Protecting children from the potentially devastating emotional consequences of their parents' divorce is one of the main objectives of Maryland family court judges when they are called upon to make child custody decisions. Judges tend to favor co-parenting solutions due to the body of research indicating that children are more likely to thrive in these situations, and they also understand that divorced parents are generally able to see beyond their differences when the future of their children is in the balance.
Successful co-parenting arrangements are based on responsibility and fairness. Children are less likely to misbehave or manipulate their parents when expectations, rules and discipline are consistent, and parents send their children a powerful message about commitment and priorities when they cooperate despite agreeing on very little. Parents in these situations also know where they stand and what is expected of them, and this knowledge can help them to avoid some major pitfalls.
Chief among these pitfalls is the tendency among some divorced parents to involve their children in domestic squabbles and disputes. Parents who vent their frustrations in front of their children or ask them to relay messages set a very poor example, and studies have found that the marriages of children raised in this kind of environment are more likely to end in divorce as well. Written parenting rules can identify and address such problems, but they should not be too restrictive.
There are few winners when divorce negotiations break down and custody and visitation decisions are left to judges to make. Experienced family law attorneys may remind divorcing parents of their shared goals and common interests before child custody and visitation talks begin, and they could recommend a less confrontational and more cooperative approach such as divorce mediation when an amicable agreement remains elusive.