Do you need some advice on how to talk to your ex about co-parenting matters? I am a divorce attorney and co-parent. I advise my clients everyday how to navigate the treacherous waters of co-parenting and I navigate those same waters as a co-parent myself.
Asking, Not Telling. The biggest mistake I see that creates unintentional (and easily avoidable) conflict is when a co-parent tells the other parent about a parenting time change. When you ask the other parent for a parenting time change, you model respect. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard clients say to the other co-parent, “You are missing the point. I don’t care if I take Mary on Tuesday. I mind that you didn’t even consider that I may have plans. Next time ask me, don’t tell me.” In fairness, most times the co-parent engaging in the telling isn’t intentionally being disrespectful; they just forgot to think. I usually hear the response, “I didn’t even occur to me that you might have plans. I am new to this. I don’t know what I am doing yet. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful.”
Accusing. I don’t know about you, but I hate, hate, hate being accused of doing something I didn’t do. If you accuse the other parent of intentionally not telling you that Sam had a soccer game, then you are increasing the drama about soccer two-fold: (1) soccer (which is the necessary part of the conversation), (2) accusation (the unnecessary part of the conversation). What would happen if you had a conversation about why weren’t you told about the soccer game until the day before? You would avoid the dually dramatic conversation about the accusation and the lack of information about soccer.
Colorful Language. Adjective, cussing, name calling. Do you like it when your co-parent calls you names? How about when s/he cusses at you? Do not get me wrong, I can cuss like a sailor (and I quite enjoy it, too), but there is a time and place for everything. When you are communicating with your co-parent, name calling, cussing, and most any colorful language, usually hurts the situation and doesn’t solve the problem you want to discuss. Yes, it temporarily feels good, but does it serve you in the end by solving the problem and not creating more drama in the process? The answer is, no, it doesn’t.
Money. Having any conversation with your co-parent about money is like lighting a match near a gas can. It may not explode, but it has a high chance. Here are my suggestions. Always ask the other party when a good time for them is to talk. You may need to schedule it. If they have impulse control problems and want to discuss it “right now” and you know “right now” is not the time and place, then you need to hold your ground and schedule it. Discussions about money rarely go well when they occur if one party is already agitated, tired, stressed, distracted, or concerned others may hear. I also don’t recommend having a money conversation at the same time you have a parenting time discussion. Why? Parenting time discussions should ALWAYS be about the kids’ best interests. And, unfortunately, money can sway even the best parents’ responses to parenting time requests.
Tit for Tat. I metaphorically roll my eyes when I hear, “Well, he didn’t give me last Tuesday, so I am not going to give him this Thursday.” Denying a parenting time request because the other parent denied your parenting time request is like the chicken and the egg. Who is at fault? Both of you. At some point, one of you needs to stop the tit for tat and begin making decisions that are in your children’s best interests.
Our Family Wizard. If you (or your co-parent) can’t seem to follow these suggestions, and you need a little bit of help, you may consider Our Family Wizard. It’s a program that contains the parenting time discussions within its app and it flags inappropriate responses, including tone, cussing, etc .
Parenting Time Coordination. Finally, if you and your co-parent just cannot communicate and you need someone to intervene, you may consider hiring a parenting time coordinator (PTC). A PTC helps you and your co-parent find solutions to your parenting time concerns and ultimately if you can’t agree, then the PTC makes the decision. This option can be expensive compared to no intervention, but a lot less expensive than repeatedly intervening through court.
Do you need to talk to me about mediating with your co-parent? If so, click here to book a consult with me.
Pro Tip: Most times, having a “why” conversation solves the problem. Why? Because it allows you to first understand the other person’s perspective, which provides you with all the information. Once you have all the information, it is almost universally easier to solve the problem because both parties’ perspective are included in the problem and the solution.
Super-Sized Pro Tip: Ask your ‘why’ questions at the right time without any colorful language or accusations and keep it about the parenting time, not the money.
P.S. I shouldn’t have to say it, but do not have any parenting time conversations while you are drinking or otherwise intoxicated. It never turns-out well.