Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu

Parallel Parenting With A Toxic Ex


Effective co-parenting is purported to help kids survive a divorce with peak emotional health.  Even so, it is oftentimes easier said than done. Even for individuals who are truly committed to working hard to ensure kids feel loved and supported, and who recognize the importance of having their ex in their kids’ lives, it is no picnic.  And when a former spouse is angry, manipulative, or vengeful, it’s even harder, some advice from an experienced therapist may be a bit empowering!

Parallel Parenting 

Using what researchers call parallel parenting (PP), divorcees can include an ex while limiting face-to-face interactions that could be challenging due to the couples’ interactive dynamic. For success, devise methods to reduce the number of unnecessary conversations. That might mean establishing a clear understanding of the expectations around drop-off and pick-ups, bed times, diet, and so forth, and could include:

  • Creating a shared calendar that encompasses information related to upcoming school events, medical appointments, extracurricular activities, and other commitments;
  • Engaging in more emailing or texting instead of face-to-face communications;
  • Considering the use of a mediator to convey messages to one another.

Making it Work

While no plan, including parallel parenting, will eliminate all the trials involved with coordinating with former spouses who see things very differently, PP can definitely help.  Some useful tips include:

  • Behaving as though the agreement is a business deal that commands fidelity. That means filing it with the court and holding both parties to it.
  • Prioritizing the welfare of the kids. In other words, never giving them a reason to distrust or fear one’s ex. It means understanding that there’s no need to create tension, as it will unnecessarily lead to anxiety for the children. Remember, kids don’t need to see dysfunction, no matter who is at fault.
  • Keeping face to face communication between exes to a minimum. There’s no need to push one another’s buttons, so minimizing opportunities for that to happen benefits everyone.
  • Following the agreement, despite feelings of irritation, and remembering that a parent’s negative thoughts and actions could have a detrimental impact on their child.
  • Setting and adhering to boundaries, even when it’s hard. A parent who’s agreed not to check in on the kids when they are with their ex must stick to that arrangement.  Likewise, when a former spouse agrees to have the kids home at a particular time, a breach of the agreement shouldn’t be ignored.
  • Spelling out consequences for non-compliance to the agreement, up to and including getting law enforcement involved if necessary.

Of course, if a child is in danger, alert the proper authorities. That should be a part of the agreement in the beginning, and something a parent follows through on if necessary.

It Can be Done 

It can certainly be exasperating to work with a former spouse who you’d prefer to keep one’s distance from. Even so, the courts generally see the benefit in having children develop a significant relationship with both parents.  Research points to positive outcomes when parents put their kids’ needs first. At The Law Office of Hasson D. Barnes, our experienced Baltimore family law attorneys can help put together a plan that will work for you. Schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn