Co-Parenting with a Difficult Ex-Spouse

Co-parenting is a challenge with a difficult ex from an acrimonious divorce, however there are ways to make this task easier. The main point is to fly under his/her radar. These people are looking for ammunition to get back at you for leaving, so do not give any opportunity for an attack. This includes not mentioning them or divorce details on social media. The less direct contact one has with this type of ex, makes co-parenting smoother.  

A way to make co-parenting with a high conflict individual easier is to make sure you are nurtured. Get a massage. Go out and vent to buddies. Join a support group who can give you understanding and strategies on getting through this ordeal. Do activities that bring you joy and may have been buried during marriage. Get yourself in the best place possible, mentally, physically, and spiritually to be able to deal calmly with a co-parent who does not want to cooperate.

Whatever you can do to empower yourself and become stronger – weakens the hold of these contentious co-parents. Take a class which could lead to a new career path. Do a charity bike ride in a far flung place. Trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro for a life changing experience, as one divorce pal did. These physical challenges have awakened a new sense of power and increased self-esteem in many people. Sometimes one’s self-esteem and self-worth took a battering in a toxic marriage and requires this boost.

Connect with others through volunteering. When you have other interests, a social network, and new areas of expertise – you are less able to be manipulated or controlled. Approach interactions with your ex, without emotion as if it were business ones. Redirect communication to stay focused, so the high conflict parent does not go off on tangents. The goal of co-parenting is well-adjusted children who feel safe with both parents. If the co-parenting experience is not going well then discuss this with your attorney. Perhaps meeting with a mediator or your child’s therapist (if there is one) may help everyone to be on the same page

In our Parenting Plan, the custody evaluator mandated that all of our communication go through a specific mediator. It was a relief never to talk to, or e-mail my ex-husband again. Some celebrity ex-couples have chosen this route too and have an intermediary handle their communication between each other. This can also be arranged after divorce, if things are not going well. My ex tried to block me from taking my sons out of the country, stating that he had not been notified of this trip. Our mediator resent the initial e-mail from six months prior – so having a third party in place was invaluable for situations like this one.

Limiting physical interactions increases success with co-parenting. There are calendars online that both parents access to check on the children’s schedules and to add events. Then Mom and Dad are both on the same page and cannot complain that they were not informed of something. Have a neutral drop off and pick up point, such as a school or day care center. When parents each have a car seat and some duplicate items, there is less stuff to go back and forth.  Arrange for separate Parent/Teacher conferences and have information/reports sent to each parent.

Be prepared for whatever your former spouse can do to undermine your parenting. In several cases, exes have contacted Child Protective Services (CPS) on trumped up charges, which still have to be investigated. One father called CPS to come right after his wife and sons returned from a trip. There were piles of laundry around and litter boxes that needed changing. Luckily, there was nutritious food in the pantry and freezer, although no fresh dairy or produce. CPS did not charge the mother with anything, but still required a follow up visit.  

Avoid potential problems as much as possible. Ask first when the other parent wants vacation time if your schedule is flexible, before planning yours. Try to avoid any battles. If you can give a little more on smaller issues, then that can pay off down the road when larger ones occur.  


Wendi Schuller, uses her knowledge as a nurse, Neuro-Linguistic Programmer (NLP), and hypnotherapist, to author the book The Women’s Holistic Guide to Divorce that helps women regaining their strength of inner peace and wisdom. She can be reached by email

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