Parenting After Divorce With a Difficult Co-Parent

difficult co-parenting

Divorce is always more of a challenge for parents.  It is possible to be amicable and supportive in co-parenting when both parents can agree on basic parenting principles.  On the other hand, when the divorce ends on a hostile note, it can lead to a venomous, high-conflict parenting situation, which in turn can be awfully hard on your children.

Here are a few difficult co-parenting scenarios and ways to handle the situation in a supportive, constructive manner:
Your co-parent disses you to the kids.

The truth is, you have no control over how your ex will behave, but you can control how it affects you. Stop concerning yourself about what your co-parent says and thinks; instead, stay focused on your life and the path you choose to take.  Children don’t want to hear their parents dissing each other, and – even less – they don’t want to feel confused and caught in the middle of it.  If you find it happening around your kids, take your ex aside and request that they keep communication respectful when the kids are around.

Your co-parent seems unconcerned and isn’t engaged in parenting.

Don’t spend all your energy trying to change your co-parent.  If they are not engaged in helping to make parenting decisions or taking their parenting responsibilities seriously, it isn’t worth wasting your time shaming them.   At the end of the day, we can only change our own ways and our own selves.  Stay positive in your parenting and move forward. 

Your co-parent is not interested in communicating with you, period.

After a contentious divorce, communication and trust between parents may breakdown almost altogether, and parents constantly find themselves in “he said – she said” situations.  When verbal communication is out of the question and text messaging just isn’t working, employing a communication tool specifically geared towards co-parenting may be the best route to take.  One such tool – the OurFamilyWizard website – works as a simple way for parents to boil all of their co-parenting communication down to one organized, well-documented location.  Co-parents can condense all their shared calendaring, messaging, file sharing and expense tracking through OurFamilyWizard.  With all this important information available in one central location, co-parents can greatly reduce conflict and confusion.  Parents can also opt to add their attorney or other family law professionals so that they may oversee the communications between parents and help keep everyone on their best behavior. 

Your child is used as a messenger by your co-parent.

Your child is not a pawn or card to play in your co-parenting conflicts.  They do not deserve to feel that pressure and confusion that comes up when they are, often times, unknowingly being used by one parent to hurt the other.  Your child deserves the opportunity to build a positive relationship with both of their parents.  Keep co-parenting issues out of your child’s earshot, and respect your child’s relationship with your ex.  If you find your co-parent overstepping their boundaries and probing your child for information, remind your child that they don’t have to answer those questions and can simply tell your co-parent that they don’t want to talk about it.  Let your child know that you respect their relationship with their other parent.

Your child complains about having to stay at their other parent’s house.

Parenting from two homes isn’t easy, especially if your child starts expressing to you how they don’t like the rules they must follow when at their other parent’s house.  You may notice this more from teenage children. While you may want to, take a step back and don’t get involved with your co-parent about this.   Be attentive to your child’s concerns and help them to practice healthy communication skills.  This way, they can better articulate their feelings and gain value in effectively stating their opinions on an issue they greatly care about.  This also keeps you out of a potential conflict with your co-parent. 

Keep thorough records of any scheduling issues or conflicts by using an online co-parenting tool like the OurFamilyWizard website.  Accurate documentation may become quite useful if you find yourself back in the courtroom.  Accountability on the part of your co-parent may also increase once you begin using a tool that store complete records of communication indefinitely. 

At the end of the day, you can only truly control your own actions.  If your ex-spouse is simply not showing interest in co-parenting in a productive, healthy manner, you will have to stop hoping that things will change – because it’s likely they won’t.  Co-parenting tools like OurFamilyWizard can be beneficial in protecting and supporting your efforts, as well as documenting the lack of reciprocation on the other end.  As for your kids, keep advocating for their well being and right to a happiness by being the best parent you can be.


Written by: Rosalind Sedacca, CCT

Rosalind is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children -- with Love! For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right as well as coaching services and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.