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Co-parenting is a common child custody arrangement in Pennsylvania. It often provides both parents with an opportunity to remain active in the child’s life while avoiding the intense stress that can be inflicted by traditional child support orders. Nevertheless, many Pennsylvanians enter into a co-parenting arrangement without being fully aware of how the process works.

Co-parenting is a plan whereby both parents spend significant amounts of time with their child (or children) after the divorce becomes effective. Both parents are expected to cooperate with each other in raising the child. While one parent may have been awarded legal custody or physical custody of minor children, both are expected to consult with each other on the child’s education, health care, financial support, vacation time and other matters.

Co-parents must avoid a number of potentially destructive behaviors. Neither parent should criticize the other parent in front of the child. Children should never be used as messengers unless the information directly involves the child. Co-parents should not interrogate the child about time spent with the other parent. Time with the children should not be simply a never-ending course of “fun and games.” Instead, this time should be a balanced mix of fun, chores, homework and “hanging out.”

Co-parents should make every effort to be available to answer the child’s questions about both the present and the future. Choosing the right answer to these question can be difficult, but co-parents should make an effort to provide consistent answers. In this regard, the divorced parents must make a special effort to treat each other with courtesy and openness.

Anyone who is contemplating the end of a marriage and is interested in co-parenting may wish to consult an experienced family attorney for an overview of various custody arrangements, including co-parenting.