What can you do when one parent refuses to co-parent or even acknowledge you as the other parent?
Sadly, sometimes one parent will refuse to co-parent with the other parent when a marriage, same-sex or de facto relationship ends and worse still even acknowledge the other parent. Not only does the other parent have to deal with this unpleasant and hurtful behaviour, children also will need to manage the grief, distress and upset that comes with this attitude and behaviour.
If you are a parent who finds yourself stuck in a situation where your ex – partner dictates your time and relationship with the children, although this can be frustrating and upsetting, there are strategies and ways of managing this difficult situation.
The following are some suggestions of what you can do to re-build trust and open the lines of communication with a difficult ex-partner.
You will need to keep sight of your commitment to maintaining and sustaining a long term meaningful relationship with your child rather than dwell on what the other parent is doing or get caught in the cycle of blame and upset.
- Invite the other parent for a coffee-meeting in a public place (only if you’re feel ready and comfortable to do so). You will need to let the other parent know in advance what the meeting will be about.It’s important to remain calm and neutral when you send the invitation and what will be most valuable to you is create an atmosphere of curiosity rather than blame or making the other person wrong. The purpose of the coffee-meeting is for you to find out what objections, concerns or difficulties the other parent may have in co-parenting. We know that co-parenting takes a high level of respect and empathetic communication- at this meeting your focus will be on understanding. Even if all you do is gain some knowledge and awareness, then that is step in the right direction.
- Enlist the support of a professional 3rd party (this could be a mediator or child-focused counsellor), and ask them to assist you with finding ways of opening the lines of communication. These professionals are trained to managed difficult people and can offer a way of facilitation the communication. If you and your ex-partner have not been communicating well – let’s face it, most people experiencing divorce or separation have difficulties communicating meaningfully with each other, then get this professional support, it can make an enormous difference to you and your child.
- Back off for a while– it may be that your ex-spouse needs time to adjust to the break-up and is feeling alone and overwhelmed and stressed. Keeping the pressure on and insisting that you get your way or that your ex has to behave in a certain way – will simply intensify the situation. Often, we find that when we stop pushing and persisting, the resistance from our ex-partners mellows and even disappears.
- Get sound legal advice- In any divorce or separation where children are involved and there are communication difficulties, or it appears that one parent may withhold, control or dominate your relationship with a child, it is vital to get sound legal advice from a qualified, specialist Family Lawyer. Although as a parent you have no rights in relation to your relationship with children (you have responsibilities)- it is worthwhile being informed by an expert.Listening to the advice of your best -friend, neighbor, relative or work colleague may sound like an inexpensive and fast option, but often you will receive information that is unhelpful and even incorrect.
The above information is intended as general information. It is not legal advice. Should you require specific legal advice please contact us.
Pamela Cominos is the Principal of Cominos Family Lawyers. She is also the founder and facilitator of The Healthy Divorce Program, where she assists people experiencing a break-up or separation or divorce.