When co-parenting with an ex-spouse who refuses to move beyond previous strife and is seemingly unwilling to cooperate, it’s crucial to remember this helpful mantra: you can’t change anybody but yourself. Here are the 10 best strategies to help you co-parent with an uncooperative ex-spouse.
- Face Your Ex-Spouse
- Keep A Record of All Interactions
- Don’t Try to Change Your Ex-Spouse
- Use Non-Combative Language
- Set Boundaries
- Honor Your Commitments
- Keep Your Distance
- Hire A Parental Responsibility Lawyer
- Include Co-Parenting Therapy Sessions
- Go to Court
Once divorced, your divorce decree will specifically outline who gets the responsibility for the children. Typically, it is awarded to both parents, to varying degrees. The arrangement on paper might seem to be the perfect solution until the reality of co-parenting kicks in. When one spouse is uncooperative, the whole agreement can fall flat on its face, and a very trying and testing time awaits all the parties involved.
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10 Best Strategies: Co-Parenting with Uncooperative Ex-Spouse
Dealing with a divorce is hard in most cases. Dealing with a divorce and an uncooperative ex-spouse makes the process even harder when children are involved. Luckily, the uncooperative spouse doesn’t tend to remain uncooperative forever. As they heal and move on with their lives, most people work past this stage of wanting to get the other person back.
In the meantime, here are some strategies to help you deal with an uncooperative spouse. Hopefully, the strategies help you maintain some kind of working relationship with your co-parent; for your children’s sake.
1. Face Your Ex-Spouse
Even if the divorce was a messy affair, and the scars and feelings of animosity have not resided, you will have to face your ex-spouse if you share children. For the sake of your kids, you will need to sit with your ex to discuss the following:
- Mandated Time Arrangements
- Activity Responsibilities
- Health Care Responsibilities
- Decision Making Allocation
This face-to-face meeting can also be used to make amends for your part in the marriage not working out and to agree that, from now on, you will try to maintain a professional relationship where your child is the most important client.
If you are certain that the meeting will only lead to a fight and more uncooperativeness from your ex-spouse, you might have to delay it or take a counselor or neutral third party/mediator with you to referee the process. We are not suggesting that such a meeting will magically clear up all issues, but it could alleviate the process of settling into a parenting system.
An uncooperative partner can say yes to anything, but when it comes to putting them into action, the yeses can quickly turn into no’s if they even respond to you.
2. Keep A Record of All Interactions
Implementing a system where you keep a record of communication between you and your ex-spouse is a smart move. Having all relevant information such as expenses and all forms of electronic communication ready when you have to rope in the help of a legal professional is priceless.
A very helpful co-parenting system that you can try out is the following: The Our Family Wizard app. With the help of this co-parenting app, you can also correctly document your attempts to involve the uncooperative co-parent. With features like reading receipts for messages, extensive entry chronicles, and login histories, the website thoroughly records all interactions between parents.
Rather than hurrying to collect and present communications scattered between emails, voicemails, and text messages, you can rely on the accuracy of the OFW account to quickly paint the picture for your lawyer.
3. Don’t Try to Change Your Ex-Spouse
You can’t influence your ex’s actions. However, you have complete control over your actions, so stop attempting to alter your ex-spouse, especially if they keep trying to change you. Remember that you have no influence over what your ex-spouse does or thinks.
Any day of the week, high-conflict personalities will pick rage over rationality. That will be a difficulty for them to overcome. Make sure you know which conflicts are yours and which ones aren’t. The more distance you put between yourself and telling your ex what to do and how to act, the quicker the realization will set in that you are not in a married relationship anymore.
Hopefully, by refraining from trying to change them, they will realize that the only relationship with you will be one of compromise for the sake of your children’s happiness.
4. Use Non-Combative Language
The majority of the time, communicating with an unwilling, unresponsive, and uncooperative ex-spouse will be challenging. When it becomes clear that the uncooperativeness will continue for a while, potentially forever, you should attempt to speak to them using non-aggressive and non-combative language.
Instead of using “I/me”, use language that incorporates “we/us” so that your ex-spouse can understand that the only reason you are communicating with them is for the sake of the children and that no matter what has transpired between you, it won’t change the fact that you’re in this together.
Don’t get involved in fights that relate to the past, don’t start new ones, and never fight in front of the children. They have gone through enough already and are likely still trying to adapt to the new way of life caused by the divorce.
5. Set Boundaries
Try not to engage when being provoked by your ex, who is probably still hurting from the breakup. Fighting over the past and old emotions and hurts are a definite no-no and should not be entertained. Setting emotional boundaries will help you move on with your life and, in the long run, may also help your ex-spouse to move on with their life.
The main reason for setting emotional boundaries is to ensure that your children will be exposed to less damaging conflict and be able to view their parents as a team (even when divided) and not as adversaries.
6. Honor Your Commitments
When dealing with an uncooperative ex-spouse, there’s only so much you can do from your side. Even when you feel frustrated and resentful, it’s important to realize that the current situation is not your children’s fault. If you have made arrangements and promises to them, try to honor them at all times.
You’ll be in a strong position if you honor the conditions of the divorce settlement and co-parenting plan. Just because your ex enjoys sabotaging your co-parenting plan doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. If you wind up in court again, you will be perceived as the responsible parent, which will be extremely helpful.
Children are intuitive beings, and by setting an example of accountability and responsibility, they will quickly see which party is giving their best and who is being uncooperative. Setting an example in trying times will teach your children a valuable life lesson.
7. Keep Your Distance
When you keep the amount of direct contact between you and your ex-spouse to the barest minimum, it limits the potential for a fight. In many cases, the main source/time of conflict stems from the transitioning of children between their parents’ homes.
You may ask a relative or friend to pick up the children in the beginning stages until the dust between you and your ex-spouse starts to settle. Another way to keep your distance is to only communicate via text and email and only directly as it relates to your co-parenting agreement. Refrain from calling your uncooperative ex-spouse, as hearing your voice could be the trigger to start a new fight or enhance the current resentment.
When the children are spending time with your ex-spouse, don’t interfere with their quality time unless it’s for an emergency.
8. Hire A Parental Responsibility Lawyer
If the problems with your unwilling co-parent continue, don’t be afraid to seek help. Make an appointment with a parental responsibility attorney who has handled high-conflict divorce cases. A lawyer can assist you in establishing new co-parenting goals and help set reasonable boundaries with your ex.
9. Include Co-Parenting Therapy Sessions in Divorce Settlement
There are strategies to deal with your ex’s propensity for a confrontation before it gets out of hand. It is possible to incorporate successful co-parenting practices into your divorce settlement. After the divorce is official, you can request that each parent participates in co-parenting therapy sessions with a professional.
Sharing expectations about your co-parenting relationship is facilitated by this method of communication. In addition, it shows that you’re willing to participate in resolving conflicts.
10. Go to Court
If the co-parenting situation is not working out and your ex-spouse is not adhering to the arrangement in the divorce settlement, it may be time to find a resolution via the court system. In this case, you and your ex-spouse will have to hire lawyers to represent you in court.
If you have a court order for your custody arrangement, you’ll need to show that something significant has changed to seek a different one. If you have kept a record of the co-parenting process up to date, this information can help your case massively.
If you believe your ex-spouse is unsuited to be an equal parent, you should fight for full custody. You’ll need to demonstrate how and why the other parent is unsuitable in such a scenario. Your lawyer can assist you in devising strategies for proving your point.
Continue Reading: My Husband Is a Lazy Father – Help!
Co-parenting with an uncooperative ex-spouse takes a while to get used to, but we hope that using the strategies listed in this article makes your journey a little more manageable. Take the time to ensure that your children are well supported during the process when uncoupling with your spouse.
After earning his Master of Social Work from the University of Toronto, Stuart gained experience working with families in community mental health settings and in the child protection sector. Since becoming a father himself, Stuart now works in private practice offering psychotherapy services. FatherResource is an opportunity for Stuart to share what he learns on his journey as a father with a larger audience.