When you reach that crossroads in your marriage at which you start considering divorce as an option, doubts start creeping in. How do I tell my children? What will people think? I can’t believe this is happening.
Once the final judgment of dissolution of marriage is signed by the judge, you feel you can breathe a sigh of relief. But what happens when, after the dust settles, co-parenting with your ex is more difficult than you had anticipated?
While you can’t change how another person acts, you can control how you react to his or her behavior. Here are some steps you can take to diffuse the situation:
Do not engage:
Let’s say your ex sends you an angry text message over something petty. Unless it’s an emergency regarding your child’s wellbeing, you don’t owe him or her an interaction. If you don’t react, it’ll get boring after a while to keep poking the bear.
Utilize high-conflict communication tools:
There are several alternatives for families in high-conflict relationships that will help them to communicate with each other without ramping it up. (They actually monitor what you plan to send and alert you to words that tend to incite so that you can avoid sending such e-mails.) Websites such as Talking Parents and Our Family Wizard track communications, and store them with a third party. And if issues cannot be resolved out of court, you can later use these records in litigation.
The purpose of a Parenting Plan is to establish a schedule, set up times and locations for pick-ups and drop-offs, and to delineate how to make certain parenting decisions. However, sometimes life gets in the way. For example, if your child’s little league team wins a regional game and will now go to a championship game that is closer to your ex’s home, it makes sense to allow for a different overnight schedule for that specific event. You and your ex can switch a night, or make arrangements so that you can be present at the game, as well. Although you can go the legal route to enforce a parenting plan when your ex requests a change, keeping your child’s best interest at heart sometimes requires flexibility.
If your ex uses your child as a messenger, or is bad mouthing you in front of your kids, address it in writing. Same goes if your children are often late for school during the time they spend overnights with the other parent, or any additional incident that may be detrimental to your child. If you have to go back to court, you will have records reflecting your attempts to solve the issues.
Finally, take an honest look at your own behavior to determine whether you might be exacerbating the problem. When we’re upset, we tend to overlook our own shortcomings. If nothing you can do on your own end will help, talk to a family law attorney. You might have several alternatives to have a judge address recurring issues.
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About this week’s authors: Joryn Jenkins.
Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, 2 of which she served as professor in law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen award, an honor bestowed upon those who have provided exceptional leadership to The American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.