How to Co-parent When You Don’t Get Along with Your Ex

How to Co-parent When You Don’t Get Along with Your Ex

During divorce, parents have to quickly adapt from being part of the same family to  co-parenting. Before, you made choices and spent time with your kids as a couple. Now, you will co-parent according to a court order. Co-parenting after divorce can be challenging even under the best of circumstances. If you and your ex disagree, sharing responsibilities and time with your kids could provide more opportunities for conflict. The good news is that there are ways to manage co-parenting with your former spouse even when you don’t like one another. Here is more on how to co-parent when you don’t get along with your ex.

Planning for Legal and Physical Custody

One way of the best ways to prepare for a potentially contentious co-parenting relationship is by planning during your divorce. During your divorce, you and your ex will have an opportunity to develop custody terms regarding your kids. The more you can think about you and your children’s needs as you develop these crucial provisions, the better. By planning ahead, you may be able to avoid future conflict with your ex.

Planning for your children, their schedules, and how you will exchange custody and make decisions beforehand can help you, and your ex avoid unnecessary confusion and disputes. For example, if you expect to have conflict over traveling to and from custody exchanges, you could agree to meet at a location midway between your homes. Further, if you know your kids need to be with you for school and extracurricular events during the week, you can build your schedule according to these requirements. Likewise, suppose one parent lives in another community, and the kids don’t see them as often during the school year. In that case, the custody order could provide that the school year parent has primary decision-making authority over routine school-related issues.

Having clear custodial terms that are suited to your circumstances can help both you and your ex identify and comply with your respective custodial rights and responsibilities. By working with your California child custody attorney, you can develop legal and physical custody terms that can meet your family’s needs today and in the future.

Be Flexible When You Can

Ideally, as you and your ex develop your custodial terms, you will make thoughtful decisions that anticipate everyone’s lives and needs. However, it’s important to recognize that even the most carefully constructed provisions can’t cover everything. Life doesn’t always happen according to a custody plan, and there will be times when you, your kids, or your ex may need some flexibility.

It may be that you need to switch weekends because of a work obligation or that your kids need to change their schedule to participate in a school event. Your ex may want your kids on a specific holiday because their family will be in town. Whatever the case may be, if your ex is asking you to deviate from your custodial order, it’s essential to consider: 1) whether the request is reasonable, and 2) if adapting will create a hardship for you or your kids.

Both you and your ex have every right to hold each other to the terms of your custodial orders. However, if being flexible on occasion doesn’t cause a problem for you, it may be better for your kids if you work with your ex.

By being flexible, you may engender goodwill and improve your co-parenting dynamic. That being said, there can be times when a parent has ulterior motives when asking for a concession. Additionally, it’s important to consider how often your ex is requesting that you accommodate their needs. You also need to be mindful about how much of a change you are making and for how long. Allowing a late drop-off once in a while is one thing. Changing custody terms for weeks or months is another. Agreeing to some changes could support a modification argument.

If you have concerns about your ex asking to diverge from your custody orders, you should contact a California child custody attorney. You and your counsel can review your circumstances and determine if your ex’s request is reasonable.

Take the High Road When Possible

In some situations, parents make the mistake of disparaging each other in the presence of their children. Of course, no one is perfect, and mistakes can happen. However, there is a difference between having the occasional slip-up and regularly making negative comments about the other parent.

Divorce can be a stressful time for parents and kids. Under these conditions, it’s important to remember that your children are looking to you both for comfort and to support their sense of emotional stability. Therefore, how you talk about and treat each other can directly impact their well-being.

When a parent speaks ill of the other around their kids, it can be incredibly damaging. Your kids identify as being part of both of you. Hearing you or your ex make negative comments about each other can easily be internalized. Even if you think they are not paying attention, how you interact and talk about one another will not go unnoticed.

As you would probably tell your children, it’s better to take the high road whenever possible. While you can’t control what your ex may say or do, you can decide about your own behavior. By refraining from arguing with and making hostile comments about your ex in the presence of your children, you can minimize stress and help them feel safe and protected.

There can be situations when a parent’s conduct is harmful to their children and needs to be addressed by the court. If you have concerns about your ex’s behavior in the presence of your children, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced California child custody attorney.

Third-Party Communication Services

Sometimes when parents are at serious odds, effective communication can seem impossible. Under these circumstances, even seemingly minor misunderstandings can escalate quickly. Even when parents have detailed custody terms, there may still be room for conflict. One way to address significant co-parenting communication issues is by using a neutral third-party communication service. These specialized service providers administer websites that offer co-parenting tools such as shared calendars, messaging platforms, and other helpful features for families. By using a third-party communication service, you and your ex may be able to limit your direct interaction and conflict.

Contact a California Child Custody Attorney

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced California child custody attorneys who can help you understand your custodial and co-parenting options. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We assist clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.


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