Co-parenting with a toxic former spouse can be hard work

Child custody decisions in California and around the country are made based on the best interests of the child. There was a time when following this doctrine usually led to mothers being awarded primary custody. However, shared custody and co-parenting arrangements have now become more common. Family law judges have warmed to co-parenting because research has shown that children suffer less emotional trauma following a divorce when they can spend time with both of their parents, but making these arrangements work is sometimes extremely challenging.

Co-parenting can be particularly difficult when one of the parents is selfish, combative or harbors lingering animosity toward their former partner. Custody exchanges are often tense affairs in these situations, and parents who are unable to remain calm in the face of provocation may find themselves drawn into bitter arguments. When constant feuding between divorced parents makes children anxious and apprehensive, it may be prudent to develop a more pragmatic co-parenting approach.

Anticipating provocation and vowing to remain calm and professional can avoid arguments and set an example for children. Contact with toxic former spouses should be limited to email exchanges. Furthermore, it's better to focus solely on parenting matters such as social activities, education and health care. It is also prudent to plan custody exchanges carefully to minimize interaction with a difficult former spouse.

When even careful planning and a diplomatic approach are not enough to keep co-parenting arrangements amicable, it may be wise to consider alternative options. Co-parenting could also be inappropriate when a parent develops substance abuse problems, is emotionally unstable or associates with criminals or other unsavory individuals. In these situations, a family law attorney with experience in divorce cases may argue in court that the child custody arrangement in place no longer serves the child's best interests and should be modified.

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