Co-Parenting With Your Abuser
Advice for parents sharing custody with their abuser.
Your abuser is your child’s parent. It’s a sobering reality for many separated or divorced parents who once suffered through domestic violence. However, if there is no proven record of abuse toward your children, you and your ex may still share physical and legal custody.
For most parents in this situation, limiting contact with their former abuser is the best way to create boundaries and prevent further abuse. There are several actions that can be taken to help accomplish this.
Keep conversation and contact to a minimum
Communication through meetings, phone calls, or text messages can quickly turn ugly. If you and your former abuser must still communicate about your children, consider signing up for a co-parenting communication service like TalkingParents. TalkingParents keeps every conversation between you and your ex on an Unalterable Record, so nothing can ever be changed or deleted. Messages are timestamped and all records are court admissible. Discussions tend to be much more businesslike and focused on the task-at-hand.
If you must communicate with a former abuser, scripting out conversations ahead of time can also help. If your ex tries to escalate any interaction into a fight, end the conversation. Make sure drop-offs and pick-ups happen in a public, neutral location. Try to have someone with you during drop-offs or pick-ups to help diffuse tensions or serve as a witness to any abusive behavior.
Have a structured parenting plan
Set up a parenting plan with the help of an experienced lawyer. The parenting plan must be highly specific and spell out all relevant details. Some questions you need to have answered include:
- Which days will the children reside with each parent?
- How will holidays and vacations be handled?
- How will transportation to and from school events take place?
- Which expenses will be handled by each parent?
A detailed parenting plan helps minimize the need for contact with your abuser. Again, this is where TalkingParents might be useful. The service offers a Shared Calendar to help you coordinate schedules and events, as well as the Info Library feature to help you keep track of important details and documentation regarding your child. TalkingParents also offers Accountable Payments, allowing you to handle all shared expenses in one place.
Focus on what you can control
Abusers thrive on control, so expecting your co-parent to work with you on the consistency of rules, discipline, or routines between homes might not always be realistic. You must accept that your kids live in two separate households, and while you may not approve of all your ex's parenting behaviors or choices, you will not have control over many of them.
It’s important to focus on the time that you have with your children and making the best decisions for them that you can. If your co-parent is not willing to work with you on setting consistencies between homes, the best thing you can do is document, and only intercede if you think your kids are in physical or emotional danger.
Build a village
You are going to need a lot of support. Surround yourself with other people who can help you and keep you focused on the goal at hand: caring for yourself and your children in the best way possible. Reach out to trained domestic violence advocates, counselors, family, and friends for support.
Teaching your children how to recognize abusive situations that may occur in their own lives (bullies, sexual predators, dating violence, or verbal abuse) is also important. Make a safety plan with your children that provides them with a way to alert you if they are ever in need of help or feel uneasy in any situation.
If your abuser is violating the parenting plan or custody schedule, remain calm and do not confront him or her directly. Document every violation through communication within TalkingParents and contact your attorney.