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Family & Relationships Divorce & Separation

Your Place or Mine?

Practical Advice for Developing a Co-Parenting Arrangement After Separation

by (author) Charlotte Schwartz

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2022
Divorce & Separation, Alternative Family, General
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2022
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2022
    List Price

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Navigate the challenges of co-parenting with practical advice and legal tips.

So you did it. You separated. And now the kids that you always planned to raise together are being raised apart. Most people don’t start a family expecting not to see their children every day, and yet roughly half of us end up in that scenario. From there, it’s a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure — and there are many choices you can make.

Your Place or Mine? is a detailed resource for separating parents. It will help you navigate the legal system, including negotiating a settlement, mediation, and litigation, and explains the nuances of different paths to dispute resolution. It also provides specific advice about what to include in a compassionate separation agreement, such as specifying how far parents can live from each other, where transitions take place, how to handle kids’ belongings, communication, future disputes, and introducing your child to a new partner.

Schwartz introduces you to several families (including her own) with separated parents, as well as adults who were raised by co-parents, and offers their insights. She also provides accessible advice from psychologists on kids’ mental health, as well as tips from family law lawyers, who share anecdotes about the world of co-parenting.

About the author

Charlotte Schwartz is a parent of four and a family law clerk. She spent fifteen years working closely with clients on their own divorces, navigating co-parenting before co-parenting became her reality. Your Place or Mine? is her first book, and one she’d never dreamt she’d have to write. Charlotte lives on a tiny urban farm in Toronto’s east end.


Charlotte Schwartz's profile page

Excerpt: Your Place or Mine?: Practical Advice for Developing a Co-Parenting Arrangement After Separation (by (author) Charlotte Schwartz)

The first time I wrote this introduction was in the pandemic newlywed stage. We all just needed to come together, do our parts, hunker down, and endure “two weeks to flatten the curve.” I was scared of the unknown but hopeful that it would be over soon, and that later we could laugh about how we had overreacted during that first visit to Costco and binge-watched end-times-themed movies on Netflix to pass the boring time at home.
Then, in just a couple of days, my world went from one that thrived on structure to one that failed to provide it at every turn. I had to start working exclusively from home (in the BC — before coronavirus — era, going to my office had been an escape); the kids’ schools were shuttered indefinitely; our child-care provider could no longer work, in the name of physical distancing; and I had to figure out how to work efficiently, care for our home, care for four kids, and care for myself, all at once. None of the things we ended up choosing during that time felt like choices, because none of them felt voluntary. Just the lesser of the evils available to us.
The pandemic could have also meant an about-face for my already co-operative relationship with Steve, the father of my two boys. We were both fortunate to remain employed in this unanticipated climate, and that’s where the trouble could reasonably have begun. When it became apparent that we were about to be at home for a really long time, we were almost immediately thrust back into the familiar positions we had found ourselves in during our marriage when one of our kids was sick: Whose job is more important today? If someone loses their job because of this, whose job is the easier one to lose? If someone needs to work and care for the sick kid, who can do that with more ease?
Steve and I agreed right away that the boys’ residential schedule (where they spend their nights, after-school hours, and weekends) would not change. Then the courts in Ontario did the same thing, telling inquiring parents that they “ought not to” change the residential schedules set for their children simply because of the pandemic. The courts took it a step further and said such upheaval would have a greater negative impact on the children than would the world’s state of affairs. In their view, there was no good reason to dismantle the little structure that did remain for the kids by creating even more change, unnecessarily.
Of course, there were families that felt they had no choice but to change their schedules because one parent was a front-line medical professional, police officer, paramedic, or grocery store worker, and at that time there was no vaccine on the horizon, and we had very little information about the disease. In our case, what had to change were the kids’ days. Without school, they had five hours and fifty-five minutes of unclaimed daytime during which they suddenly needed to be cared for. Despite priding ourselves on comprehensive, watertight agreements (by family law standards), what no separation agreement or parenting plan in the history of humankind has ever foreseen is an unexpected and indefinite period of school and daycare closures in response to a global pandemic.
Oh no, they have not.
And then the courts did something they’d never done before: they mostly closed their doors.
Whereas, in the before-times, you could run to court on almost no notice to attempt to address issues that you thought were urgent, the courts began to triage matters that came in under the label emergency, determining who could and couldn’t speak to a judge based on the severity of their circumstances.
People (myself included) were shocked to learn what constituted an emergency under these new temporary rules, and those who did not meet the urgency test were very much left to their own devices. Without saying it out loud, the court was doing something refreshing: they were looking people in the eye and telling them, “Resolve this, or wait.” And the wait was indefinite. If you chose to wait, you were choosing many unknowns.
Without plans for the unplannable, countless families scrambled to make everything work, with very little guidance and with courts that intermittently closed their doors. Some, like Steve and me, can co-operate, but some absolutely cannot, for a myriad of reasons. For a lot of people, the closure of the court felt like calling 911 in an emergency and getting a busy signal.
It will be years before we can truly determine the way Covid-19 has changed the landscape, but one thing is certain: it has been a slap in the face. It has given us pause to examine our own actions. For Steve and me, it has been a time to come together and parent the hell out of a situation that has forever changed our kids’ lives. That last part — the impact on children, not all of which we know yet — is by far the scariest.
When our skin has healed from all the handwashing and school has resumed consistently and there is a “new normal,” I hope my children take from this experience that their dad and I made lemonade from these lemons. When we talk about Covid-19, I hope the children talk about the many life skills they learned with me and how much math and science they learned with their dad. I hope they’ll make fun of my terrible French accent when I tried desperately to keep them learning, and that they’ll fondly recall their dad’s impeccable Spanish enunciation. I hope they remember parents who were undoubtedly stressed out but made the best of the worst.
It’s the children of separated families whose parents cannot co-operate, those who were left by the roadside with a flat and no jack, that I worry about.
When I started my career in 2003, change was palpable in the family law world. Each year it seemed that those practising family law gained a better understanding of how damaging legal proceedings and messy divorces are to the most vulnerable participants entangled in them: the kids.
I hope this book brings you comfort if, as you embark on a separation or a divorce, you are staring down the road of co-parenting for many years to come and asking, “Will my kids be okay?” I hope that I make you laugh (mostly at my misfortune). And I hope you find my experiences relatable. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and you probably will, too. I’ll probably keep making them, trying to learn what I can along the way. The boxes at the end of each chapter highlight more of my personal experiences, but a few of them are about the experiences of those I interviewed.
For this book, I interviewed some people who were poorly parented or who (now regrettably) handled their own co-parenting relationships poorly. From reading their real accounts, I hope you learn how higher-conflict separation and divorce (or even higher-conflict circumstances in the home, without the added layer of a separation or divorce) can harm children in various stages of their development. I hope you understand that these hard facts about how children suffer could just as easily apply to you and your family. No one is immune. I hope you know that the outcome is in your hands.
And I hope you realize you can’t do it all on your own and that help is out there.
Oren Lyons, a Chief of the Onondaga Nation, writes, “We are looking ahead, as is one of the first mandates given to us as chiefs, to make sure and to make every decision that we make relate to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come.… What about that seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have?” This ancient Haudenosaunee Seventh Generation Principle asks us to consider whether the decisions we make now will result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future. It may seem idealistic; our world is literally on fire and dealing with a pandemic. Still, the notion that we can make things better in the future — that we, individually, have the power to do that — is one of strength. I can choose to do everything in my power to improve things today, with the hope that tomorrow will be a little less bleak. That’s all any of us can do collectively.
A former boss of mine used to ask clients in their initial consultations, “What is the worst thing that your ex would say about you?” The goal of this book is for your ex’s answer to have nothing to do with the way you parent post-separation. Let their answer be about something that matters a lot less.

Editorial Reviews

Charlotte Schwartz takes us through a compelling, poignant and informative journey on how to manage a loving divorce — where each partner’s humanity is kept in tact, and children continue to thrive. This book didn’t just teach me about how to do conscious uncoupling well, it taught me about how to be a better human in all my relationships.

Annahid Dashtgard, CEO, Anima Leadership and Author, Bones of Belonging