- Laura L. Van Tassel, Esq.
Co-Parenting with a Problematic Co-Parent.
In a perfect world, married couples with children would never divorce, and in a near-perfect world, divorced couples would get along amicably, especially when children are involved. While some lucky divorced couples fall into a stress-free co-parenting zone, not everyone gets The “Happily Ever After Co-Parenting Divorce.”
Co-parenting after a separation or divorce is rarely easy. However, it becomes significantly worse when you’re co-parenting with an ex who’s always causing problems for you. The truth is, you can’t control their behavior now any more than you could when you were together. What you can control is you! So with that said, here are some tips to help you deal with a problematic Co-Parent who is turning your new life into a nightmare:
Be A Self-Care Master.
The more you can skillfully manage your reactions, the better you’ll be to detach from the crazy. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and eating properly. Make a list of coping skills you utilize them: take a bath, watch a movie, exercise, go for a walk, meditate, do something fun or creative, or talk to a friend or a therapist.
Set Your Emotional Boundaries
If Co-Parent creates conflict by bringing up the past, don’t engage. Focus on the present and resist the urge to bring up the past. Sticking to the present and holding your boundaries will help minimize conflict. If you find it impossible to talk to them in person, try alternative forms of communication like text or email.
Talk To Your Kids
If your ex speaks negatively about you around your child, this can make your child feel insecure, as many children see themselves as a blend of their parents, and it can drain your child’s self-worth. Talk with your kids about feelings. Ask how they feel about what’s happened. And let them know this has nothing to do with them.
Your response could be along the lines of:
“I’m sorry that Dad is talking to you about that. I believe that’s adult stuff, and it’s not something you need to worry about.
Lead By Example
You have a responsibility to your children to put their needs first and take the high road. If your Co-Parent likes to throw a wrench into your co-parenting plans, that doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Retaliation can only lead to more retaliation. Keeping your children's well-being in the forefront of your mind is critical, and your children will thank you for it.
Create A Communicate Strategy
If your Co-Parent sends emails or texts that are hostile, don’t respond defensively because that will inflame drama. When you communicate back, say as little as possible in the most boring manner possible. Don’t be controlling, emotional, sarcastic, or preachy. And don’t always be available; you don’t need to answer an email right away or even communicate more than once a day.
If your Co-Parent badmouths you in front of your children, picks fights with you, is chronically late, “forgets” to share important information with you, or does anything as a way to punish or control or stress you out all the time, document and share it with your attorney.
You might need to take additional measures to protect yourself and your kids from being impacted by poor behavior on the part of your ex.
If you have a structured parenting plan filed with the court, your co-parent’s actions may violate that parenting plan. Make sure your communications to your ex addressing the issues occurring are calm but assertive. A judge may be reading these soon.
If you haven't been to court, or even if you have, you may need to go back to court if you can't work out your arrangements. In that case, you'll need to hire lawyers to represent your side. Just remember that court can get messy, so make it a last resort if possible and consider child custody mediation instead.
Mediation is private and confidential.
Courtrooms are public; even in this virtual world, court hearings are still open to the public. Mediation is private.
Generally, you will hire one person you can both agree on as a mediator. Most of the time, that person will be a lawyer ( like me), though some work as professional mediators.
We act as a go-between for you and your ex when you can't work things out. The mediator can even work without having you both in the same room at the same time, so you won't have to bicker with your ex. The agreements you come to are not binding by the law, so you can change them later in court if you need to, though some judges may consider the agreements you made.
At Van Tassel Law, I believe in a kinder approach to life's legal issues
If you live in Northern NJ, I can help you examine your situation and consider your next steps; stop by Van Tassel Law, or feel free to call me at (201) 664-8566 and schedule your initial confidential consultation.