WARREN, R.I. (WPRI) — Co-parenting after a divorce can be challenging, and too often we hear stories about the bad and not enough about stories of success.
The National Parents Organization is trying to change that. The local chapter just presented its first “Partners in Parenting Award,” recognizing excellence in parenting during and after divorce.
“We make good decisions together, even in a divorce,” Eli Dunn said.
If anyone were to spend just a short time with Eli and his wife Pam, it would seem like they were a happy couple. Even though they are happy, they are no longer together after seven years of marriage.
“We are telling friends and family and clients about us and we end up consoling them because they can’t believe it, and what I say is, ‘who you see and what you see is what we are, and parenting is what we have always done best,'” Pam said.
Lori Grover, who’s been a divorce mediator in Rhode Island for 15 years, started the local chapter of the National Parents Organization last year.
The organization was created in 1998 with a mission to improve the lives of children and strengthen society by protecting every child’s right to the love and care of both parents after a separation.
“When I learned of Pam and Eli’s story, they exemplified what we would recognize and what any parents would recognize as what we would want to see for our kids,” Grover said.
“Commitment and dedication to putting their children first, and the spirit of the cooperation between the two of them, and I think it’s pretty obvious that Pam and Eli serve as a role model for all parents of divorce or separation,” she continued.
This year, Pam and Eli were recognized as the award winners.
“Telling our daughter was the first hurdle and we got through that really well,” Eli recalled. “She was excited to have two houses and we have a great relationship, we treat each other with respect, so there isn’t any bitterness or resentment that she has to or they have to deal with, so they have been coping really really well.”
The 2019 report card issued by the National Shared Parenting Organization gave Rhode Island an “F” for reasons such as statues not explicitly providing for shared parenting, having statues in place that consistently speak of the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent, and there are no legal policies in place with the language that encourages shared parenting.
“What I think I’m seeing more nowadays than ever is that parent and divorced couples like Eli and Pam are more of a representation of what parents are, and this is a good thing because this means the entire family wins,” Grover said.
Eli’s and Pam’s two children each received $100 savings bonds.
“Our kids grow up in the space between us and we want to model that behavior to them,” Eli said.