you. But I can't really [00:24:00] even remember them, like, doing that much fighting, or, like, having to make decisions together. So, like, they must have done a really good job of it.
Hannah: Maybe we need your mum on.
Katie: Oh, yeah.
Hannah: We need her on.
Katie: I mean, yeah. I think she had a lot to deal with, you know?
Hannah: Mind you, she might not want to talk about it.
Katie: I don't know, I think she would, but like I can't actually tell you what she did right, which is great, you know. Yeah. I can't actually tell you how she did it, but I did feel very supported from both parents, actually.
Katie: Co- parenting, I'm sure.
Hannah: Good communication behind the scenes.
Hannah: To keep it steady and stable for you.
Hannah: Oh, I'm very pleased.
Katie: I know.
Hannah: For you. That's good. Well, thanks, Katie.
Katie: Well, thank you. Good tips.
Hannah: And if yeah, anybody's got any thoughts on this subject or you want to get in touch or you're just having a shit time and you want to have a rant, get in touch with me or Katie.
Hannah: On the old [00:25:00] gram, that tends to be where we hang, isn't it?
Katie: It is where we hang, and remember that you can do this. We believe in you.
Hannah: Yes! If I can do it, you can. Lovely, thanks Katie, bye!
Katie: Thanks, bye!
Hannah: Alright then, thank you so much for listening and I'll see you next time for another episode of Happily Ever After with me, Hannah Harvey. It would be wonderful if you could leave a review and subscribe. And of course, if you have a friend who might enjoy this episode, please do pass it on. For anything else, you can get in touch with me either through Instagram, at Mumsdays, or my website, mumsdays.