Co-Parenting With a Difficult Ex: Some Useful Tips

In jurisdictions where joint legal custody is the norm, co-parenting can be a constant struggle. You hope that you will be able to resolve things without fighting but the threat is ever present when you have a difficult parent who wants to be contrary. And remember, you divorced for good reason!

The designations for custody in a joint legal custody situation can be shared by the parties according to the six categories: Civic, cultural, extracurricular, medical, education, and religion.  If you are the primary decision maker, you have the final say in all of the decisions. If you have joint legal custody then you will have the final say in your designated category. In all cases, you are mandated to speak with and consult the other parent first before making any major decision.

You don’t want to get into throwing around phrases like, “I’m the primary decision maker,” but in some cases it’s necessary to put your foot down. As long as you are doing what’s best for your child you can rest easy with your decisions.

Difficulty in co-parenting can cause endless rounds of litigation, conflict resolution, and mediations. It can cause needless expense and stress to resolve what should be minor issues. I have some clients who can’t seem to agree and we have spent years in litigation.

How to Deal With Co-Parenting With a Difficult Ex

You are always going to be asking yourself how to do what’s best for your child when you are met with resistance at every turn.

There are times when you will ask for input, as you are required to do so, and each time you will be met with attacks, questioning, and anger.  This creates a difficult dynamic for you when you know each topic will yield more conflict.  How do you do it?

Take a deep breathe and remind yourself you are focused on what’s best for your child.  Create documentation to support your argument and choices.  Do your best to avoid getting caught up in the hostility and recriminations.

Keep in mind your child should never have to listen to the two you bickering.  If your challenging ex wants to fight in front of the child discourage the conversation and shield your child from any angry exchanges.

My client told me about times when her child was put in the middle by one parent questioning him about what he said. You should never give your child an interrogation about what goes on at the other parents house and what they did or didn’t say.  You want to leave the fighting for the adults.

Some of the most heated conflicts come when the parents can’t agree on important topics like education or medical care of their child. One parent may want to home-school or enrol in private school and the other parent may be adamantly opposed.  If you are the primary custodian, be prepared to give your reasons and have sound judgement because you know you will be under scrutiny.  As far as medical care, I have seen parents go to multiple specialists to try and disprove the other parents point of view.  Again, have medical expertise on your side and make sure you have documented.

One of the best things I can advise is having a therapist or a support system to assist you because it’s going to be very stressful to deal with co-parenting someone who wants to create difficulties, whether they are aware of the issues or not. You have to be strong for your child and be clear on how to be calm and level headed.


A respected Huntsville family law attorney with more than 20 years’ experience, Leigh Daniel is known for her positive attitude and her skills in the courtroom. She prides herself in the care and compassion that she and her team put into every case. Her goal is to instill a sense of confidence in her clients so they know success is on the horizon. As an author, inspirational speaker, coach, and founder of Project Positive Change, Leigh stays focused on the positive impact she can make on every client’s case.