My Ex Refuses to Co-Parent

This article is a repost from 8/7/11



If you read any divorce discussion boards, one of the most common complaints is about a hostile ex refusing to co-parent. People are always asking what to do or how to make them more cooperative. The crazy thing is that deep down, everyone knows that you can’t make someone do something that, for whatever reason, they don’t want to do. If they don’t want to co-parent, they won’t. You may not like it, the court may not like it, but honestly, you can’t wave a magic wand and change another person’s behavior. The court can’t either. Family Court can put out all the court orders in the world, but they really can’t make someone change. If a person decides that they are not going to follow court orders, the court can try to make their life hell until they give in, but ultimately, court orders don’t help you unless you want to keep returning to court to keep telling the court that your ex is behaving badly over and over again.

What I tell people is to avoid the prison sentence that is the Family Court and focus on your life with your kids. The other parent may be a jerk, but there is nothing you can do about it. If you decide that you want to keep going back to court to prove what an ass the other parent is, well, guess what? You have invited the court into your life as well. The mudslinging starts. Crazier and crazier accusations fly. You may think that the court will view your ex as a bad guy, but what if they decide to look at your life under a microscope as well? What if the court orders start coming out to tell you what to do and how to behave? What if the court slaps you with court order upon court order because you are the one who will follow the rules? Not fair, is it? You just don’t know how you’ll fare in an ongoing court battle.

It is not worth it. The truth is that you have the best chance of entering into a new cooperative relationship with the other parent once things have settled down, the court goes away and you finish paying lawyers. Once everyone has a chance to get a feel for their new life and know they’re OK, they can start to heal and only then will they be open to a new relationship with you.

Imagine that you have a coworker who makes you mad and you really don’t like that person at all. You go into work and avoid them. Eventually you will not even think about them anymore. You can function in your job duties without any help from them. You aren’t even in the same department and do two totally different jobs. This can work. It may not be ideal. It may not be the company’s vision of cohesiveness, but the coworkers can get their jobs done in their own way and still meet the main objectives for the company.

So in that same scenario, imagine that they keep seeking you out in the office and telling you that you have to get along with them. When you refuse, because you neither see the need nor have the desire to create a working relationship with them, they go to the boss and complain. Suppose that the boss wants you two to get along because your boss thinks it’s better for the company if you do and starts demanding that the two of you set aside your differences or risk losing your job. Would you readily agree to enter into a new relationship, or would that make you mad? Would you wonder what right the boss had to tell you what to do and who you had to do it with and how you had to do it? Well, the court is that way.

Truthfully some parents are never going to get along well. Some of these parents don’t divorce and no one tells them how they have to relate to one another. It may be difficult for the children, but the children do grow up and usually understand the workings of the relationship.

Sometimes life isn’t picture perfect.

There is a misconception about relationships when you are stuck in a system like the family court system and develop an overblown sense of the power that court officials have over you and your life and your ex’s life. You start to think that the courts will MAKE your ex into the parent you want them to be. This is a fantasy. This is a destructive way to think. The only time that you should ask a court to intervene where the other parent’s behavior is concerned is if your children are in danger when in the care of the other parent. Even then, the courts involvement is often a hindrance rather than a help because the family court will try to deal with the matter where criminal court may be the more effective venue. Unfortunately, the criminal courts will defer things to the family court most of the time. I wrote about that here.

You should not be involving the court system when you want your child in a Saturday softball league and your ex doesn’t want to take the child on their weekend. The reality is that you can take your child on your Saturday and they may have to miss the other Saturdays. You knew when signing them up that only half of the Saturdays were under your control. These are things that you have to adjust to. Again, it may not be ideal for your child, but they are not going to die and the world will not end because they only were able to attend half of the softball Saturdays. As the child grows up, the other parent may need to listen to the child’s complaints about not being able to go and maybe they will decide to do the right thing for the child, but maybe they won’t. They certainly won’t learn to do things for the good of the child if you keep insisting they spend their Saturday a certain way or get the court to issue an order for how they spend their Saturdays with their child.

Court should be used to complete the divorce and set up child support and a parenting time schedule and that is all. It should not be used to attack the other parent or try to force someone to change their behavior. The entire family will suffer in an ongoing, years long court power struggle, so don’t start down that path.

You want to focus on you and what you do with your parenting time. The other parent will never be the person you want them to be. They, like you, will never be perfect. It would be better for you and your children to control what you can in your house and in your life and leave it up to the other parent what they do in their house and with their life. Children will be the ultimate judges of their parents.

If the other parent is a louse, they will figure out that they are a louse. They will still love them anyway, most likely. Were your parents perfect? Do you love them anyway? Would you have stopped loving them when you were a child just because someone kept trying to tell you that they were a bad parent? I certainly hope not.

Enjoy your time with your children. Try not to fill it up obsessing about how to force your ex to become someone they are not. In time, they may come around and surprise you, but i
f they don’t, you won’t be disappointed if you aren’t dwelling on who you want them to be. Become confident in your parenting skills and choose to spend money on making memories with your kids rather than on lawyers and motions and parenting consultants and all that goes along with that. Trust me, you will not regret taking vacations or saving for college, but you will deeply regret spending thousands and thousands of dollars on never ending battles.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s