Maria Manzari and Scott Young have been divorced for more than four years, but they make a formidable team when it comes to their son, Bryce.
"We're a united front,” says Manzari.
When possible, Maria and Scott go to school conferences together. They take their 5-year-old to the doctor together. They sit together at his sports practices. And they work out discipline issues together.
“It's not that we’re no longer a family,” Maria, 36, says. “We’re just a different kind of family. We still lean on one another.”
As part of the couple’s 2012 divorce settlement, the judge gave Maria primary custody. Bryce was young – 14 months – and needed consistency. As time passed, however, Maria and Scott thought their son would benefit from more time with his father. They created a joint custody agreement and are now partners in co-parenting Bryce.
Shortly after the two decided to divorce, Scott, 40, was laid off, which had a bright side. He asked Maria if he could take care of Bryce during the day while she worked. Maria, a hospital social worker, agreed. That gave Scott time to bond with Bryce while he looked for a job.
Eventually, he found a marketing position and bought a house in Brownstown, ten minutes from Maria’s condo in Woodhaven and near Bryce’s school.
That’s when Scott asked if they could revise the original custody agreement. They worked out their own system. Using the court’s ruling as a guideline, they split time with Bryce, and costs, right down the middle. Maria gets Bryce on Mondays and Tuesdays. Scott has him on Wednesdays and Thursdays. They alternate weekends and holidays.
“It was the right thing to do,” Maria says.
How it works
The couple uses an online calendar to coordinate their schedules and make special requests with one another. For example, Maria’s mother had a birthday celebration on one of Scott’s Sundays, so she asked if she could pick him up for a couple of hours. Scott agreed.
Bryce has his own room, clothing, supplies and toys at both houses. School drop-off on Monday depends on who had Bryce on the weekend. Maria picks up Monday and Tuesday. Scott picks up Wednesday and Thursday. Friday pickup depends on whose weekend it is.
Both parents speak highly of the other. Most importantly, they each value the other’s role. “We’re both there supporting Bryce at every step,” Maria says. “I can’t imagine doing this alone.” Scott agrees. “Without a mother figure, I would be somewhat lost.”
Facing problems together
So far, discipline has not been an issue. Once, Bryce misbehaved while with Maria. “He was a little too forceful with his words, and he was hitting me,” Maria says. Nothing big, Maria figured, but perhaps the beginning of a problem. She immediately asked Scott to reinforce what’s acceptable and what’s not. The parents faced the problem together and straightened it out.
Scott sees signs that Bryce might want to play one against the other, but says, “It never comes to anything serious. He may unconsciously sense he couldn’t get away with that.”
Showing their love
Scott and Maria are clearly devoted to Bryce, describing him as caring and loving. They want him to know both his parents love him.
Not surprisingly, both say the most worrisome part of parenting is when Bryce is ill. “I hate to see when he gets a bug and his energy dwindles,” Scott says.
Extending the family
Despite the couple’s tireless teamwork, co-parenting isn’t without drawbacks. Bryce tells both parents that he wishes they were still together. When he’s with one, he talks about missing the other. When that happens, they talk about his feelings and invite him to call the other parent.
Neither has remarried but both have dated. If they do find other spouses, Maria says, those people will become additional members of the family.
Neither considers their circumstances unusual. They don’t understand parents who pit their children against the other parent. “We would both do anything for this kid,” Scott says.