If you have children with your abuser, then you already know how difficult it is to maintain a civil co-parenting status with the abuser. There are difficulties at every turn. As a result of these difficulties, co-parenting with an abusive partner is difficult at best and a nightmare at worst.
What is co-parenting?
Co-parenting suggests that both parents need to remain on civil, respectful terms in order to do what is best for the children. It means having to regularly communicate with the other parent for medical and educational decisions. Co-parenting is a teamwork-based concept.
However, in high conflict situations like with an abuser, the proper co-parenting responsibilities are not taken into consideration. Abusers have no basic comprehension of teamwork and, therefore, cannot work with you in the best interests of the children.
What co-parenting looks like with an abuser
You try your best to work with your abuser, but they inconvenience you or make unreasonable demands at every turn. They may demand a change in visitation days or times, or even outright cancel a scheduled parenting time only to demand a more inconvenient time later.
The abuser may even make every attempt to turn the children against you by painting you in a bad light. This is what author Amy J.L. Baker calls a loyalty conflict.
“When your ex makes disparaging comments about you, impinges on your parenting time, or makes statements that lead your child to believe that she can’t love both her parents, your child may feel pressure to choose your ex and reject you,” Baker writes in her book, Co-Parenting with a Toxic Ex.
The abusers will say and do anything to get the children to side with them. This includes things like making disparaging remarks about you to the children and getting the children to spy on you.
Other obstacles can include interfering with your parenting time by frequently calling or texting you, claiming that the abuser is worried about the children, or that the abuser thought the children may have contacted them and then demand to speak to the children. The abuser may also interfere by making promises to the children – promises that they don’t intend to keep – just to get the children upset while in your care and want to be with the abuser instead. These false promises are merely to prevent the children from enjoying the time they spend with you.
So what are you to do when these obstacles and barriers present themselves? You can’t properly co-parent with an abusive person. In fact, there is no such thing as co-parenting with them. So what do you do?
Parallel parenting is a way for you to parent your children while disengaging from the abuser. It is a way to do what is best for the children while they are in your care. This form of parenting allows for minimal interaction between you and the abuser. You do what you feel is best for the children while they are in your care and vice versa. The primary objective of parallel parenting is to reduce conflict, especially in front of the children.
Parallel parenting is not often suggested in high conflict situations because the high conflict person (i.e. the abuser) continually demonstrates that they cannot remain civil and communicate in a respectful manner. The abuser can even go so far as to ignore mandated court orders that lay out the specifics of the parallel parenting plan. So speak with a legal professional to find out if parallel parenting is right for your situation.
So how else can you navigate co-parenting difficulties?
The following are additional ways to guide you in making the situation a little easier to navigate, particularly in high conflict situations, like in cases of domestic violence. Many family courts mandate one of the below options as a way to keep better track of communications between both parents.
1.Our Family Wizard
Our Family Wizard is an online tool that helps parents to better co-parent. It allows for all aspects of parenting to be monitored online, from parenting time to expenses involved (like education or medical). It is an easy and secure way to document all communications between both parents. There are several options for payment plans and costs involved, including military discounts and scholarships for low-income families.
Coparently is another online tool to use for communicating with the other parent. It also provides an easier way to monitor all aspects of parenting, including scheduling parent time and sharing information about the children. It even has an option for a free 30-day trial to see if this tool is right for you.
- Talking Parents
Talking Parents is an easy-to-use online communication system. It is free to use, but should you need a copy or record of the communications, there is a small fee to download a copy.
Additional tips on navigating the co-parenting difficulties
If none of the above options are available to you, you can choose to keep all communications to emails. Many times, the abuser use emails to perpetuate the abuse by going off on tirades and not even discussing what is relevant to the children. The added benefit to keeping communication strictly to emails, though, is that you can choose to just respond to the parts of the emails that do pertain to the children.
You can also set up pick up and drop off times and do so in a public location. You can even designate a trusted third party to make the visitation exchanges so that you don’t have to even see your abuser.
When you do need to relay information to the abusive partner, do so in a business-like manner. Keep all emotions out of the communication. When you keep all of the above in mind, parenting your children will become a much less stressful venture for both you and the children.
By Jenn Rockefeller