Dear Marsha: Dealing with Retaliatory Behaviors in Co-Parenting

In our Dear Marsha blog series, Dr. Marsha Kline Pruett answers questions submitted by parents like you on all matters related to shared parenting.


Man looks over his computer with a stressful expression.

What advice would you give about co-parenting with a vindictive co-parent? 

I am not sure I have enough information to fully answer your question. A vindictive parent can mean a lot of things. They may be vindictive towards you (the other parent), aiming to make life miserable for you. Or they might be vindictive in ways that put your child in the middle of conflict, or worse—hurt the child emotionally. 

Whenever the other parent is continuously undermining or disparaging you, then co-parenting is discouraged. You can, instead, aim to do "parallel parenting". What that means is that you each parent your child with few overlapping rules, responsibilities, or contacts, dealing with each other only when necessary. If your child is older than three years of age, such parallel parenting can work satisfactorily for everyone involved. 

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Dr. Marsha Kline Pruett

About Dr. Marsha Kline Pruett

Marsha Kline Pruett is the Maconda Brown O’Connor Professor at Smith College School for Social Work. She has a Ph.D. in Clinical/Community Psychology, and masters’ degrees in psychological services in education and in legal studies, and she is a Board Diplomate in Couples and Family Psychology.

She has 30 years of practice experience, specializing in couples counseling and co-parenting consultation as well as intervention design and evaluation. She has published extensively for professional and lay audiences, including two books (Your Divorce Advisor and Partnership Parenting). Her research and writings center on couple relationships before and after divorce; coparenting; father involvement; and family conflict.

She is involved in consulting and research projects spanning supporting father involvement interventions; the evaluation of online parenting programs; and model alternative dispute resolution programs that help families resolve disputes outside of the adversarial system.

Dr. Kline Pruett consults on national boards and Task Forces and provides training nationally and abroad to mental health and legal professionals. She is Past President for the Association of Family and Conciliation Court Professionals (AFCC) and Social Science Editor for Family Court Review.