Co-parenting is the concept of shared parenting duties following separation or divorce. When both parents are capable, a robust co-parenting situation is ideal. Unfortunately, a healthy co-parenting relationship is not always within reach. In the majority of cases where co-parenting fails, the culprit is not a serious deficiency in one parent’s parenting skills but, instead, the conflict dynamic in and of itself.
What can you do when you’re trying to co-parent, but simply can’t get along with your ex? Below are a few things for devoted parents to think about.
Consider the Alternative
If you can’t find a way to co-parent, you should consider the alternative: a parallel parenting plan. In a parallel plan, one parent is given authority to make all of the major decisions (medical care, school choice, etc.) and, usually, the majority of the parenting time as well. The plan is structured to prevent the parents from any non-essential communication or interaction. While this situation is sometimes unavoidable, it is usually not the best outcome for the children. Accordingly, whichever side you are on, you have a strong parental incentive to be cooperative.
Make a Choice
You can’t control your ex’s behavior, but you can control your own. This should be the mantra of every parent who cannot get along with his or her ex. The easiest way to make a change is often to adjust your own behavior or attitude. From the perspective of the children, it usually doesn’t matter whose fault it is or who started it. In general, children have an overwhelming need to feel love for both of their parents. If your ex is the one who is initiating the conflict, think about strategies to stop the fights before they start. Don’t allow yourself to be dragged into discussions or circumstances that you know will lead to tension or conflict. If your ex can’t get a rise out of you, maybe he or she will stop the problematic behavior.
Get Professional Help
A good therapist or parenting coach can help you shape your own behavior and responses. A skilled custody lawyer can also help you by teaching you how to communicate in a controlled and non-reactive way.
If all else fails, you may need to consult with your attorney about modifying your parenting plan or custody arrangement. A good attorney will give you honest advice about what the legal system can and cannot do to address your problem. In some cases, the costs and benefits of going to court do not shake out. But for certain families, especially those with younger children, a motion to modify is warranted.