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5 Signs You’re Co-Parenting with a Jerk

Your co-parent’s jerkish behavior may be why you guys never got together or couldn’t stay together in the first place.

Co-Parenting with a Difficult Ex

Your co-parent’s jerkish behavior may be why you guys never got together or couldn’t stay together in the first place. On the other hand, your co-parent’s jerkish behavior may only have reared its ugly head after an emotionally charged separation or divorce.

Whatever the reason, these are some telltale signs you’re co-parenting with a real jerk.

1. Your co-parent badmouths you in front of the kids.

One of the first rules of successful co-parenting—don’t badmouth one another in front of the kids or allow anyone else to do it either. Your kids love both of their parents, and they don’t want to choose sides. They also do not want to have one good parent and one bad parent. That might mean they are half-bad too. Badmouthing another parent is a selfish, jerkish move that hurts children the most in a co-parenting relationship.

How to Deal with It

Stay calm! If you explode in anger, it only puts your children under more stress, especially if they are the ones who told you about the comments. Go cool off away from the kids, but don’t just let the subject drop. Come back and have a conversation with your kids about what was said. Ask them if they understand what the comments mean and help them understand why their other parent may have said what they did—without badmouthing  your co-parent too.

2. Your co-parent tries to start fights with you in front of the kids.

When parents fight dirty in front of their kids – with verbal insults, shouting and screaming, or physical aggression - it takes a real, physical toll on them. It triggers stress and anxiety, which can cause trouble sleeping, bad behavior, or poor academic performance. It can lead to depressions and phobias, making your children more susceptible to developing eating disorders or abusing drugs and alcohol. Chronic, high conflict fighting in front of the kids is bad news.

How to Deal with It

Stay calm and walk away. Take steps to limit the time you interact with your ex. Rather than communicating through phone calls or texts, use an app like TalkingParents. Keep your conversations businesslike and focused. All records of communications in the app are timestamped and unalterable, so the fact that they can be used in court against your co-parent is an incentive for him or her to keep it civil. Try to have someone else with you during drop-offs and pickups, so your ex is less likely to pick a fight. 

3. Your co-parent is never on time.

People who are chronically late are chronically rude. Arriving late is essentially one person saying that his or her time is more valuable than the time of the person waiting for them. Often, a jerkish co-parent uses chronic lateness as a way to punish or control the other parent by ensuring they are uncomfortable and stressed every time they have to meet.

How to Deal with It

Document it. If you and your co-parent have a structured parenting plan that has been approved by the court, sticking to the plan isn’t merely a polite request; it’s the law. You can bring this documentation to your attorney. You might choose to take this information to court, explain to them the impact it is having on your life and your children’s life, and there is the potential that the court may order a change to the visitation or custody schedule.

4. Purposefully makes sure rules are NOT consistent between households

You know your co-parent is working at cross-purposes with you when they purposefully make sure rules between the houses are not compatible. This situation often happens because they are trying to outshine you and be the “cool” parent, or they are making conflicting rules to defy and punish you.

How to Deal with It

Let it go, unless their decisions are putting your children in danger, and then you need to contact your attorney right away. You can only control you, and when your children are with their co-parent, you must let it go. If you think bedtime should be at 9:00 p.m., a jerkish co-parent will make it 11:00 p.m. If you want the kids to eat healthy meals, for sure, a jerkish co-parent will run them through a drive-through for every meal. You won't win this power struggle.

5. ‘Forgets’ to update you

Once again, ‘forgetting’ to share important information with the other parent is most likely a power-play move and one that is not in the best interests of the children. At best, this behavior is just rude and disrespectful. At worse, this behavior interferes with your custodial rights to share parenting responsibilities. 

How to Deal with It

Document the issues that are occurring and share them with your attorney. If you have a structured parenting plan filed with the court, your co-parent’s actions may violate that parenting plan. Make sure your communications to your ex addressing the issues that are occurring are calm but assertive. A judge may be reading these soon.

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