When you are a co-parent, you already have a lot to juggle in your life. The last thing you need is your child’s other parent to make things unnecessarily harder by stoking conflict, acting out of spite, or even just generally being aloof to how their conduct affects you – and your child.
The holidays are around the corner, and that can mean dealing with a co-parent under more complicated and frustrating circumstances. Our goal is to provide you with food for thought that you can use to prepare yourself for dealing with an uncooperative co-parent, and what you should do when all else fails.
Establish Boundaries as Soon as Possible
If you haven’t done so already, establish boundaries with your child’s other parent. You may not even want to interact with this person at all, but you must because you have a child in common with them.
You can establish boundaries by making it known how you expect to be treated as a co-parent and what you expect from them as your child’s other parent. This might sound confrontational, but there’s nothing wrong with firmly stating your expectations as long as they are reasonable. The exact character of the relationship you foster with your child’s other parent is up to you, but it should at least be cooperative in nature.
For example, you can tell your ex that you expect to be treated respectfully when your child is present. You can also let your ex know that you expect them to make all reasonable efforts to cooperate according to your parenting plan, and communicate as soon as possible when an issue arises that neither of you anticipated.
Communicate Only When & What’s Necessary
When you’re dealing with an uncooperative co-parent, you should consider communicating only when it’s necessary and communicating only necessary information. This is especially important when your ex seems to harbor ill will toward you and tends to go out of their way to hurt you. By limiting contact to only what’s necessary, you can deny your child’s co-parent unnecessary and harmful access to you.
For example, some co-parents have an ongoing and casual dialogue about their kids and their lives in general. Such communication may not be in your best interest if your ex has a history of emotionally manipulating you. To the extent required by law, you should consider only telling your co-parent details about your child’s education, healthcare, extracurricular activities, and other important information. Anything about your private life can – and maybe should – be kept private.
Talk to Your Children in an Age-Appropriate Manner
When your co-parent is aloof or doesn’t seem like they put your kids first in their life, your children are bound to notice. Late pick-ups, missed visitation, poor communication, and parental alienation are all things that kids can quickly pick up on when a co-parent is being uncooperative.
You shouldn’t feel pressured to excuse your co-parent’s behavior, but you also shouldn’t say anything intended to harm your child’s perception of their other parent. A child’s favorite question is “why?”, so be prepared to end the line of questioning when you feel you may say something you might later regret.
Accept That You Can’t Change Someone Else’s Behavior
If your child’s other parent doesn’t seem like the best co-parent, there are ways you may be able to address issues that arise. Perhaps you need to rework your parenting plan to account for unforeseen issues or life developments that came up along the way. You might be surprised at how much can change when the parameters of a co-parenting plan are tweaked as life goes on.
Ultimately, however, you can’t change your co-parent. You may have already learned this lesson during your relationship with them, so it’s OK to not carry responsibility for this burden. If the situation is particularly bad, you might want to visit a lawyer and discuss options for modifying custody and visitation to protect your child’s interests.
Contact a Lawyer for Legal Assistance
If your child’s other parent is unnecessarily uncooperative, and you believe their behavior is adversely affecting your child’s wellbeing, you can petition the court to revise your child custody and visitation orders. Our experienced attorney at Beatriz Zyne, P.A. can provide you with the legal support you need to meet these challenges.