When Your Ex Refuses to Co-parent
June 7, 2022
No matter the reason why your ex refuses to co-parent, there are always steps you can take to reduce conflict and put your child first. This blog covers a few best practices and tips.

The coParenter Team

While some people fall into a stress-free co-parenting relationship and remain friends after a divorce, others may refuse to move beyond past conflict. As a result, the inability to communicate and cooperate can negatively affect their child’s safety and well-being.

Whether it is because of the other parent’s relationship with the kids, their personality, or a history of abuse, you should find a way to maintain a peaceful and effective co-parenting relationship. To ensure your child is raised in a healthy environment, consider the following tips to help navigate your partner’s uncompromising behavior.

Reasons Why Co-Parenting May Not Work

There are many reasons why ex-partners may refuse to co-parent post-divorce, but the main factors leading to toxic co-parenting include:

  1. At least one of the parents happens to be psychopathic or narcissistic.

Taking into account that the prefix “co” means “together, mutual, in common,” co-parenting requires shared effort and intent. In turn, narcissists simply ignore the needs of those around them, as they are unable to understand what other people are feeling. People who have a narcissistic personality disorder have an extremely self-serving, rigid worldview, so co-parenting with these individuals may feel near impossible at times.

  1. One parent has an active issue with alcohol, drugs, or other substance abuse.

In this case, the person’s cognitive abilities are impaired, and their behavior can be erratic. According to a report prepared by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ), children whose parents deal with substance abuse are more likely “to have lower socioeconomic status, increased difficulties in academic and social settings” than children raised by healthy parents. People dealing with addictions typically are not interested in their child’s life, making the whole co-parenting process unbearable.

In addition, some divorced parents can experience difficulties in successful co-parenting due to personal misunderstandings and conflicts. The disagreements can be based on money, jealousy, family business, or domestic violence.

For example, raising children with a perpetrator of domestic violence adds a layer of difficulty and real safety concerns, as these people usually do not control their emotions or behavior. It creates such a stressful, uncooperative environment that there might be no way to have the open communication necessary for co-parenting.

But no matter the reason why the other parent refuses to co-parent, it is important to stick to the best practices dedicated to working together for the benefit of the children. If both co-parents manage to put the past behind them after a divorce, they can raise a happy and mentally-stable child in a conflict-free environment.

Best Practices to Help You Deal with an Uncooperative Co-Parent

Co-parenting with a person who refuses to participate in this process is not easy. Still, you can always reduce conflict and minimize harm to the children by following the tips below.

Determine to What Extent Your Ex Is Refusing to Engage

When determining the breadth of your co-parent’s refusal, make sure to ask yourself several questions. 

Number one, does your ex actually refuse to participate in a co-parenting process? Or maybe you both face occasional conflicts that normally occur after divorce? Try to identify the difference between a person who disagrees on some topics and a truly uncooperative partner.

Number two, is the lack of parental participation consistent across the whole co-parenting board? Or does it only appear in relation to certain topics? For instance, if the other co-parent is actively engaged in the child’s medical care, but won’t discuss holiday schedules, try to figure out the root cause. Then, take appropriate measures to find a compromise in this area.

Make a Parenting Agreement that Fits Both Parties

All non-combative co-parenting relationships start with a strong parenting plan. This document should describe the parenting schedule and other key parenting concerns, such as child support, preferred physical and legal custody, as well as adjustments when the children reach certain ages. Besides, it is essential to include information regarding:

  • Parenting time 
  • Special occasions, such as holidays, school breaks, and vacations
  • The list of actions in case a parent cannot fulfill their parenting time (called the “right of first refusal)
  • The ways a child can communicate with a parent during the other parent’s assigned parenting time

The more things you cover in this paper, the less you will be required to figure out on your own later. If your ex does not follow the custody agreement, the judge may review the court order and modify it to satisfy both co-parents’ expectations. However, the long-term, repeated refusal to follow the terms of the agreement can lead to more serious consequences, such as fines, jail time, and loss of privileges (including custody of the child).

Take into Consideration a “Parallel Parenting” Approach

If your ex doesn’t want to participate in a co-parenting process due to the refusal to communicate with you, consider a parallel parenting technique. This agreement is focused on minimizing interactions between ex-spouses while allowing both of them to spend time with their children. This may be a perfect fit for high-conflict divorces, as it is associated with a variety of benefits, such as:

  1. It conserves relationships between child and parent.
  2. It shields children from conflict.
  3. It reduces stress and allows each parent to heal.

To create a successful parallel parenting plan, make sure to follow several steps:

Step 1: Determine the way you and your partner will split parenting time with children

Step 2: Determine specific pick-up and drop-off times for each parent

Step 3: Determine a neutral location for pick-ups and drop-offs

Step 4: Determine how you will handle potential cancellations

Step 5: Gather all the information from the discussions above and put it in a parenting plan

Establish Healthy Boundaries

As you navigate becoming a good parent outside of a previous romantic relationship, don’t forget to determine your comfort level around others, including your ex. The thing is, people going through a complicated divorce usually can hardly stand to be in the same room together due to a variety of conflicts that they face. In the end, the inability to find a common language can result in the refusal to co-parent.

To improve personal relationships with your ex and find a mutual agreement on child-related issues, outline your boundaries in a clear and respectful manner. Let your ex-husband/wife know what is acceptable in your life and what is not.

For example, inform your partner that you can only communicate with them via email or a parenting portal. If you use an all-in-one communications service for shared parenting, you will be able to prevent your ex-partner from claiming that they “didn’t receive the message.” Also, make sure to block him/her on social media and increase your privacy settings. In fact, the less you communicate face-to-face, the fewer conflicts you will face.

A Final Thought

Co-parenting isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, as each case is unique. If issues persist with your uncooperative co-parent, it can be considered a ground for transitioning joint custody into sole custody. In this case, the court may refer ex-spouses to a parenting coordinator to resolve issues before awarding sole custody to the “good” co-parent and taking away parenting rights from the “bad” co-parent.

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