How to Co-Parent with an Estranged Ex


Co-parenting with an ex is never easy—but it's even harder if you and your ex are estranged. Perhaps your marriage or relationship ended in such a way that you're angry with your ex, or vice versa. Maybe you disagree with your ex's parenting techniques, or they have a new partner you think is a bad influence on your child.

Whatever the case, co-parenting with an estranged ex can be incredibly difficult. Here are our best tips for co-parenting with someone you dislike (or yes, perhaps even someone you hate).

Don't Ignore the Option of Family Therapy

Going to therapy with your ex may sound like a nightmare, but it can also be incredibly helpful if you share a child. An experienced therapist, particularly one specializing in mediating divorces or helping co-parents build a healthy relationship, can be invaluable. Having a third party to mediate discussions for you about difficult topics, like where your child should go to school or whether they should be exposed to religion, can help both parties reach a compromise.

Of course, therapy is often only successful if both parties involved attend the therapy sessions in good faith. If your ex realistically has no intention of compromising with you or listening to the therapist's advice, therapy will probably be relatively ineffective.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't go. If your ex truly has no intention of co-parenting effectively with you, and you decide to pursue a custody order modification in court, attending therapy can be a valuable asset to prop up your case. The court will look more favorably on you if they know you tried to compromise with your ex.

Make Co-Parenting About Your Kid

Assuming your ex is a fit parent, the ultimate priority for both of you should be your child's best interests. Instead of flinging barbs at one another over past grievances, focus on limiting the discussion strictly to your child.

As a caveat of this, you should avoid disparaging your ex in front of your child (unless they engage in an objectively wrongful act such as child abuse or neglect). If your child feels as though they are torn between you, it will only add more stress to their life.

Any sort of arrangement that makes the child feel like they have to side with one parent or results in a "good cop, bad cop" dynamic between the parents is unhealthy for the child. Try and remain calm and rational at all times when co-parenting with your ex. If they try and get a rise out of you, don't take the bait.

If you find "taking the high ground" constantly tiring, don't be ashamed—it is exhausting to co-parent with someone who refuses to collaborate in the process. If your ex insists on making things complicated, consider seeking therapy as an outlet for your frustration and limiting contact with your ex. You're not obligated to respond to them about matters other than your child.

The less you make co-parenting about the parents, the easier it will be to pursue your child's best interests.

If you're navigating a child custody case, I can help! Contact me online or give me a call at (805) 633-4999 for a consultation.

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