Tag Archive for: co-parenting

In any parenting, the stakes are high. But after divorce, they’re even higher. Creating a healthy co-parenting arrangement is crucial for helping your children to grow into emotionally healthy, confident adults. Co-parenting well is difficult, but for the sake of the children, it needs to be done.

If you and your ex don’t have a comfortable personal relationship, you should both try to think of it as a business relationship instead. Treat your co-parent like a colleague, communicate respectfully and create agreements that you keep. And ask yourself: Would I trash talk my colleague to other people? Would I blow off a meeting or be purposely late? If you wouldn’t do it to a team member at work, don’t do it to your team member in parenting. The danger of bad behavior at work is poor job performance or job loss. The danger of bad behavior in parenting is emotionally damaged children or loss of parenting rights.

Here are some important steps to healthy co-parenting.

  • The right attitude will make all the other steps of co-parenting easier, and that is to have an attitude of empathy. Try to put yourself in your children’s shoes and in your ex’s shoes. How do they feel? How would you want to be treated if you were in their position? Try to act accordingly.
  • Maintain an open dialogue, sharing the children’s schedules and important information. There are websites designed for this. Be sure to keep your co-parent informed of important news, both positive and not-so-positive (like an A on a big test as well as being sent to the principal’s office). That way you can both congratulate your child or help guide him or her into healthier choices.
  • Be flexible. If a big event comes up and your ex wants to take your kids to it, let them go. It will build positive memories for them while also building positive relationships between their parents, which can only be good for them.
  • Have some agreed-upon rules that apply at both houses: bedtime, chores, homework, internet use, manners. Knowing they have the same expectations at both Mom’s and Dad’s place gives your children a sense of consistency, stability, and security. Kids will always try to test boundaries. But it’s important to stay firm on these agreed-upon rules. Allow each parent to have other rules about less crucial things. Recognize people have different parenting styles and respect them. If no serious harm is done, let it go.
  • One rule should be no trash-talking the other parent – that goes for both you and the kids. Focus on the positive traits your ex has, speak to your children about them and think about them yourself to improve your feelings when you have to communicate about parenting.
  • Resist fighting or speaking rudely to each other in front of the children. Conflict between parents creates a sense of helplessness and insecurity in children, increasing the incidence of drug abuse and other unhealthy comfort-seeking behaviors. This example of conflict can also cause future problems in their own personal relationships, and anxiety can suppress the immune system, increasing illness.
  • Avoid being the “Fun Dad” or the “Cool Mom.” Kids need calm, quiet downtime with their non-custodial parents, too. And having a marked imbalance between parents increases a child’s dissatisfaction and insecurity and creates problems for the not-so-fun parent.
  • Agree to roles played by extended family members. They love the children, too, and are also affected by the divorce.
  • Get together regularly for family meetings about parenting decisions. You can include the children, but also have regular meetings yourselves. Update your agreements every year or two to make sure they are current and appropriate as the children grow.
  • When exchanging children for time with the non-custodial parent, have a short, pleasant goodbye so the children get a positive feeling about their visit. Don’t call unnecessarily and take time away from their other parent.

Following these steps may be difficult at first, but remembering that the goal is to help your children thrive should help it become easier in time. And that will be a win for everyone.

Divorcing when you have children brings on many questions. Here in our Langhorne, PA office, we help couples determine many post-divorce logistics related to their children. This can include how much child support you are going to pay or receive, as well as where your children are going to spend their time. Determining your parenting time schedule can be a bit difficult for parents.

First and foremost, for most parents, the most difficult part of setting up a custody schedule is realizing they are not going to be spending every day with their child. Children have the right to spend time with both parents, during the week, on weekends, and then on special occasions.  

There are many factors that can complicate a parenting schedule including where parents live, their work schedules, where the child attends school, and his/her activities. If parents can sit down together, alone or with their attorneys, it is best to collaborate on a plan. If they can not do this, then the matter will go in front of a judge who will determine the parenting schedule.  Judges often hear cases in which one parent would like sole custody for the sake of moving far away, making it prohibitive for the other parent to enjoy a 50/50 custody arrangement.  

How does a judge determine a parenting time schedule in PA?

There are 16 factors that the court can use to determine the custody of a child. They include:

  • the likelihood of the parties to encourage the child to remain in close contact with the other parent
  • any past abuse
  • what each parent currently does for the child and could that be continued
  • how stable the child’s life is
  • the availability of extended family to help
  • the existence of siblings
  • the child’s preference
  • whether the parents put the child in the middle of their disagreements
  • whether one parent is more likely to take better care of the child than the other
  • the distance between the parents
  • who will care for the child if the custodial parent is at work
  • whether there is significant conflict between the parents
  • any drug use, mental or physical abuse, or other relevant personal characteristics that may be present in the home

Most parents realize that when a judge makes a decision it is legally binding and must be followed. This is why it is best to work it out between the parties before the matter winds up in court. If your spouse is unreasonable we can negotiate child custody and a parenting schedule for you. Sometimes it is just easier to have legal representation in the room with you or to review your plans to get both parties to be a bit agreeable.  

Though a court order ends your marriage and makes your divorce official, it won’t end your relationship with your ex-spouse if you have kids. As part of your Montgomery County divorce, we will negotiate a parenting plan for you and your spouse that will set the standards for communications and schedules. The parenting plan sets a schedule for when your kids will be with whom and who is responsible for doing what to make it happen. Problems are common, whether that’s because, as a practical matter, the plan doesn’t work or one parent is intentionally trying to sabotage it.

A parenting plan usually is negotiated between the parties as part of the divorce settlement. A judge could decide the plan and make it part of the divorce order if a case goes to trial. It spells out the schedule for when children will be with each parent, transportation issues, vacation and holiday schedules, and what to do if problems arise. If difficulties come up and parents can’t find a solution, the judge decides the resolution.

Happy Holidays or Holidays from Hell?

Holidays can be incredibly stressful when parenting plans go sideways for a divorced family. Holidays are times when not only does a parent spend time with their kids, but extended families often get together. If the other parent is not living up to their end of the bargain by not allowing the children to be there or being late when delivering them, feelings can get frayed.

The Only Constant is Change

Another ongoing problem can be constant or unexpected changes. Both sides should comply with the plan in good faith. It’s a problem if one parent isn’t organized enough to follow the plan or just doesn’t care if the other parent is inconvenienced. Emergencies and unexpected problems can happen, but disruptions should be the exception, not the rule.

Parenting Plan Issues are Just the Beginning

Problems following the parenting plan can be a symptom of a bigger issue – a lack of respect. Your ex-spouse may be consistently late in picking up your kids or bringing them back and couldn’t care less about the impact on you. Making issues out of a parenting plan, along with alienating your children from you and disputing child support, could all be part of an overall strategy to make you miserable.

We Need to Resolve the Issue or Take It to Court

If a solution isn’t negotiated, we may need to go to court. We’ll tell your side of the story with evidence. You must document everything as best you can. That means taking notes, keeping copies of emails or texts, taking photos, and making videos.

Get the Help You Need From a Lawyer You Can Trust

Call Karen Ann Ulmer, PC, if you need help with your parenting plan, whether that’s questions that need answers or legal representation. Call our office at (215) 608-1867 to schedule an online consultation. We can speak via teleconference, over the phone, or meet in our Langhorne or Doylestown office.

COVID-19 vaccinations have turned a medical and public health issue into one that’s splitting the country. Anti-vaccination feelings and publicity are at an unprecedented level. Along with our divided communities, some parents don’t agree either.  Fighting with your ex over issues involving your kids is never fun – and now we have another “hot button” issue, the COVID-19 vaccine, to add to the mix. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, 59.1% of the country is fully vaccinated against the viral infection. That drops to 50.8% of Americans aged 12 to 17. Emergency FDA approval of vaccine use for kids ages 5-11 has recently been approved and the parents of young children are currently making decisions as to whether or not their children should be vaccinated.

Should a Judge Decide?

What happens if your ex doesn’t want your child vaccinated but you do? When divorced parents disagree, they should read the divorce agreement, which may or may not mention vaccines. If legal custody is shared, both can make healthcare decisions. If one parent has sole legal custody, they make those choices, including those regarding vaccinations.

Can you have a conversation? If it would help, consult your pediatrician for guidance. If you cannot reach an agreement, an attorney from our staff can help. If we can’t negotiate a resolution, we can go to court to protect your child’s best interests. This is a complex, time-consuming, expensive way to end a dispute, but it’s an option if everything else fails.

How Would a Court Rule?

A judge would decide based on what’s in the best interest of the child. There’s a good chance they may state that includes vaccination.

  • A judge in Canada ruled a 13-year-old girl with diabetes be vaccinated against COVID-19 contrary to her mother’s wishes because it was in the child’s best interest
  • In a New Jersey appeals court decision in favor of vaccination (but not involving COVID-19), the decision states, “The experts agreed that overall vaccines are safe and effective…” and gave the pro-vaccine parent the ability to decide what to do

A judge will consider the facts of the case, including:

  • Why the parents have their positions
  • Specific health risks to the child
  • School or activity requirements and how being unvaccinated would affect the child
  • Medical expert opinion

The child’s pediatrician’s opinion may carry a lot of weight, especially if the child has conditions that may increase the chances of bad side effects from the vaccine or the child risks serious complications if they are unvaccinated and become infected.

Get the Legal Help You Need From an Attorney You Can Trust

Do you have questions about child custody or need legal representation? Call our office at (215) 608-1867 or schedule a consultation online today. We can speak via teleconference, over the phone, or meet in our Langhorne or Doylestown office to discuss your case.

A child’s education has lifelong effects. If you’re divorced or separated from the other parent, you may not agree on how to handle your child’s education. You must resolve this issue between yourselves with the help of an attorney, or a judge in Bucks or Montgomery County may need to make the decision.

Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., is a team of lawyers and staff in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We have significant family law experience and have worked hard to build a law firm that can address your child custody needs, including disputes over your child’s education. If you have any questions or need help, call us at (215) 608-1867, book a free consultation online now, or contact us by email.

Parents usually make educational decisions about their kids. If parents are divorced or never married and had their parental rights formalized in court, a judge decided who has legal custody. This includes the ability to make important decisions for the child regarding such issues as education. In most cases, legal custody is shared by both parents. In relatively rare cases, a parent may give up their parental rights, or a judge decides it is not in the child’s best interests for a parent to have any legal custody.

Educational Issues That Can Split the Two Parents

If the two of you agree on issues, it’s not a problem. But if your child’s life is complicated and as more issues come up, there are more opportunities for disagreement:

  • Your child may have learning disabilities or other special needs. Your child will need more help from his or her school, but the school may not want to provide it. Parents may disagree on whether the child should attend another school or get private tutoring.
  • Your child may be gifted and have their own needs to be successful. Your child’s learning opportunities and how hard they should be pushed to excel can lead to disputes.
  • There can be public, private, and religious schools in the area. One parent may prefer one, the other parent may want the child to go to another.
  • Education can be part of a dispute when one parent wants the child to move with them away from the area. The child would attend a new school and the other parent may believe that is not in the child’s best interests because their education and friendships would be disrupted.
  • An athletically gifted child can present challenges. A parent may want the child to stay back a grade to perform better in sports at school. A private school may have a better athletic program, so one parent wants the child to transfer, while the other disagrees and doesn’t want to pay half the tuition.

If you can’t agree on important educational issues, Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., can represent you to help negotiate a decision both parties can accept. If not, these issues can be litigated and eventually decided at a trial. But that’s an expensive, time-consuming option that should only be used for very serious issues critical to your child’s success in school.

Your Attitude Toward Your Child’s Education Can Impact Your Child Custody Order

If you’re thinking about divorce or considering getting a child custody order, or one is already in place, you must think about your child’s education and your role in it. One way to show you should keep or be given shared or sole legal custody is to be actively engaged in your child’s education. Communicate with the teacher, attend meetings, and actively address problems as they come up. If you’re not interested in your child’s schooling and are indifferent to their success, it can be used against you by the other parent. They might argue that you having legal custody of your child is not in the child’s best interest so it shouldn’t be granted or it should be taken away.

Get the Help You Need From an Attorney You Can Trust

If you have questions about child custody or need help enforcing or changing a custody order, call our office at (215) 608-1867 or book a consultation online now. We can speak over the phone, via a teleconference, or meet in one of our offices in Doylestown or Langhorne.

Depending on your custody arrangement, summer can be a time for your children to spend more time with each of their parents. It can be difficult to juggle vacation plans and visitation for two different households; occasional confusion may arise and compromise is necessary. But when your ex is consistently failing to follow through or seems to be intentionally sabotaging your summer plans, you need to take action, for your sake and your children’s.


Keep records of all communication

Keep all interaction with your ex civil. This is very important, not only because it may bring about the desired results, but because if you need to file a motion, the court’s judgment will be influenced by which is the more reasonable, mature parent. You want to be that parent.


If possible, do all communication about summer arrangements with a paper trail. Use email or a parenting portal that is admissible in court and tracks when parents receive messages, so your ex cannot argue that he or she never received your message.


Track all phone conversations, record if possible (and let your ex know you’re recording), and keep a detailed log.


Try to keep your communications positive. When you feel you cannot respond respectfully or calmly, wait until you’ve calmed down and consult with your custody attorney about the best way to respond. When necessary, let your attorney handle negative communications, which he or she can do dispassionately.


Remind your ex of the terms of divorce and custody agreements

In writing, remind your ex of the divorce agreement and/or custody agreement. If the agreements are clearly being violated, you have good standing to demand they be followed, and you are not required to give in to what your ex wants.


Create clear boundaries

If your ex isn’t breaking any agreements but is just being unreasonable – repeatedly making changes at the last minute, calling at odd hours, or blaming you for plans falling through – keep documentation, but also protect yourself and your children. Create clear boundaries – in writing – for when you will accept calls and/or how much notice you need for schedule changes.


These are reasonable requests. If your ex will not follow them, hold firm. Do not answer the phone or read emails outside the time stated, and do not accept last minute changes. Obviously, if your ex was supposed to pick your children up from summer camp and suddenly can’t, you must do so, but do not set yourself up for another sabotage. If he or she will not abide by these simple guidelines, it may be time to file a complaint with the court.


Avoid future summer conflicts

If you have kept a clear record of ex-spouse sabotage or lack of cooperation in co-parenting responsibilities, petition the court for changes in the custody agreement that will prevent another summer of frustration. Consider requesting that you both attend co-parenting counseling. You do not want a battle over your children for the next however-many summers. It’s not good for you or your children.


Contact us here at Ulmer Attorneys at Law, experts in Pennsylvania divorce and custody law and mediation, to find out how we can help you.

Your children will benefit from a healthy relationship with both their father and their mother after divorce, so to co-parent effectively, remember the three C’s: Cooperation, Communication, and Consistency


Remember, it’s all about what’s best for your children. As adults, you have to put their needs before your own hurts and grudges, however real they may be. As long as one of them is not abusive, your children need to have a healthy relationship with both parents.

You will need to make some important decisions about who will be the parent liaison to doctors, educators, coaches, etc. Will communications from these institutions go to one parent or both? Who will pay for insurance, education, and extra-curricular activities? Will both parents attend school and sport events, parent/teacher meetings, and doctor appointments?

Determine a schedule of custody that takes into consideration school, holidays, and special events. How will the child be transported between homes? What degree of flexibility is there when “life” happens and schedules or plans need to be changed?


Communication and cooperation work hand in hand. You must have a well-structured communication plan in order to cooperate in the raising of your children. Depending on your relationship, you may have to keep it short and business-like, but you should still be civil. If possible, over time, work towards a friendly relationship, since you’re two people who love the same children and want what’s best for them.

Always share important information, milestones, and pictures with your ex. Some divorced parents find it useful to have a shared online calendar with their children’s schedules, notes from school, and other data loaded, so both parents have access.

If you have concerns about any of your children, it’s very important to communicate this, so you’re both aware and can both work on it. This will not only help with the issue, but will show the children that their parents are united with regard to their well-being, which will have a positive emotional effect on them.


This unity should be displayed through consistency in other areas as well. Both homes should have consistent rules of conduct and behavior. It’s likely you will disagree on particulars, but children need stability for their best development.

You may find it easier to agree on certain essentials if each parent is permitted leeway in the specifics. While one parent might say 9:00pm bedtime on weekdays and the other says 10:00pm, the big picture message being communicated is, “You need a good night’s sleep to do well in school.” Chores may differ from house to house, but both parents should teach their children responsibility by giving them chores. Rules about manners, foul language, and other issues of courtesy should be obeyed in both homes.

One last word on attitude

Never complain about the other parent, and as much as possible, help the children respect your co-parent. If he or she has personality flaws, it’s best to let the children discover them on their own – within the realm of safety – to avoid unreasonable fantasies or inaccurate beliefs about the other parent that will make your role more difficult.

Make it clear to your children that the divorce is not their fault. They may need to hear this multiple times, but make sure they feel loved and secure, and they will grow into strong and healthy adults.

Parental alienation is defined as the programming of a child by one parent, consciously or unconsciously, to damage or destroy the child’s relationship with the other parent. It is most commonly found in high-conflict divorces and often directed at the non-custodial parent, but this is certainly not always the case. Sometimes the custodial parent is the target, and sometimes it even happens in intact families.


The manipulating parent may have difficulty separating from the pain of the divorce and focusing on the needs of the child, or the parent may have a personality disorder like narcissism. We recently wrote a post about divorcing a narcissist that may be helpful in recognizing this personality.


Even good parents can carry a lot of anger and sometimes allow negative comments about the other parent to slip out, but most good parents recognize that children will grow best if they maintain healthy relationships with both parents. It generally takes a very bad situation or a parent with a personality disorder to trigger alienating efforts.

However, parental alienation in some form is common: a 2010 study found it present in 11-15% of divorce cases. Here are some warning signs for a targeted parent to watch for:


  • Alienating parent badmouths the targeted parent in front of the child
  • Custodial parent blocks court-ordered visitation with various excuses
  • Child knows details of the divorce
  • Child expresses that the divorce is the targeted parent’s fault
  • Child asks targeted parent not to attend events like sports games or parent-teacher night
  • Child becomes much more belligerent, defiant, or combative
  • Child is derogatory toward targeted parent’s gifts or efforts, expressing a preference for the alienating parent’s gifts or efforts
  • Child repeats alienating parent’s opinions as if they are now his or her own
  • Child takes responsibility for the alienated feelings, as if it was his or her idea

Parental alienation is growing in recognition, and efforts are being made to address it in court. Some argue that it is a form of child abuse, as the child is being emotionally manipulated and fed false beliefs. Various psychological consequences are being recognized in children who have been victims of manipulation, so it’s important to address this issue early.


If you think you may be dealing with a situation of alienation, please reach out to us. We can help you evaluate the situation, document your evidence, and take important corrective steps.