Co-Parenting With a Toxic Ex

There’s a situation we all dread yet few of us ever imagine ending up in when we get into a relationship or have children: co-parenting with a toxic ex. Yet if you’ve found yourself in this unfortunate scenario, there are ways to navigate it while maintaining your sanity and still giving your child(ren) the opportunity to spend time with both parents.

Let’s look at three of the most useful strategies: avoiding negativity, offering consistency, and trying mediation.

Avoid Slipping Into Negativity

Just because you feel your ex is toxic, it doesn’t mean that you have to fall into a toxic pattern too. After all, your number one priority in this unenviable situation should be looking after your child’s mental health — and hearing the two adults they love most talking negatively about each other is highly damaging for a child. It could affect them for the rest of their life.

As tempting as it might be to make a few snide remarks here and there about your ex-partner, you have to put the best interests of your child(ren) first. Even if you suspect or know your ex is talking negatively about you, keep your language neutral and civil when your child is present, and avoid showing signs of anger or hurt.

If your child asks why you split up, give a vague answer and avoid casting blame.

Give Your Child Consistency

Admittedly, avoiding negativity won’t improve the co-parenting situation itself — but here’s something that will.

When we’re young, we need consistency, boundaries, and stability so we can find our feet. Unfortunately, co-parenting throws a spanner in the works by giving a child two separate households that will likely have different ways of doing things. You can lighten the load by asking your ex what their household rules are (e.g., bedtimes), so the differences between the two homes aren’t quite so stark.

Also, try to be consistent about when and how often your child stays at each house.

Depending on how toxic your ex is, they might try to purposely bring up rules or plans they know you’d be uncomfortable with, but they’re unlikely to deny you any information, so you’ll have something to work with.

Consider Mediation

If you’ve given the strategies above your best shot and you still feel like your co-parenting situation is turning into a nightmare, consider going through mediation. This legal process involves a qualified professional, but unlike court trials, there isn’t a “winner” or “loser.”

Mediation is simply about finding a mutually beneficial solution and ensuring that everyone feels heard. While the two parties caught up in a situation often find it difficult to reach common ground, a third-party and trained mediator is often able to help achieve this.

Ready to Try Mediation?

Co-parenting with a toxic ex is an all-consuming process that can drain the life out of you and leave you feeling hopeless. But no matter what you’re going through, there’s a good chance mediation will help you achieve the outcome you want.

For an empathetic yet highly-qualified mediator, consider working with Donita King. She’s a lawyer-mediator who has experience working with divorced or separated couples to help them find solutions. To find out more about how she can help you, contact her law offices today.

Donita King

Ms. King is a member of the Virginia, Pennsylvania, and D.C. State Bars. She also serves as a University of Richmond School of Law Adjunct Professor of Mediation. She previously served on the Virginia Bar Association Joint ADR Council (2015 Chair), and served for several years on the Governor of Virginia’s Interagency Dispute Resolution Council. Ms. King currently serves as a board member of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board by appointment of the Virginia Supreme Court and has been active with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Women in Business as well. Se habla espanol.

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