How to communicate with a difficult co-parent

Co-parenting can be a minefield when you can communicate with your ex, but when you don’t get on, or harbour ill-feelings, it can become unbearable. There are many studies extolling the virtues of good communication with an ex, especially when there are children involved, because it offers families the best chance of creating a stable environment. But getting there comes with its challenges.

Learning how to communicate productively is likely to make co-parenting a more bearable and less stressful process. This article discusses how you can work with your ex to foster a safe, loving, and nurturing atmosphere for everyone.

What can I include in our co-parenting communication rules?

Think about setting up rules for communication, timings, best practices, and guidelines on how to treat each other. Encourage focus on caring for your children rather than scoring points, which will naturally minimise miscommunication and arguments, and try coming up with rules that you both feel comfortable accepting. Here are some rules to use as a starting point for your own list.

  • Whenever you speak to one another, try to stay calm and measured in your responses.
  • Keep language straightforward and on topic. Avoid naming calling, passive aggressive comments/gestures, sarcasm, swearing, or anything else that is inappropriate.
  • Focus solely on child related issues and needs that are upcoming or current.
  • Avoid placing blame for mistakes/issues on your ex.
  • If a problem or misunderstanding arises, approach it as a team and try to come up with solutions that you are both happy with.

How should I communicate with my co-parent?

You will probably have your own preferences for communication, and it is up to you and your ex to decide which method or style works best for you and your children. Here are some commonly used methods of communication:

  • In person – speaking face-to-face with your ex.
  • Texting – this works well for fast communication, but can sometimes lead to misunderstandings, particularly when trying to resolve an issue.
  • Email – this is a good for both short and long-term communication, and aids speedy sharing of documents such as school reports or medical letters. Emails should always have a clear subject line and focus on the issue at hand.
  • Phone calls – tone and intentions can be conveyed easily over the phone and it is a great way to resolve issues that cannot be dealt with in person or via text or email.
  • Shared calendar – setting up a shared calendar where you can both organise and set reminders for child related matters, appointments, etc. can really help to prevent problems occurring. This way, everyone knows where they should be, what they are doing, and when.

It is always best to be polite and business-like when communicating with a co-parent rather than reactionary and emotional. Whilst you may still be frustrated or upset with your ex, constantly revisiting the reasons for a break-up or their perceived shortcomings is stressful, and will make you dread your next interaction.

How often should co-parents communicate with each other?

The answer here depends on what works best for you, your co-parent, and the children. You could consider setting up a communication schedule for child related matters, and set out solutions for emergency situations, big decisions, and things that have a deadline. Generally, it is best to update each other as soon as you can with any new information regarding school, GP, or after each parental visit/contact.


Communicating with a harmful co-parent

If the situation ever becomes unsafe or endangers your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing, it is probably best to contact a solicitor to help you manage the situation, even if that means taking court action.

What issues/topics do we need to cover when co-parenting?

You may want to include:

  • Feeding and eating notes, what they ate and at what time.
  • Sleeping/nap notes.
  • Behaviour changes and mood.
  • Any illnesses or medicines given.
  • General and specific parenting approaches (e.g. bedtime, screen time, rules)
  • School updates.
  • Whether homework was completed/set.
  • GP/dentist updates.
  • Personal items with the child.
  • Anything that one parent wishes to discuss with the other and the level of urgency.

If you are having issues coming to agreements with your ex and you feel you need legal advice to formalise matters, contact specialist family solicitor Maria Coster of Stowe Family Law. Maria has an excellent record in child law matters as well as being involved in a number of complex cases involving issues such as domestic violence, substance misuse, and parental alienation.

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