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Learn how to co-parent successfully with your ex for the sake of your kids

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It is not divorce or separation that harms children — but conflict between parents, no matter if they are married or divorced, studies find.

Penn State University and University of Nebraska at Lincoln sociology professors concluded, after conducting and referencing multiple studies, that biological and adopted children with the highest levels of anxiety and depression either had low-conflict parents who divorced or high-conflict parents who remained together.

Thankfully, it is within your control as a separated parent to lower the conflict in your coparenting.

What are the keys to successful co-parenting?

Dr. Jaclyn Gulotta, a licensed mental health counselor who specializes in parenting, blended families, child development, families, marriage, and divorce, says successful co-parents work together to focus on what is beneficial for their children in the long term, which includes providing stability and structure. 

She recommends parents:

  • Communicate openly with their children
  • Focus on compromise
  • Avoid talking negatively about the other parent

“Parents should also remember not to compare what other co-parents do and to focus on what works best in their situation,” Gulotta says.

If you’re currently trying to establish a successful co-parenting relationship, we recommend enrolling in an online co-parenting course.

Our top choice for court-approved parenting classes is, which offers classes on: 

  • Co-parenting and divorce
  • High-conflict co-parenting
  • Basic parenting skills
  • Thrive class in which parents and children attend together
  • High-risk parenting skills
  • Anger management

Enroll in a court-approved co-parenting course from Online Parenting Programs >>

What does a healthy co-parenting relationship look like?

Anandhi Narasimhan, a Los Angeles child and adult psychiatrist, says healthy co-parenting is about both parents being able to communicate effectively and respectfully to raise their children. 

That means not putting the other parent down in front of the children and working together to help them navigate the transition to a new family dynamic.

“Validating the child's emotions and discussing with the other parent how to best support the child is important,” says Narasimhan, who recently published a book to help parents understand and form meaningful connections with their children. She says healthy co-parenting also involves both parents actively participating in things like health care, academics, and other key aspects of their children’s lives. 

Sarah Levin Allen, a pediatric neuropsychologist from New Jersey, says successful co-parents put their kids’ needs above their own emotional reactions. 

“It's about modeling healthy communication and emotional management,” says Allen, founder of Brain Behavior Bridge. “Healthy co-parenting is identifying your child's needs and pushing that to the forefront of every decision.”

If you’re looking for a guide to navigate co-parenting with an ex, check out Mashonda Tifrere’s Blend, The Secret to Co-Parenting and Creating a Balanced Family. Tifrere shares a 4-year-old son with her ex, music producer Swizz Beatz, and his wife, singer/songwriter Alicia Keys. 

How to set up co-parenting boundaries with your ex

IGNORE when he gets pissy.


Emily’s tactic:

“It took me a while to release the angry texting habit I adopted once he moved out, criticizing him every time he was late, or his stories sounded fishy about a plan change.

Now I say to myself: ‘And that is why I divorced him,’ and breathe an actual sigh of relief.

I text ‘OK thanks,’ like a robot and get on with my life.”

Our Family Wizard co-parenting app has a ToneMeter that flags any inflammatory words or phrases that you type — so you can delete before you send!

Healthy co-parenting boundaries

Writes Billy Flynn Gadbois, B.S, J.D.:

With co-parenting it is important to focus on the things you can control, and that starts at home. Maintaining a happy and stable environment comes first, and that includes prioritizing your romantic relationships sometimes, as selfish as that may sound. If Mom and Dad are happy, the kids are going to be happy. Trickle-down economics may not work, but trickle-down happiness does. Prioritizing the nest is ultimately the basis of good co-parenting.

If you need help embracing your power and learning to prioritize yourself, I highly recommend you check out my book Kickass Single Mom, Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children.

Thrive Global

Gadbois continues:

Prioritize your nest, every time. You don’t have to be unreasonable or rigid with it. Its simply calculating a balance with a priority in mind. If the issue will negatively impact the people in your nest in a valid way, the answer is no. If the impact is neutral or the pros outweigh the cons or if it is outright positive for the kids or the coparenting relationship and everyone is comfortable with it, then sure, do it up.

The basic advice about communicating and establishing healthy boundaries with a co-parent — especially in a high-conflict relationship — includes:

  • Stick to practical matters
  • Do not dig up past hurts or arguments
  • Conduct co-parenting communication by text, email or within a co-parenting app like OurFamilyWizard, which has a unique ToneMeter feature to flag any language that will start a fight
  • Give your ex the benefit of the doubt
  • Consider taking a co-parenting class — near you or online. Read: Best online parenting classes — including co-parenting programs or Where to find parenting classes “near me” in 2023
  • If it makes practical sense, invite into the group chat or co-parenting app step-parents, grandparents, nannies and friends. The goal is to share information, ease communication and share the joys and responsibilities of child-rearing!

What does inappropriate co-parenting look like?

Ineffective co-parenting can include any number of dysfunctional dynamics, including:

  • One parent controlling how the other spends time with the child
  • Undermining the other parent’s authority with the kids, e.g. telling the children they don’t have to follow the other parent’s rules
  • Manipulating the kids to gain their favor over the other parent, to be the “favorite” parent
  • Attempts to undermine the other parent’s new romantic relationship

How to co-parent with a narcissist

To successfully co-parent with a narcissist, you have to set firm co-parenting boundaries about responsibilities and communication, plus have clear consequences when expectations aren’t met, says Jameca Woody Cooper, psychologist and clinical director of Emergence Psychological Services in St. Louis. 

It’s also a good idea to put in place a no tolerance policy for shaming or guilting the children or pitting them against one another, she says. 

“Narcissist parents have a tendency to use these tactics as a way of manipulating their children,” says Woody Cooper, who has also navigated her own divorce and co-parenting relationship. 

Narasimhan says narcissists like to push buttons and make the other parent feel wounded with devaluing statements and passive-aggressive approaches.

“A narcissist often does not have empathy for the challenges and suffering of others — even their own children — so everyone around them suffers psychologically,” she says. 

Narasimhan suggests keeping interactions transactional and not expressing vulnerability when you’re co-parenting with a narcissist. 

“When you feel the narcissist is attacking you and putting you down, engaging or arguing just escalates the behavior,” she says. Instead, minimize interactions and seek help from a therapist to heal old wounds. Connect with a certified mental health professional through Read our review.

Allen says it’s important to be able to identify and label common narcissistic behaviors like gaslighting so you can avoid their emotional power. For reference, gaslighting is a technique narcissists and abusers use to control others by distorting their sense of reality (like picking a fight then making the other person believe they started it).

Because you can’t fix a narcissist, Allen says the best response is to arm yourself with knowledge about your legal rights, set boundaries based on those rights, and continue to advocate for your children. That means taking a supportive role and helping them process what’s happening at an age-appropriate level. 

“Try to identify inappropriate behavior without devaluing the other parent's love. For example, you can say, ‘This behavior isn't OK. Your parent loves you, but they did not make a good choice. Your parent should not have behaved that way,’” she says. She also suggests using those moments to teach children about loving behaviors and boundaries. 

FamilyTime app reviews in 2023: Is FamilyTime a good app for parental controls?

How to co-parent with a controlling ex

Like dealing with a narcissist, co-parenting with a controlling or toxic ex is about setting and maintaining boundaries, Woody Cooper says. 

“Early on, it is necessary to set the standard that you cannot be controlled and show that efforts to control you as the parent will be met with distance and less communication,” she says. 

She suggests that when the conversation isn't acceptable, reduce or cut it off (if possible) or communicate only through email. 

“It's much harder to try to control another person via email,” she says.

Allen recognizes that it can be difficult to separate your emotions from what’s best for your children. That’s why she recommends having a strong support system in place. 

“Get a dream team of support like a therapist, good friends, or a mom group so you have an outlet for your emotional responses as well as a checkpoint to make sure your responses are appropriate and unemotional,” she says. 

In his book, Divorce Poison: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing, Dr. Richard A. Warshak challenges the conventional advice that you shouldn’t fight fire with fire. ​​Instead, he teaches parents how to effectively combat an ex who is constantly trying to portray them in a negative light. His strategies help parents preserve and rebuild relationships damaged by a manipulative ex. 

How to co-parent with a toxic ex

Co-parenting with a toxic ex means learning to let go, Allen says. It’s about recognizing that you can’t keep your kids from being put in the middle or being used as pawns in your relationship.

“You need to allow your children to have their own relationship with the co-parent,” she says. “By recognizing that there are things you can’t control, you are better able to support your children and separate yourself emotionally.”

Taking this approach allows children to find their own voice and develop skills to stand up for themselves. 

“Look at the pandemic. We couldn't save our children from experiencing that, but we can be there to give them resources and model emotion management and coping skills,” Allen says. “Put the experiences your kids will have with your co-parent in this category. Support their emotions and reactions instead of adding to them with your own emotional responses.”For more advice on repairing a strained parent-child relationship caused by a toxic ex, check out this book: Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex: What to Do When Your Ex-Spouse Tries to Turn the Kids Against You.

Even if you have a healthy relationship with your ex, you need a solid co-parenting agreement to address how you’ll make decisions about your children and to work out the details of your parenting arrangement. 

What to do when a parent cancels visits last-minute

What is a co-parenting agreement?

If you are divorced, legally separated, or have filed a parenting plan with courts, you likely have a legally binding parenting agreement as part of the proceedings. If you are going through a breakup or divorce now, you may ask your ex, and/or his attorney, for a co-parenting agreement.

A co-parenting agreement is simply a contract that binds you both to certain items as they pertain to how you will behave towards each other and the children for the sake of raising healthy kids. This may also be called a custody agreement, parenting plan, or a custody and visitation agreement.

You and your other parent may create a co-parenting agreement at any time. You can do this without attorneys, and may choose to file in the courts, or it can serve as a friendly outline of behaviors, schedules and protocol for raising children together.

What is included in a co-parenting agreement?

For purposes of filing for divorce or custody, a court may require the following issues to be agreed upon (or a judge may mandate the following):

  • Weekly visitation schedule
  • Holiday and summer schedules
  • Child support
  • Payment of children’s health insurance and other medical expenses
  • Payment of child care, camp and extracurricular activities
  • Keeping each parent informed about medical, education and other important issues
  • Restrictions on how far parents can live from one another
  • Sharing decisions about religious education

Other items that you may choose to add to a co-parenting agreement can include anything you agree on, including:

  • First rights of refusal
  • Access to grandparents and other relatives
  • Use of a shared calendar and/or a specific co-parenting app
  • Protocol for requesting and negotiating schedule changes
  • The requirement of responsibility for scheduled visitation time. In other words, a parent cannot simply cancel their scheduled time with a child, but must make appropriate child care arrangements in the event of a schedule change
  • Transportation — which parent is responsible for transporting kids from one home to the other
  • Communication — number of hours or days each parent has to respond to an email or text
  • Communication about parent-teacher conferences
  • Time-sharing for birthdays and other life events
  • You know what you and your ex fight about or will likely fight about — get it in writing now!

Recommended shared parenting documentary: Divorce Corp

Kickass Single Mom, Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children, By Emma Johnson

Blend, The Secret to Co-Parenting and Creating a Balanced Family, By Mashonda Tifrere

Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex: What to Do When Your Ex-Spouse Tries to Turn the Kids Against You, By by Amy J. L. Baker, PhD and Paul R Fine, LCSW

Divorce Poison: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing, By Dr. Richard A. Warshak

FAQs about how to coparent

Here are some rules for healthy co-parenting, and FAQs:

Is co-parenting a relationship? 

Co-parenting is a type of relationship, but not a romantic one!

Should co-parents spend time together?

Ideally, co-parents should be able to attend their children’s events without causing the kids anxiety by being friendly, saying hello, and possibly standing or sitting near one another.

Co-parents ideally should be able to attend school meetings, counseling sessions and even family meetings or dinners occasionally to discuss issues, celebrate birthdays and events and show the kids that you are on the same team.

However, that doesn't mean you need to be friends with your ex.

Should co-parents talk every day?

This really depends on the two of you, and more frequent communication is called for when there is an infant in play, or there is a medical or other high-intensity situation in which both parents want to know what is going on — and are entitled to daily updates. When children are very young, or the separation or divorce is very new it can be helpful to communicate more often. If there is a difficult period — a family illness, a child going through a difficult time, a relocation or other big life change — more frequent communication may naturally happen, or be useful or necessary. 

But there is usually no reason to mandate daily communication between co-parents otherwise. 

How should co-parents communicate?

If yours is a high-conflict relationship, keep co-parenting communication to text, messages within a co-parenting app like Our Family Wizard, or email. However, it can be very, very helpful to speak face-to-face or by phone to work through difficult child situations, share about your personal struggles that may interfere with co-parenting or otherwise check in.

Hiring a mediator, therapist or even inviting a mutual friend to moderate the conversation is perfectly fine.

Bottom line: For the sake of the kids, learn how to co-parent successfully with your ex

No matter how you feel about your ex, it’s important for the sake of the kids to maintain a cordial co-parenting relationship. That includes communicating effectively and setting healthy co-parenting boundaries. 

If you’re struggling to co-parent with your ex or you just want to build a healthy co-parenting relationship, we recommend enrolling in a court-approved class from Online Parenting Programs. 

Save $20 on Online Parenting Programs classes with code WSM20 >>

You can also use a co-parenting app like Our Family Wizard to keep communication in one place and to share important info.

What is co-parenting?

The definition of co-parenting is the practice of two parents working together to parent the kids. While married or coupled parents can and should certainly co-parent amicably, and collaboratively, the term is usually used when navigating divorced and separated families where parents live apart.

What does it mean to co-parent?

Ideally, both parents are actively involved in the child's day-to-day life, communicate amicably (though you don't have to be friends to be good co-parents), share the physical, financial, logistical and emotional responsibilities and joys of parenting, and encourage your children to have a warm relationship with the other parent, and their extended family and friends.

What does inappropriate co-parenting look like?

Ineffective co-parenting can include any number of dysfunctional dynamics, including: one parent controlling how the other spends time with the child; undermining the other parent's authority with the kids; and more.

Should co-parents talk everyday?

This really depends on the two of you, and more frequent communication is called for when there is an infant in play, or there is a medical or other high-intensity situation in which both parents want to know what is going on and are entitled to daily updates.

How should co-parents communicate?

If yours is a high-conflict relationship, keep co-parenting communication to text, messages within a co-parenting app, or email. However, it can be very, very helpful to speak face-to-face or by phone to work though difficult child situations, share about your personal struggles that may interfere with co-parenting or otherwise check in.

What does healthy co-parenting look like?

Anandhi Narasimhan, a Los Angeles child and adult psychiatrist, says healthy co-parenting is about both parents being able to communicate effectively and respectfully to raise their children. That means not putting the other parent down in front of the children and working together to help them navigate the transition to a new family dynamic.


What a sexist website!!! I’ve been dealing with “mommy”, for 10 YEARS, using the worst tactics to alienate my kids and harrass me in court. Going to court is pointless today with women judges and women Guardian ad Litems.
Do even know what’s going on today??
There are 52 websites for father fighting for their rights in court. NOT a single similar mother website.
There’s a famous 9 page pamphlet written by a former Family Court judge talking about how biased the systems is against Dads. He advised “don’t even bother getting with an attorney, you’re not going to win.”

My divorce was pretty bad, I cheated and he is an “all or nothing” kinda guy so we went right to divorce proceedings without even talking about it. He thinks I’m a “monster” he doesn’t forgive me.

The children, he was always the primary parent “super dad” my mom called him. Even though he ran his own succesful engineering company he would come home, cook dinner and help the kids with homework. The man hardly sleeps. I could never keep up with him.

Knowing this I hired a great lawyer and was very aggressive, he represented himself , I didn’t know it at the time but he closed the business during the divorce proceedings. I got custody, he got weekend visits. He was very upset at the decision.

The children and I remain in the home he inherited from his grandparents. A beautiful Victorian on 11 acres. He lives in his aunts basement. I drive a new BMW he is still driving his old 1990’s saturn with the smashed rear end. I know I caused this, but life goes on. Why can’t he move forward? He loved being an engineer, it was his identity. It’s like something in him died and I killed it.

To his credit, despite giving up his career he never missed child support. I honestly didn’t know he was broke, broken.. I kept arguing with him, giving him a hard time when he would come for visits. I didn’t want to interfere, he is a good father., I was just angry. He told me he was depressed I used it against him in court.. It was stupid of me, I just got tired of being blamed and tells everyone I “ruined his life.” I lost all the mutual friends we had since highschool, pretty much everyone.

A few months ago he got the court to lower the child support to $1100 from $1400 a week. This was the first I heard that he had closed the shop he loved.. I don’t know why , he said it was because of me. He blames me for it. I brought up his depression during the hearing, the court changed his visits to “supervised” and listed my boyfriend(the one I cheated on him with) and my mom as the listed supervising adults. He was more angry then I’ve ever seen him. He is such a mellow, “Beta” guy I didn’t know he could be that angry. His said I had harmed his reputation and he couldn’t look at me anymore. He told me that he felt humiliated by the court order and would not continue to visit under those circumstances and didn’t want my boyfriend around “HIS” kids. He won’t talk to me at all, won’t answer my calls.

He went to one supervised visit three months ago, he brought the children expensive presents (and x-box for our son etc) I know he can’t afford. He told them he wasn’t going to see them again. They all cried, they still cry… I was stunned. I’m still in shock, it’s like he died. Last week my son turned 13, his father a no show at his birthday. I couldn’t imagine him missing a birthday before we separated he was always so involved. My oldest says it’s my fault for cheating on him, she hates me.. He won’t answer my calls, I went to his aunts to check up on him, I think he might be suicidal. She said I should go, and that I’ve done enough damage. She threatened to get a restraining order if I showed up again. His best friend told me he mentioned suicide as I “took his children away” I didn’t take them away it’s his choice, but everyone blames me now. Even my mom, she doesn’t say it I know. I cheated so this is all my fault.

I don’t know what to do, he pays his child support, but now the children have lost a good father and blame me. I fear I may read his obituary soon and have to explain that to the children, what a mess.

Do something about it then. Let him have the house which is rightfully his, let the children stay with him in the home and you live with your boyfriend and visit. Put your children first! You are crushing them. They need both you and your ex husband- their father- you have to take action before it’s too late.
Your story almost sounds unreal, I don’t understand how you fight by taking your ex to court yet sit around in his home and not do something to help this man that gave you a home, children and now his money. HELP HIM!

Great advice.. I’m reading this list and advice as a male coparent. I do have a question about communication and texting, my girlfriend is concerned that sending pictures of the child’s activities is too much communication and is an emotional support for the opposite coparent. Is sending pictures(nothing with the parent in picture) of activities the child is doing with the other parent acceptable as safe communication? Is letting the child call the opposite parent when they ask acceptable as safe communication? Love all the information I’ve found.

I love all of your site! Thank you for this invaluable info!
However, how do you co–parent or parallel parent with a father that is not there? He has been completely non-present for over 4 months now. And the 9+ months before that was not mentally all there, and I feared for the kids if they were with them (as did all other family members) so had to be present in the home (no breaks). He has forgotten and missed birthdays and other holidays now too. I am 100% FT single mom. So, is it right to wait for him to return to share info? Or do I still share kid’s successes to a non–responsive human? Keeping in mind there is not any trust. Everyone tells me to wait, let him come to us and see when he snaps to it. What do you say?

Oh my gosh, this is amazing. Thank you for sharing different views on this topic. Maturity is the way to go!! Be blessed

Learning to co-parent is a huge hurdle that seems like it will always be hard for most couples but it is also one of the most important things we can do to help our kids thrive. Great tips.

I have been co-parenting for about 6 months. So we’re still dealing with this new process. But recently she is upset because we split his birthday up. She wanted the 3 of us (our son, her and myself) to go to dinner together. I told her no because I’m in a relationship now and if she’s not invited I’m not going. I don’t want to confuse our son that we our still a family. (There’s a back story. She wanted me to introduce my son to my girlfriend when she felt the time was right. Not when I felt it was right.) My son has been around my girlfriend a lot. We’ve been out of town on a road trip together, we’ve spend the night at her place numerous times and just spent a lot of time together. So to me if she’s involved in his life why should she be excluded from his birthday. Was I right in this decision?

No you’re wrong. A kid needs time with both parents together. Your new girlfriend is not his mother, so why can’t the 3 of y’all go have dinner?

Wrong. A child should not be spending time pretending like the family is intact when it’s not. Very confusing for the child.

I couldn’t agree more with everything, genuis!!
The only thing I stand firm on is our daughter’s health. It’s my #1 priority due to her health issues. As long as he follows diet & supplements/all organic lifestyle I am flexible. The last issue we were in was over changing her bedding to kapok and towels/clothes to cotton. He was defiant but ultimately did. Thankful!

You did the right thing. Giving a child time with mum and dad together is very important – to the mum.
She wants to feel that she still has a family, that she isn’t so alone.
It is very confusing for a child – if those two are getting along, why are they divorced then?
It’s also potentially hurtful for a child: seeing parents together will make a child hope (sometimes subconscious level) that parents will “work it out” there is potential to reconsideration, to family reconnection. Specially if mum also refers that it is familytime, family event.
Thank you for putting your child’s mental well being before your divorce quilt or before the worry to upset your ex.

I envy all those who manage co-parenting in the best way for their children. Our son really suffers after the divorce, even if was 6 years ago. His dad has never invited him to spend a weekend with him. He sometimes invites him for a drink and that is where it stops. I invite him always to attwnd our son’s birthday, but he says he hates spending time here. Our son visits a psychotherapist and invited his dad to see how we can help, but he just listened and left without wanting to get involved. I oeganized and paid for a trip for all of us, and although he reluctantly joined us, he did everything to show our son that’s not what he wants. I feel so helpless.

This post seems like it was written by a social justice warrior who has never been in a situation with a manipulative ex who uses co-parenting as a way to stay in a RELATIONSHIP with his ex-spouse. It’s a living hell and there is no way this cutesy Hallmark crap flies in reality. This is the least helpful thing I think I’ve read all year, and I’ve been reading a lot.

I’m a grandmother who has seen this first-hand. I also grew up in a divorced household. This piece is very Pollyanna-ish in my opinion, and doesn’t address the elephants in the room. While the adults are moving on, the kids are still clinging to the hope that their parents will again love each other and they can all be a family. Bio-parents should never demonstrate to a child that they dislike the other parent. They should work to establish a routine including respectful communication, consideration of the other parent’s time, etc. The child NEEDS to see their parents demonstrate adult behavior and the ability to work things out. Over 40 years ago both of my parents refused to come to my wedding if the other parent was invited, and it was one of the saddest days of my life because of their selfishness and the insecurities of their new partners. If parents involve a new love interest or spouse they should NEVER force a child into a relationship with that person. Nor should they force their ex to include that new love interest in anything at all. It utterly displaces the child and puts the child into such a difficult position emotionally. Why would you do that to a child that you say you love? That new person isn’t dad or mom, so don’t confuse the kids with cute little nicknames like “bonus” anything. Trust me on this: the kids will grow up and detest the new spouse and hate their bio-parent for putting the new love interest and newfound happiness ahead of the child’s needs. This new love interest could be there for a month or 20 years and has ZERO AUTHORITY to act as your child’s parent or to be involved in co-parenting with your ex. One last word of advice to parents, even those in high conflict: Don’t allow ANYONE to speak negatively about your child’s other parent. That person is their dad or mom and when you don’t condemn that type of talk you’re essentially allowing your own children to be demeaned and torn apart because of who their parents are.

I’m a father on the other side of the co-parenting issues, where the mother is hostile and abusive and uncooperative. This article is terribly biased, and not worth the read if your looking for good general advice pertaining to both sexs. Really gives off “all men are trash” vibes. We live in 2021, and we haven’t realized both mother’s and father’s alike can be trash?

The first part was sorta informative, but then you got into the “ex” portion where the pronoun “he” was specifically used as though women couldn’t possibly be the toxic ones. And we wonder why majority of Father’s are stripped from their daughters and sons by aweful women.

In an ideal world I agree. But as stated when someone is a narcissist and sociopath it is very hard to co-parent and in California where everything is 50/50 you try not to engage with the other parent so the child doesn’t get dragged into it. But that’s even hard.

I left my abusive narcissist husband. And still now he don’t even come by to check on the kids. And believe me u cant even with every day telling him to come check on the kids, he will tell me so much crap and swears so I really cant co-parent with him even with effort lots of effort to get him to be involved. He blames the protection order I have against him. But I tell him come they need their father in their life’s.

I’m in Oklahoma where it’s 50/50 as well. I just wanted to add that I hear you-I know this seems never ending, but I think I truly found some applicable info in here, and while I felt myself being defensive at first (only people who have been in narc relationships would understand why I think we truly have earned this right to react this way), I’m going to take some of these ideas and run with it.
My son is nearly 7 and we’ve been in court since he was 3 months old-since I dare request child support from his father whom I was not receiving any financial assistance from. Nearly 7 years later, I’m $30k in debt and still waiting on that support.
We have court soon and I’m going to ask for us all to go to counseling together-his newest supply and my spouse.
I never would have thought of it before reading this article because I’d been generally gray rocking him and waiting whatever his next horror was to befall us.
I think I’m finally FINALLY getting to a point where I can potentially begin to make the courts aware of personality disorders and their effects on their children, since that’s been an irrelevant factor previously. If he says no to my request for counseling in an effort to provide a better blended family environment for our child, that will look bad on him. I honestly anticipate narcissistic rage at the suggestion. If he agrees, I expect narcissistic rage to occur in front of the counselor.
Don’t give up. Just try looking at things a little differently. You’ve got this.

So rather than pay your own way, you’ve wasted countless $$$ on court, tormented your child, and he’s the one with the issue, and the lady before, “I’ve put an AVO on him”, but don’t understand why he doesn’t come round. OMG. You two are horrible, but no he’s the narcissistic, he’s the one damaging the child.

This post is helpful. I’m a FTM and single mother of a 1 yr old… I have been struggling w/ co-parenting because it just wasn’t what I want. A family was my dream & since that’s not happening, I find myself trying to control . It’s became so bad that the father has stopped all communication because after 1-2 days of being nice , an argument starts because I’m upset that he doesn’t want to spend more time w/ the child. IF our child never hears from him again , I blame myself completely for being pushy, controlling and over doing it. I appreciate the tips – its helpful and shows that I have a lot I need to work on for sure. Its well worth it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I appreciated your transparency and I hope one day I can successfully co-parent with my children’s dad. Thank you!

These are great tips. I’m so thankful that despite all our ups and downs my son’s father and I have been able to stay cordial with one another in his presence. I never want to get to a point where we can’t walk our son to each other’s door. It’s taken a lot of work and I have to admit, a lot of it required me to take a deep look at if I was letting my personal feelings seep into our co-parenting relationship. Certainly a journey of insight and growth. I’ll have to keep being mindful of 23 though ;P

I have been reading your site religiously for more than a year. This post brought about much change in my ability to co-parent better. I have done many things suggested above and feel like I am reaping the benefits. BUT, I do have to tell you something funny.

I am doing these things and keep telling myself it doesn’t matter if it is reciprocal or not. This year, I have invited his girlfriend and her children to my kids’ birthday celebrations. I also invited my ex-inlaws and hosted a large dinner in my home for everyone (girlfriend too). I’m a big girl, trying to co-parent like a boss! I even bought a thoughtful birthday gift for my children’s other parent ;) .

Yesterday, my children’s other parent sent me an email with a link to photos. He had paid to have our children photographed for Mother’s Day. How sweet, right?!?!?! I opened the link and the photo shoot was my kids and my ex! He’s in about 90% of the photos in coordinating colors. And my gift is that I can pay for any photo I would like from their session. WTH!!! I got so angry I started getting teary and then had to talk myself off the ledge.

This “gift” is one of the key reasons we are divorced! Yet, from the outside, you couldn’t ask for a kinder, more thoughtful co-parent, right?! What man gets everyone dressed in matching outfits and dresses himself without a woman behind that griping at everyone? He did. For my mother’s day present.

Today, I am starting to laugh about it and thought it might give you a giggle too. I appreciate this blog and share it with many divorced girlfriends. You are very good at what you do!

It is not possible to co-parent with an abusive or personality disordered person. In such a case, experts agree that parallel parenting should be the goal. Also, regardless of whether you truly believe that your kids’ other parent is unsafe, the legal bar for minimizing contact with the unsafe parent is so high that same may not be possible. Children literally die because courts do not intervene against unsafe parents or because they intervene against the protective parent.

Does the to 6 for a child being killed by the ex wife or ex husband are very very low. It does happen though and I’ve noticed that when it does happen a majority of the time it happens to be the ex wife that does it. Not saying that the ex husband doesn’t do it because it does happen. But there are not a lot of cases to look at. And about being abusive or harassed or verbal I abused, I think 80 to 90% of women that go to courts try to use that as a means to get custody taken away from the dad. I do not care about how good or badd my ex and I get along carried which we don’t get a long. But that relationship between me and her should have nothing to do with her relationship with the children or my relationship with the children which both of us have a very strong relationship with our kids. I think women need to realize in understand that dads want to be dads. They love their kids they want to take care of them they want to see them they want to help raise them they want to support them in whatever way that they can. I think women really do need to stop playing that game that tries to take custody away from the dad. Because in the long run you’re not just hurting your exhusband you are creating a lot of Hurt your children as well. Please just let dad be dad. He loves your kids More then any other person in the world besides you. And believe me I’m sure that the lady who wrote this awesome article understands that there are exceptions to the rule. There always is. But that exception to the rule goes both ways to the ex wife and to the ex husband.

I agree I now see the other side I too didn’t get along with my ex husband for while but we do now. But one thing is forsure I’ve never gotten in the way our children’s relationship with him. My bf now has and ex wife who keeps their children from him. She hates me. And she with holds information about school about doctors visits yes they share 50/50 never let’s him spend more time with the kids it’s terrible.

This is so true. My ex is a narcissist and I suffered narcissistic abuse for over five years. Now, since the birth of our son, it has been impossible to co-parent as my ex has chosen to see our son less than five times and he refuses to offer any support. I decided to share my story via blogging ( in hopes to encourage other women in abusive relationships.

I couldn’t disagree with a single point in your blog in fact this is all I’ve asked from my 2 kids moms! More so from my youngst sons mom whom I’m still married to but haven’t been together for 5 years now. My older son and his mom live in Las Vegas while I live in Vancouver Washington so it would be a major task to share 50/50 custody. I feel that the best and “ONLY” interest for a child is to be raised equally by both parents regardless of the hate that you 2 might have for each other. That needs to be put to the side and your child or children have to come first period. The way I see it is that as soon as you bring that precious life into this world your life now becomes his or hers and you should be dedicating anything and everything you can to raise your child properly together as parents but also being able to maintain your life as well.

Now with that being said how can we change people who don’t care about other people’s or children’s feelings and the damage they bring upon them because the only thing they care about is themselves and everything revolves around them and has to be done there way. You can only put up with it for so long and then the hate comes out.

You can’t beat hate with more hate you can only beat hate with love. Now love doesn’t always beat hate but it does do something. Now think about your own personal life. Think about a person that hates you and you hate them. From now on just show that person nothing but love. Now I’m not saying for a second that, that person will start loving you they will probably still hate you but one thing will happen, eventually everyone will see them as the asshole. Don’t be the asshole.

Have respect for one another, not for yourself, for your children. It’s not your child’s fault so there is absolutely no reason they should be raised in that kind of environment or unstable household. So please, your adults, put your differences aside and raise your child together with the love, respect, and dignity that your child deserves

I’ve been through a lot as a father and having 2 kids with 2 different women 1 of which lives 1000 miles away not by my choice either and nothing kills me more then seeing the pain in his face everytime we have to leave each other. All the crying we’ve done in the airport before he goes or his little brother holding on to his leg crying because he doesn’t want him to go. It’s just not worth it to see your children go through the pain because there parents can’t be adults and do what’s right for the children.

Not to offend you Emma, but truly written for the deadbeat dad in case. I am a good father and am highly engaged in my kids lives even during the time my soon to be ex was having the affair. The court system is in the favor of the mom and even something like having an affair with family, doesn’t render fairness. Apparently what is important is knowing how much money was put under your child’s pillow when he lost his 1st tooth 6 years ago, or what street he was on when he rode his bike solo for the 1st time. A little bitterness here because I was ordered to leave the house, pay child support and only get to see them every other weekend. I plan on fighting for fairness till the end. I am working on some of your tips however. I have a long way to go….

This article is a SLAM DUNK, Emma! You are so on point with all items mentioned! All of these may not be possible immediately, but this should be the goal of all parents who are divorced. Thank you!

Yes! Not all are possible immediately (certainly not in my case!) … but life IS long and change can happen.

Much of this is irrelevant if the co-parent has a history of emotional, psychological, mental & financial abuse. (Which have no visible signs and are therefore ignored by courts.). In those cases, yes, there is a huge difference between 10% and 50% of the time. Also, don’t assume that practitioners of the “caring” professions e.g. mental health professionals, physicians, clergy etc. are not abusive. Again, a situation thoroughly ignored by the courts. Sometimes it is necessary to co-parent by text message only and to have honest, age-appropriate discussions with your children about abuse in all its forms so they can protect themselves.

#1 says it all Emma. In my situation it isn’t about a matter of safety though. My ex wife has deemed me as unessential since her Csection when we were married. My opinions were dismissed and all the parenting I eagerly provided, later downplayed in divorce proceedings. Illinois courts had her back, end of story. Now she sits on a hill of power thinking her divisiveness will be upheld by the newly appointed GAL in my first quest to right the wrong bestowed upon my daughter.
One day I truly hope to exhibit all 29 items. For now, I’m in court and it’s very difficult to think anything positive about the ex. I only do what my daughter needs to grow up healthy and happy with the 10 measly days a month I get.
God I hope the GAL does right for my daughter.

I am so sorry to hear of your challenges. Too common. Hang in there – your daughter will know you are fighting for her.

The GAL doesn’t care. You will find out quickly the court system in Illinois is designed to do one thing…take all your money. House bill 4113 was struck down. It would have given parents equal or close to equal parenting time. All the bar associations are against it..takes away their pay. In my case, parental alienation occured while married and continues…no one cares. Psychological manipulation of our child is ongoing…no one cares. I see my child 4 days a month. Decision making is a joke…don’t count on the parenting agreement being enforced if your ex wife violates it…be very aware, if you make one mistake, the court will be all over it. Bias is very common in illinois as mothers are favored over fathers without justification. In my case…if I want to see my child more I must pay more…my ex agrees to nothing…its been that way for years yet the court doesn’t care. Be careful too, I was coerced into signing a parenting agreement I disagreed with. I was told “sign it or you will not get joint custody.” My court costs are well over 100 thousand dollars…I’m a teacher…I’m not a danger…court continues to this day. My ex agrees to nothing. I have friends who gave up trying…the court favors mothers. One friend doesn’t get to see his daughter at all…the court doesn’t support his influence for no reason…he isn’t harmful nor violent. I wish you luck, but you may want to consider leaving your child and starting a family some place else…mine has no financial future…I did a great job putting the children of attorneys to college…mine will struggle…the money is gone. Best interest means you are going to get screwed…that’s what it means in illinois. My daughter is old enough now that she recognizes her mother’s manipulation…our daughter’s psychologist has been well informed…court continues to favor my ex regardless.

Everything is perspective. Myself, and a friend of mine, have court ordered situations in Illinois. We’ve both provided from 3/4 to full financial and physical care of our kids their whole lives. Her ex husband disappeared when their son was an infant for 3 years, came back out of nowhere and was awarded 50/50 custody, despite that he even lives with his mother and works very part time, my friend being an advanced degreed social worker. I’ve provided care for my child alone since pregnancy. My ex hasn’t seen his child in over a year and took me back to court for visitation- he won. Based on the fact I pretty much can’t afford to fight more, because I’m, you know- the parent with responsibilities. Extremely frustrating. My lawyer absolutely did not feel in her experience Illinois unfairly favors a certain parent, especially after witnessing our situations. So clearly our opinions in what courts favor who are based on perspective.

I want to add- because I think this is important: my friend and I both went above and beyond to coparent- STILL do! I’ll never stop that for my son. We make and mail him gifts every birthday and holiday. I have documented email after email begging him to tell me what he needs to be a good dad, and I’ll do my best to help him start building a better path. I want nothing more than to see my kiddo have a FULL TIME Dad. I spend an unhealthy ratio of my income, on our son per month ($1100 month for childcare alone…) and because he chooses to often not work, they still do not enforce child support. He has never had to financially contribute to be a present father. In fact, because I just received a raise, I was told if custody eventually becomes 5050, I could have to pay him support, despite the fact I have to max credit cards to get by monthly- we don’t even have a car.

Most won’t agree but I’m against the grain – always.
It’s all about sitting back- DOCUMENTING EVERYTHING- learning their lifestyle their daily routine how they react. My ex was/is a drug addict, alcoholic, low class, low income by choice, toxic, unhealthy is all scopes human. He never even tried to love our child or protect him or help financially not even once. Luckily my parents are wealthy and I’m physically (not mentality) disabled so they took financial guardianship over us. I delt with lie after lie and had to lawyer up and absolutely be ruthless to cut all ties with that slum. Everyone was shocked that I had ever chose to be with him, after years of therapy I now see he preyed upon me as a child and manipulated me into having his child to try and keep me in his life forever. SICK games. I am a victim of a sick human.
I have been able to keep my son away from him until recently so I make him aware of every detail of his father’s illness so he can see what not to become. My son knows the deep dangers of that family so for now he works to make side money and has kept the relations work related and professional.

It doesn’t seem like you have read any of the advice in these articles. Did you ever put your children first or are you retaliating agains him and using your children as pawns. This is so sad to read, but unfortunately it is tends to be the rule and not the exception when it come to children. Hurt people, hurt people.

You are not alone, I am going through a very similar situation except the father has custody of my child the majority of the year and I have him in the summer. I do not live in the same state as my child because I had gone through so much that I wanted to start over. Before I left the state my child lives in our custody agreement was 50/50. I hired a lawyer because I wanted full custody but the lawyer had told me it would be thousands of dollars to try and do that and it wasn’t guaranteed. I was granted a relocation and that’s why I see him in summer. Well this summer my son told me his father chocked him for getting a bad grade on his report card. I immediately called DCF and filed a motion to suspend the fathers time sharing… DCF and the court did nothing because they need evidence….. excuse me! My sons word is not enough. I am baffled! His father made summer hell calling me all the time wanting to speak to my son because he couldn’t believe my son told me what his father did and he was insecure that my son did not love him anymore.. All I want is to enjoy the only time I have with my son, I do not bother him when he has my son, every time I call him he puts me on speakerphone like my calls need to be monitored but when my son is here and his dad wants to talk to him I tell him to talk privately with your dad in the room. Bringing my son back to his dad after the summer was rough on me but all I can do is have faith that everything will work out for the best no matter how terrible is seems at the moment. I will not let a narcissist control freak rule my life and ruin my happiness because he cannot let go of the past. The good thing is my son knows who his father is and I believe his father will continue to reveal himself as the years pass. I will always be here for my son and the good thing is .. if he ever needs to leave his dad for whatever reason I will be here.

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