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Co-parenting after the storm: Managing high-conflict situations after divorce

On Behalf of | May 24, 2024 | Child Custody

Co-parenting after a divorce can be challenging, but when an ex-spouse becomes high-conflict, the situation can become incredibly stressful for everyone involved, especially the children. High-conflict co-parenting is characterized by constant arguments, manipulation and attempts to use the children as pawns. If you’re facing this difficult situation in Minnesota, there are steps you can take to protect your children and navigate this challenging dynamic.

While you can’t control your ex’s behavior, you can control how you respond. Here are some strategies to manage communication and conflict for the sake of your children’s well-being.

Prioritize communication

Constant back-and-forth texting or phone calls with a high-conflict ex can be a recipe for disaster. Instead, consider:

  • Co-parenting apps: Utilize communication apps designed for divorced parents. These apps allow for documented communication and minimize the back-and-forth nature of conversations.
  • Email communication: Maintain all communication in writing through email. This creates a clear record of interactions and reduces the potential for misunderstandings.
  • Limited phone calls: If phone calls are necessary, keep them brief and focused on logistical co-parenting issues related to the children, not personal matters.

You can minimize unnecessary conflict by establishing clear communication boundaries and using the proper channels.

Focus on the children, not your ex

High-conflict individuals often try to bait their exes into arguments. Don’t take the bait. When communicating, keep the focus entirely on the children’s needs.

  • Stick to the agenda: Limit communication to pre-determined topics related to the children’s schedule, healthcare or extracurricular activities.
  • Avoid reacting emotionally: Don’t respond to insults or provocations. If the conversation turns negative, politely disengage and communicate through your chosen channel (email or app).
  • Document everything: Keep a detailed record of all communication, including dates, times and the content of the messages. This documentation can be invaluable if you need to involve a mediator or court later.

Remember, your primary objective is communicating effectively for the children’s benefit. Don’t get sidetracked by your ex’s negativity.

Seek professional support for yourself and your children

High-conflict co-parenting can take a toll on your mental health and well-being. Consider seeking support from:

  • A therapist: An individual therapist can equip you with strategies for managing stress and coping with your ex’s behavior.
  • Co-parenting counseling: Some therapists specialize in co-parenting and can help you and your ex develop healthier communication patterns, even if your ex is unwilling to participate directly.
  • Support groups: Connecting with other parents in similar situations can provide valuable advice and emotional support.

Don’t hesitate to seek professional help for yourself and your children. A therapist can help your children navigate the emotional challenges of high-conflict co-parenting and develop healthy coping mechanisms.