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Parallel parenting with an angry, hostile ex-spouse

Co-parenting with your ex-spouse doesn’t seem to be working. They simply can’t seem to put aside their bitterness and anger to focus on anything but themselves. Every conversation becomes a battle, and the hostility is overwhelming.

Maybe it’s time to give up on co-parenting altogether. Experts say that “parallel parenting” can help you regain some control of an otherwise untenable situation. Here’s how it works:

Accept the situation for what it is

In other words: Stop beating your head into a wall. Your ex-spouse is so intent on painting you as “the bad guy” in every situation that they’re never going to respond reasonably to anything you say or do. Stop trying to explain or justify yourself because it’s wasted effort.

Similarly, accept that you can’t model a good working parental relationship for your children. Your ex-spouse would have to be willing to cooperate, and that isn’t going to happen.

Stop all unnecessary communication with your ex

Eliminate phone conversations and face-to-face meetings entirely. Insist on communicating only by text or email. Respond to nothing that isn’t essential information. For example, if you communicate that you’ll be five minutes late to pick up the kids, and your ex starts to berate you via text messages, ignore them all. You’ve communicated the only important information your ex needs to know already.

Respond the same way to every threat

A hostile ex may try to frighten you with frequent threats of legal action, including a renewed custody battle. Do not respond in any way except to refer your ex to your attorney. That insulates you from threats that are largely fiction.

You can also put limits on your communication. If your ex-spouse becomes abusive in their emails or texts, you can cut off contact entirely unless you initiate it.

Parallel parenting isn’t ideal, but it can reduce the daily stress you face. If your ex-spouse’s behavior is negatively affecting your children, however, it may be time to seek a modification of custody.