How To Deal With A Combative Co-Parent

If you recently finalized your divorce, you and your ex may not be on the greatest of terms right now. While some couples are able to completely move on and never be forced to interact with their former spouse again, couples that share children do not have that option. In fact, your personal feelings toward each other should be completely kept out of your co-parenting, for the best interests of your kids.

Unfortunately, not all co-parenting arrangements are civil, and not everyone is willing or able to ignore their ill feelings, no matter whether their children are the real victims in the end. In some arrangements, the toxic circumstances of your marriage that led to your divorce can carry over into the co-parenting relationship. In the event that your ex is determined to make co-parenting matters a nightmare, you have a few options.

The family lawyers of The Grey Legal Group are here to walk you through dealing with a combative co-parent and your options, legal and otherwise, for dealing with this type of situation.

How To Deal With A Combative Co-Parent

Signs Of A Combative Co-Parent

When a co-parent decides to be uncooperative, their behavior can take various forms. In some cases, their behavior might even be in violation of your custody agreement. What form the behavior takes will dictate how you can and should respond. Examples of some common signs of a combative co-parent include:

  • Harassment and insults: Your ex might cause you distress with harassment, which might include insults about your character or the way you choose to parent. Other harassing behavior might include constant texts or calls, screaming and other forms of intimidation, threats, and stalking. Sometimes a harassing ex might try to get outside people involved in your dispute by engaging your friends or co-workers. Harassment is considered a form of abuse in most states, so be sure to document this behavior and report it to the proper authorities.
  • Criticism: Your ex might be critical of your parenting style, the way that you are living your life post-divorce, or other aspects of your character. Typically, this criticism has no practical intention beyond causing you emotional distress.
  • Parental alienation: In some cases, a co-parent will attempt to poison their child against their ex. They do so in various ways, including lying, placing blame for the divorce or other factors, and asking your child to choose between both parents.
  • Not following the custody agreement: There are instances when a co-parent might try to flout the custody agreement. In some cases, it is an attempt to bolster their own authority and undermine yours and that of the court. Your ex might try to keep your child away from you or refuse to take the child for their arranged dates. In these situations, you can fight in court to have the custody arrangement enforced.

If your ex is displaying any of these behaviors, you have options for recourse, some legal and some having to do with your own behavior.

Understanding The Root Cause Of The Conflict

Severe cases of having a combative co-parent – like those involving stalking, violence, or threats to you or your kids’ safety – should result in you contacting law enforcement and your attorney immediately. In milder cases, however, it may work to your benefit to determine the root cause of your ex’s behavior, even if you don’t think it’s logical or fair.

For example, you may disagree on parenting styles, how the financial responsibilities should be shared, or have differing values when it comes to certain topics. It may also be that the intense emotions that often come along with raising children are causing them to act this way. They may not be handling the separation from your children well, or grappling with all the adjustments of the divorce and co-parenting.

While none of this excuses hurtful behavior, recognizing what triggers your co-parent to become combative can help you to better anticipate potential sources of conflict and develop strategies to address them proactively.

Tips For Dealing With Co-Parent Toxicity

As frustrating and disheartening as this experience may be, it’s important to attempt to work with your co-parent before involving your attorney (unless their behavior warrants it). Some strategies for this include:

  • Set strong boundaries – establish clear boundaries for communication and interaction while enforcing consequences when they are violated
  • Keep your children the priority – avoid arguing or hashing out conflicts with your co-parent in front of your kids
  • Communicate effectively and with documentation– consider primarily using co-parenting apps and digital forms of communication, in case you need records of your conversations
  • Attempt mediation – this may or may not be a viable option for every couple, depending on the level of conflict; mediation provides a neutral environment for both parties to express their concerns and work toward a mutually acceptable path forward
  • Seek support – such as counseling or support groups for co-parents

If these strategies fail to rectify the situation, you may need to take more drastic action or even seek legal recourse. Some possibilities include:

  • Mental health services – especially if your ex is practicing parental alienation, you might want to consider putting your child in therapy or seeking out family therapy. Even if parental alienation is not a concern, divorce can be traumatic for children and therapy can be useful in helping children come to terms with your separation, as well as learn how to understand and regulate their emotions
  • Get a restraining order – if your ex is harassing you, you can get a restraining order to curb any excessive phone calls, threats, or stalking
  • Modify custody – If your ex is not following the custody agreement, you can collect evidence that they are in violation and work with your custody lawyer to take action against them

Trust The Grey Legal Group To Support And Protect You

If you’re at your wits’ end with your co-parent and feel as if you aren’t making any progress with them, allow our skilled legal team to step in and help. Depending on your situation, a post-judgement custody modification may be warranted, or further legal action against your ex. No matter how hopeless you feel, we will ensure that your needs are met as we use our extensive knowledge of California law to resolve your issues. Call today to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our team and let us take the first step toward a brighter future together.

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The Grey Legal Group

At The Grey Legal Group, we believe in helping all families with their legal needs so they can be protected on your journey back to a calmer, happier place of stability. Whether it is divorce, child custody, guardianship, domestic violence, or adoption, we have seen it all before and we can help you through it. With the legal knowledge and experience we bring to the table, we will be certain to find the best and most efficient solution to your situation.

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