Co-parenting can be challenging in the best circumstances, but it may become especially tricky when your ex is in the military and overseas. For one thing, communication may be sporadic or unpredictable, and the kids could worry that their parent is likely to be killed.
When the children are very young
In ideal circumstances, your children would have some language ability and be at least three years old. This is so that communicating with the overseas parent is possible through letters, email, phone calls and video chat. However, if your child is an infant or young toddler, there are still a few things you can do, similar to if you were still married to the other parent or in a relationship:
- Keep at least one picture of the parent prominently displayed.
- Talk about the other parent at least once a day.
- Let the other parent's family members visit the child, if feasible.
Likewise, send your ex frequent pictures and updates. Keep him or her in the loop about medical appointments and milestones. Holding the baby up for a few minutes during a video chat is also helpful. The other parent could even tell a good-night story via cellphone. You can also encourage him or her to send videotaped messages for the child to see.
When the children are older
If your children are older, you can often take more of a passive role in co-parenting. That is, you can step back to allow the children and your ex to take cha rge of their relationship. Many times, a firm arrangement such as that set out in a parenting plan is useful and may encourage your overseas ex to remain in more contact with the children. For example, many fathers are hesitant about starting relationships with their children out of fear such relationships will not be supported or encouraged. Meanwhile, try to keep any issues with child support from infringing on the relationship your children have with their other parent.
No matter the age of your children, a little flexibility goes a long way. This is true in any type of co-parenting relationship but especially with the twist of a military ex stationed overseas. For instance, if the parent is able to make an unscheduled call, it may be best to let the kids talk to him or her rather than stick to the strict words of a parenting plan.
If you are separated but not yet divorced, many law firms are familiar with military divorces. They can also help with parenting plans and paternity rights, among other issues.