The Fundamentals of Coparenting, Part One: Trust and Reliability Issues


Those who have divorced, but still have a child that they share, have a history.  Usually, it is not a history that is easily forgiven or forgotten, but in the world of family court, that is exactly what you are expected to do.  The expectation is that the two of you no longer live together and so any issues that the two of you had has vanished, dissolved, just like the marriage.  Those issues no longer should matter and therefore, you are expected to “get along” and coparent.


Even though the family court claims to understand that there are gray areas in the law and cases must be examined on a case by case basis, they treat everyone as a one size fits all out come.  They want you to “get along” and coparent well.  Because they say you “must”, they believe that you “will”.  There life would be much easier if you would just obey.


What they do not understand is that the dynamics of your family did not happen overnight and those dynamics therefore, cannot be solved overnight.  There is no magic wand, no medication and no therapy that can “fix” what has for years been broken.


Any couple that got to the point where one of them decided that the “fix” for them was to end the relationship, did not make that decision because they wanted to invest any more time on this person who was toxic to their life.  For whatever reason, there was no basis for them to believe that this person would work with them on repairing the relationship.  They believed for whatever reason that they could not trust the other person to do any of the work it would take to get things back to a more positive coexistence or invest the time in making things better.


The family court does not see parents who can cooperate and have the basic fundamental ingredient, trust, as a key part of their relationship.  Those people do not need to have the court intervention and they divorce, set up a parenting plan, and go about their business because they did not trample on the other person’s soul, like those who have lived together in hostility, disrespect and a lack of boundaries for most, if not all, of their lives together.


Family court authorities frequently decide that people who cannot coparent have some form of mental illness, even when they have no education or background to be qualified to make that call.  Parenting consultants and custody evaluators are the worst at doing this.  They are ignorant when it comes to hostile relationships and I frequently call them on it when they label parents in a case as “crazy” or “mentally ill”.  I will ask them to consider the term codependent because that is often the reality of the situation.  Most of these high conflict divorces are products of a codependent relationship. 


In the codependent divorce, you have at least one party who is desperately trying to free themselves from this toxic relationship, only to have the court authorities demand they continue the relationship “in the spirit of coparenting”. 

Imagine the case where a victim of domestic violence has finally found the strength to break free, has experienced the sweet feeling of freedom and independence, only to be told, “not so fast.  You have children together.  You must continue to work on the relationship.”  How absolutely cruel is that? 


What about the case in which a person who has tried having a relationship with someone who has chemical dependency issues?  This person is tried of being the “heavy” in the relationship, always having to be the one who did all the work of everything.  The decision was made that if they had to be the responsible party, they would go out on their own and be responsible for all the work of the children.  Now the court authorities tell you that you have to continue to do the heavy lifting AND be responsible for the other parent getting information about the children.  Information they were too drunk or stoned to care about before, but now the responsible parent must make sure to provide anything the irresponsible parent wants or face contempt of court.  And God forbid they forget to add a doctor appointment to the Our Family Wizard calendar!  It hardly seems fair, does it?


The problem with these kinds of coparental relationships is that there has been a breakdown in trust.  At least one party knows that the other will not do their part.  They have stuck their neck out too many times and know that the relationship is futile and that there is no way they can trust the other person.  Even in the case where divorce occurred as the result of a spouse’s affair, where is trust?  How do you trust someone with your children, when they could not be trusted to keep their commitment to the parent of those children?


In all cases of high conflict divorce, trust has been lost.  No one wants to invest time into repairing a relationship that they have already put behind them and understands that the other person is incapable of doing their fair share in maintaining.


Is there an answer to this?  Yes.  The courts should do the paperwork of divorce and allow parents to do their own thing in their own home.  If that means one parent will never go out to access information they seek, so be it.  Relationships cannot be court ordered and no one should have to pay thousands upon thousands of dollars to try and salvage a relationship that they knew long ago was not worth their time.  There are gray areas in family law and gray areas in parental relationships.  The court doesn’t have time or the qualifications to deal with those “gray area” relationships and they should not try to.  Allow the parent who knows that if they could not trust the other person to stop and pick up some milk on the way home; they won’t be able to trust them to be a responsible parent.  When you cannot rely on someone for simple things, you should not be expected to rely on them to coparent your children and the court should not expect you to.  When one parent continually asks the court to “make” the other parent provide them with information that they could easily access on their own, court authorities should be able to understand who the responsible parent is and tell the other to sink or swim.


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