How to co-parent with an unreasonable ex-spouse

If you have worked to get through a difficult divorce you will likely want to take a step back and relax. You’ve made it through one of the most difficult times in your life and have managed to keep your sanity intact. What you are left with is the need to develop a strategy for working with your ex-spouse on parenting your child.

That’s right! After all the effort you undertook to separate yourself from your spouse you are still connected to him or her in regard to the most important aspect of your life- your children. What if your ex-spouse isn’t someone that you have any belief in as far as your ability to co-parent? How can you both overcome your differences in order to raise a happy, healthy and successful child?

These are the questions that we will be discussing today in our blog. Let’s begin by addressing the most important aspect of co-parenting that I can think of: communication.

Exchanging information between you and your ex-spouse

The benefit of living under the same roof as the other parent to your child is that you and he/she ostensibly know the same things about your child. Their schedule, their health status, whether or not medications need to be taken, whether or not a jacket is needed for a field trip, etc. are all issues that you would both know because you can look across the dinner table and address the other person directly.

Once your divorce has been worked out those opportunities are largely gone. You and your ex-spouse will not be spending that sort of quality time moving forward and you’ll need to figure out a way to recreate that sort of forum that allows for the free flow and exchange of information.

The information that you share with your ex-spouse regarding your child must be accurate. By this I mean that you cannot tell a half truth or outright “fib” just because the real story doesn’t comport with your world view of opinions. If your child has been suspended from school because she hit another student you can’t tell your ex-spouse that she was suspended because she was upset at your ex-spouse and that caused her to hit another child. The whole truth, and nothing but the truth, needs to be shared.

Secondly, the complete story needs to be shared with your ex-spouse. Simply telling your ex on a Friday evening that your child has a field trip on Monday morning is not good enough. Provide the full context of whatever update you are giving as far as date/time/location details. If special clothing is needed or if something needs to be purchased from a store tell him or her this. Your ex-spouse is not a mind reader and if you hold all the cards as far as information is concerned you will need to be the one to provide information as needed.

Third, the information that you need to share must come timely from you directly to your ex-spouse. If your child has a homework assignment that will be due on Monday morning don’t let your ex-spouse know about it on Sunday night when your child is getting ready for bed. Give him or her as much time as possible to prepare for the deadline and to get any supplies needed to work on the assignment. It isn’t fair to your spouse to cause him or her to run around at the last minute to do something. It isn’t fair to your child to have to rush through a project or to show up to a birthday party without a gift because you didn’t tell your ex-spouse about the party until the day of.

Utilize co-parenting websites

In your divorce it may be ordered that you are to communicate primarily with your ex-spouse over co-parenting websites like Our Family Wizard. It could be that you and your ex-spouse have shown the inability to communicate in other fashions and this method is to be utilized as a last resort.

It is critical that you utilize the sole method of communication that you are ordered to use if that is what your divorce decree mandates. If you are allowed other methods of communication that by all means utilize them to the fullest.

Remember the Golden Rule

Do unto others, as others would do unto you. This is the age old, golden rule that we’ve been told a million times in our lives. It’s one thing to hear the rule be told us, it’s another to actually live the rule.

When you parent after a divorce you are relying on your ex-spouse to be fair, supportive and communicative with you and your child. This means that if you would expect him or her to tell you something then you should provide him or her with the same courtesy. The essential information that is needed to complete an assignment at school, transport a child to a ball-game or simply help out with a tough time with a friend, may be just what your ex-spouse needs to help your child.

Don’t leave it up to him or her to “figure it out on their own”. You need to be the bigger person and share information as you would expect for it to be shared with you. What you will quickly find out is that by being willing to share this information with him or her, he or she will be willing to do the same with you. The end result will be that there will not be an information that falls between the cracks and hurts your child in some way.

A cautionary tale of what can happen if you and your ex-spouse do not communicate well

Let’s lay out a hypothetical story that could describe you and your ex-spouse if you fail to communicate well together as divorced parents. The lessons that we’ve learned so far in our blog post would have solved these issues but, alas, the advice was not heeded.

You and your ex-husband have one child, a daughter, who just turned six. You were both named joint conservators of your daughter in your divorce and your possession schedule allows you to alternate one week on, one week off with your daughter. Unfortunately you and your ex-husband do not engage in good co-parenting techniques.

Your daughter will start kindergarten in August of this year and the school district requires that she be immunized prior to starting school. While you had your daughter you took your child to her pediatrician to get the shots but you did not tell your ex-husband that you had done so. The following week, you take your daughter to another doctor to get the same shots. When both shot records are sent to the school the school nurse realizes that your daughter received the same set of immunizations twice in two weeks.

Both you and your ex-husband wanted to do what is best for your child but ended up harming her because of your inability to communicate and co-parent. Exchanging accurate, complete and timely information with your ex-spouse is crucial to treating your child well and ensuring their well being is maintained.

More on communication and co-parenting in tomorrow’s blog post

If you are interested in the subject of co-parenting please return to our website tomorrow to learn more about this subject. In the meantime, please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan with any questions that you have on this subject or any other in family law. A licensed family law attorney can sit down with you at no charge to answer your questions. We offer consultations six days a week in our office. Our attorneys represent clients across southeast Texas and we would be honored to do the same for you and your family.

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