Co-parenting doesn’t end when your child goes off to college

Whether you put off getting a divorce until your child went away to college or you were divorced years before they reached that milestone, you and your co-parent are likely no longer dealing with a custody agreement. That means your child can decide where they want to spend their time when they’re off school for winter break, summer or the occasional weekend, if they’re close enough. They can also decide whom they want to come visit or attend events. 

You and your co-parent are probably still supporting your child financially — paying for tuition, room and board and more. They may have one of your cars and some of your furniture at school. If one of you is shouldering the bulk of these expenses, that doesn’t mean you should use that as leverage to get them to spend more time with you than their other parent – or for them to call or text you more than them.

Is your home where your child wants to be?

One thing that most divorced parents of college students learn is that when their kids have a choice about which parent to spend time with, they’ll go where things are less stressful. If they find that choosing one of you over the other for a particular visit is causing conflict, they’ll opt to spend time elsewhere. The same is true for communications. If all your texts are about how much you hate your ex’s new partner, don’t expect a quick reply.

This doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to know what their plans are. If you’re planning a large holiday gathering of family and friends or a vacation, you need to know if your child will be there. If you and your co-parent can work out your plans or wishes for your child’s breaks from school together and then talk with them, you can show that you’re still a parenting team.

Now that your family is in this new phase, it’s worthwhile to look at any continuing child support agreement and perhaps create a modified parenting plan. Every family’s situation is unique. It can help to have legal guidance to make sure nothing is neglected.

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