Tips for Dealing with an Uncooperative or Hostile Ex

Divorce and co-parenting aren’t always amicable situations, but there’s no way out of the fact that you and your ex are still the parents of your children with a right and obligation to move forward with making decisions in their best interests. Sometimes a messy divorce or angry ex can make productive co-parenting impossible, but there may be a few things you can do to address the problem if it’s breaking your legal arrangement or affecting your ability to care for your children

You can’t control your ex’s behavior, but you can try initiating some proactive ideas and solutions to show her that you’re interested in coming to an amicable agreement for the sake of your kids. If she is acting violent, hostile, or breaking your legal agreement, you may need to involve your attorney.

If things haven’t reached that point, try moving forward with co-parenting, keeping these tips in mind.

Use a lawyer or professional mediator. If your ex-wife isn’t speaking to you or is acting out in an inappropriate way, consult your attorney for help. You may need to have your lawyer contact and/or communicate with your ex for you in some instances, for the purposes of working toward improving your ability to co-parent together. Your lawyer may be able to schedule a meeting with your ex where a mediator or the lawyers themselves facilitate a discussion about moving forward with co-parenting in a civil manner.

Attend counseling or coaching together or apart. A divorce counselor can provide another type of mediation between ex-spouses when legal intervention isn’t necessary or required. A counselor or coach can help you and your ex learn practical tactics and techniques for dealing with feelings and interactions surrounding your ex, which can affect your ability to move forward with co-parenting in a productive way. You can attend these sessions together or apart, and if she’s not interested it doesn’t mean that you can’t still attend and benefit from the sessions yourself.

Write her a letter. Double check with your lawyer before moving forward with this one if you’re concerned that it encroaches on your legal agreement with your ex. A hand-written letter that arrives in the mail gets a lot more attention than email or messaging these days. Demonstrate that you’re willing to put differences aside, and ask that she do the same in return, in order to move forward with parenting your children. Make a request, rather than telling her what she must do, and don’t offer any ultimatums.

Ask her to work together on updates to your joint parenting plan. Show your ex that you’re interested in best-parenting practices by taking the initiative to request that you work together to update your parenting plan when it’s time. This may occur soon after the original plan is drafted or it can take awhile, but joint parenting plan revisions become necessary whenever there’s a change in the child’s life or caretaking plan that both parents need to come to an agreement about.

Don’t ask the kids to reason with her. You may start to get desperate if you can’t get your ex to communicate, be reasonable, or move forward with what’s best for your kids. But don’t bring your kids into the middle of the problem, even as a last resort, because the effects can have a lasting impact and may even make the problem worse. Older children may observe what’s going on between their parents and try to address the issue or work things about between them. This should be neither encouraged nor discouraged, as your child is exercising his ability and freedom to communicate with his parents.

Don’t call her family or friends for help. This is another no-no that occurs out of desperation because one spouse thinks the other’s friends or family members will see their side or want to do what’s best for the kids. Trying to recruit her troops for your cause can fuel the fire even more. Even if you’ve already been maintaining a close relationship with certain members of her family, don’t put them in an uncomfortable position that may pit them against your ex. If you have shared friends that may be adjusting to your split and moving forward with separate friendships with you both, treat them as you would your children and don’t bring them into the middle of things.

Don’t argue with her in front of your kids. The time to discuss your differences or argue over any number of issues related to child rearing isn’t when you’re dropping off or picking up the kids, or even on the phone in front of them. Avoid face-to-face confrontations with your ex-spouse if they aren’t in the best interest of your kids, and ask for assistance from your lawyer or mediator if you need help maintaining communications.

Don’t allow her to break your legal agreement. An angry ex can make demands or use controlling behavior to force you to double back on the legal agreement you made by doing more than your share or preventing access to your kids. Don’t take part in or be victimized by hostile or controlling behavior, and contact your attorney if your ex is breaking or forcing you to break your legal parenting agreement.

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