sharing information

I grew up in a “blended home.” Over the years my big family extended to three different stepparents, four stepsiblings and a half sister. I saw from personal experience that raising children with parents in multiple households can be difficult (personality conflicts abound, for sure). Several of my friends with young children have separated lately and I continually find myself giving the same advice to ease the transition: get on the same page financially and organizationally. Things like birth certificates, school files and medical details can get lost in the shuffle, leading to resentment over time wasted tracking down information and extra money spent on ordering copies. In order to minimize frustration, parents should maintain clear lines of communication and develop a plan for storage of important files.

Vital records
Order duplicate copies of vital records like birth certificates and medical insurance cards so that both parents can fill out forms and applications to schools and sports programs. The government only issues one copy of passports and social security cards, so parents should agree on where those items are to be kept – either in a safe place at one home, with a neutral caretaker or in a safe deposit box that both parents can access.

Share information
Whenever possible, make sure that both parents have access to up-to-date medical and school records. Ask the school to send updates and copies of records to both households, and photocopy teacher’s notes and report cards. Ideally, both parents should fill out a letter of consent for the other parent to have on hand for travel and medical treatment authorization.

Agree on expenses
If both parents agree to split the cost of things like school trips and braces, keep an accurate record of all expenses and the amount owed by each. Be sure to keep receipts and note things like co-pays paid at doctor visits. Discuss limits and whether or not each parent would like to be consulted for approval prior to spending a certain amount on the child.

While it is best for parents to talk openly in person or over the phone, sometimes two people simply aren’t able to communicate due to negative feelings or scheduling issues. One solution is to maintain a file folder with important information and notes about current issues that each parent should be aware of. Send this folder with the child between homes in a backpack so both parents can stay up-to-date.
What are some other ways you’d suggest to ease the transition into co-parenting?

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