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5 Signs You’re Co-Parenting with a Jerk

What makes a co-parent a jerk and how to respond to their behavior.

Your co-parent acting like a jerk may be the reason why you guys never got together or couldn't stay together in the first place. On the other hand, your co-parent's jerk-like behavior may have only reared its ugly head after an emotionally charged separation or divorce. Whatever the reason, here are 5 telltale signs you might be co-parenting with a real jerk.

People sitting apart on a couch

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

One of the first rules of successful co-parenting is to avoid badmouthing one another in front of the kids and not allowing anyone else to do it either. Your kids love both parents, and they don't want to choose sides. They also don’t want to think they have a "good guy" and a "bad guy" as parents. That might lead them to think that as a product of both parents, they are half-bad too.

How to address badmouthing

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. Take a breath and recollect yourself 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.

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

When parents fight in front of their kids – whether it be verbal insults, shouting and screaming, or physical aggression - it takes a physical toll on them. It triggers stress and anxiety, which can cause trouble sleeping, bad behavior, or poor academic performance. It can also lead to depression and phobias, making your children more susceptible to developing eating disorders or substance abuse issues. Chronic high-conflict fighting in front of the kids is bad for everyone involved.

How to handle potential fights

Stay calm and walk away. Take steps to limit the time you interact with your ex. Rather than communicating through phone calls or in-person conversations, stick to written forms like emails and text messages to have some form of documentation. Whenever you communicate, ensure the topic is relevant to your child and productive to your co-parenting situation. If you have to meet in person for custody exchanges or other events, avoid having face-to-face conversations or reacting to instigation from your ex. Hourglass

3. Your co-parent is never on time

While it's usually understandable to be a bit late now and then, it can feel impossible to handle when your co-parent is repeatedly tardy to custody exchanges or other important events. Even if it's unintentional, your co-parent can make you feel like they don't respect your time. Because it’s crucial to do whatever you can to make your kids' transition days easier, dealing with delayed or missed custody exchanges can cause unnecessary stress for everyone involved.

How to address tardiness

Document everything. If you and your co-parent have a structured parenting plan approved by the court, sticking to it isn't merely a polite request; it's the law. You can bring this documentation of parenting time failures to your attorney. You can take this information to court and explain its impact on your life and the well-being of your kids. The court may support a request to modify your parenting plan depending on its interpretation.

4. Your co-parent doesn't care about consistency between households

Whether they do it intentionally or not, it can feel like your co-parent is working against you when they set incompatible rules between houses. If they enforce more lenient rules than yours, you may hear from your kids that their other parent is the "fun" parent. Even if you do everything you can to be consistent, your efforts can feel fruitless if your co-parent follows different routines, schedules, or parenting styles.

How to deal with inconsistency

Although consistency benefits children and parents in co-parenting situations, it's not always possible. If your children are safe, sometimes you will need to let the inconsistencies go to avoid a power struggle. You can only control your actions, so you need to try and accept the differences when your children are with their other parent. Parallel parenting is a great way to focus on your parenting decisions and what you can control. If you think your co-parent's decisions put your children in danger, you should contact authorities as well as a legal professional.

5. Your co-parent "forgets" to update you

While it can occur genuinely, 'forgetting' to share important information with you could be a power move your co-parent uses that isn’t in your children's best interests. At best, this behavior can come across as rude but is still tolerable in small doses. At worst, this behavior interferes with your custodial rights to share parenting responsibilities. In either case, repetitive failed communication can contribute to a conflicted co-parenting dynamic.

How to cope with poor communication

While poor communication is a hassle, there may be nothing you can do to fix it. If you have a structured parenting plan filed with the court that requires a specific frequency of communication, your co-parent's actions may violate that parenting plan. Ensure any attempts to talk with your ex and address the issues are calm but assertive. Document the problems and your efforts to remedy them so you can share them with your attorney.

Shared parenting can be challenging, even if your co-parent isn't a jerk. For many co-parents, a dedicated communication service helps make things smoother and more organized. TalkingParents provides co-parents with tools to create a more efficient, mutually beneficial situation for themselves and their children. Messages are timestamped and cannot be edited and calls come with recordings and automatically generated transcripts. All interactions within the service are documented to an Unalterable Record that both parents can access if they need to reference potential evidence with an attorney before pursuing a resolution in court.

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