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Co-parenting can be difficult for all parents even on a good day. Co-parenting requires you to work with, and not against, the other parent in making decisions for the children. Oftentimes co-parents have different ideas, goals, and parenting methods. When these things collide, parenting with someone who you do not agree with can be strenuous. When co-parenting becomes impossible, it may be time to establish a formal parenting plan or modify the existing parenting plan. This can be done through court or by agreement of the parties. Attorneys and other professionals can help you and the other parent establish this parenting plan. Keep in mind that good co-parenting requires a lot of hard work and compromise each day.
Why do parents become uncooperative?
Every situation is unique, but the co-parenting relationship is often affected by new relationships, new children, new jobs, changes in living situations, and the child’s changing needs, just to name a few.
“I believe that changes in co-parenting are often fear based,” said attorney Cassandra Golder. “One parent is afraid of losing control in some way and they become uncooperative in co-parenting. This often causes that parent to start acting out or being difficult, and in return, the other parent may do the same. This snowball effect can destroy the co-parenting relationship and takes time and effort to rebuild that trust and get on the same page. While you may be hesitant to get the Court involved, a new parenting plan can help re-establish boundaries and expectations and the goal is to ultimately improve the co-parenting relationship.”
What are signs I’m in a difficult co-parenting situation?
The uncooperative parent can be sneaky, passive-aggressive, angry, difficult, or reactive in their behavior. The uncooperative parent often makes following the current parenting plan difficult or refuses to follow the parenting plan. Even with a parenting plan in place, the uncooperative parents may do the following:
- Deny access to the children for important events
- Fail to adhere to custody orders and other arrangements
- Be mean or harassing
- Interfere with your child’s routine, appointments, or belongings
- Refuse to make compromises or necessary adjustments to the schedule
- Speak poorly about you in front of your child
- Refuse to let you and the child see or speak to each other
For example, an uncooperative parent may change a doctor’s appointment you planned to attend and not tell you. They then may tell your child that you do not care about them and that is why you weren’t at the doctor’s appointment.
Another example is when the uncooperative parent may not allow the child to attend an important event, such as the birthday party of a stepsibling, because the party falls on their parenting time. Making compromises for the benefit of your child is normal and helps foster a loving environment for your child.
In many cases, the above examples can be forms of parental alienation intended to make the child reject you.
How can the court help in a difficult co-parenting situation?
Judges won’t stand over your shoulder to ensure that you and the other parent are treating each other appropriately. Instead, the court’s concern is in the best interest of the child. Courts may appoint one of the following professionals to assist in determining the best interest of the child when it comes to the parenting plan:
- Psychological evaluations. During the divorce or custody hearing, a judge may order a psychological evaluation of you and your co-parent for recommendations to the court in regards to custody and visitation. This assessment will find your strengths and weaknesses of parenting together and help the court in its decision.
- Guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem may be appointed to your case to represent the child’s best interests to a judge or jury.
- Amicus Attorney. An amicus attorney acts as the eyes and ears of the Court. An amicus does not represent either party or the child. Generally, the amicus attorney will collect information through speaking with the child, both parents, make home visits, interview people familiar with your situation and attend hearings and mediation. They will then use this information to make a recommendation to the court.
- Attorney ad litem. An attorney for the child who advocates for the child based on what the child believes is in his or her best interest.
What else can the court do?
The Court can order you, the other parent, and the children to attend family counseling, individual counseling, anger management, or other tools to improve the co-parenting and family relationship.
Depending on the case, the Court can also modify or restrict access if the Court determines that a parent’s actions are harmful to the child. If a parent has been denied access to the child under an existing court order, the Court can order make-up time or even find the other parent in contempt, in which they could fail fines and jail time.
What can I do to improve my co-parenting relationship?
When we are planning the birth of our children, many of us do not consider that we will one day have to co-parent with someone we are no longer in a relationship with. Unless there is family violence, substance abuse, or mental health conditions that would prevent the parent from appropriately caring for the child, it is important that both parents remain active in their children’s daily lives. Joint custody arrangements are tough and require consistent work.
It is important to remember that you cannot change the other parent’s behavior or parenting methods, but you can learn to cope with the other parent in a positive way even when you disagree. There are numerous co-parenting methods, books, courses, and counseling options for you to learning ways to improve your own co-parenting.
Try the following co-parenting apps
Modern co-parenting problems require modern co-parenting solutions. There are several applications available to parents who have difficulty communicating in a healthy way.
AppClose is a free co-parenting app. It allows parents to keep each other updated by having a calendar feature to keep parents on the same page. In addition, there is a messenger feature that allows you to communicate with your co-parent as well as with your attorney confidentially. You can also export chats between you and your contacts for any reason, add receipts or requests for reimbursements. The app even facilities payments through its own built-in payment solution.
We parent is another mobile app that helps parents stay on top of custody schedules, events, appointments and upload documents and photos. The app is free to download but costs $9.99 a month, $99.99 per year or $199.99 for a lifetime for your entire family.
Our Family Wizard is a fee-based court-approved family communication app that helps families communicate. The app works similar to others on the list and allows families to communicate, upload expenses, check in to locations, create moments and add events to a calendar. Third parties, such as the ad litem, may be able to access the communications in the app and respond to issues in real-time.
There are several other apps available aimed to ensure families can communicate and cooperate well.
Counseling can be for the family, between co-parents, or individually. Either way, a counselor will be able to help you find ways to cope with difficult situations that can arise between co-parenting.
When all efforts fail, try parallel parenting
In more severe cases, sometimes a healthy co-parenting relationship isn’t possible. Parents can also try parallel parenting. Parallel parenting is an arrangement for parents who are unable to co-parent to disengage from each other and have limited direct contact. This allows both parents to be involved in their child’s life without having to be involved with their ex-spouse’s influence. Usually, parallel parenting allows the dust to settle in the immediate aftermath of a divorce. However, in situations where co-parenting seems impossible, parallel parenting can help bring peace and calm to a situation.
Why is a healthy co-parenting relationship important?
Being a united front in how you raise your children creates an environment where your children will thrive. In addition, respect between you and your former partner can keep you from dealing with the chronic stress of disagreements over inconsequential issues.
Further, a healthy co-parenting relationship reduces the chance for arguments or other disagreements in front of your children. Even if you do not argue in front of your children, your children may notice the tension that may exist between you and your ex after a heated text exchange.
The Carlson Law Firm is here to help
If you find yourself needing orders for custody, visitation, and child support, contact one of our qualified family law attorneys today. Our team is ready to assist you in Bell, Coryell, Milam, Lampasas, Williamson, Hays, Travis, Bastrop, and Burnet counties. Call us at 800-359-5690 to schedule a free consultation today.