Your ex is supposed to pick up your son for soccer practice and they are late — again. You’re starting to wonder if their tardiness is more than just poor time management. Maybe they are doing it on purpose, either out of apathy or a sense of revenge. This situation is stressful for a divorced parent, especially as their child looks to them for answers about how to feel and what to do next. For divorced people who agreed to co-parent their child, these lapses feel even more flagrant.
The Role of Co-Parenting in Divorce Proceedings
When couples with children go through a divorce, one crucial aspect they must address is how they will co-parent moving forward. In the state of Illinois, this is not just a suggestion, but a legal requirement. During the divorce process, parents are obligated to establish a co-parenting plan that will determine the allocation of parental responsibilities and decision-making power. The well-being of the child is at the forefront of this plan and must be prioritized accordingly.
When conducted in the spirit of the agreement, co-parenting offers a strong, healthy platform for raising a child as a divorced couple. However, if one parent fails to hold up their side of the arrangement the relationship can break down.
Signs You’re in a Difficult Co-Parenting Situation
When one parent violates their commitment to actively co-parent their child, it can cause significant frustration for the other parent. This may result in one parent bearing the brunt of parental responsibilities or being excluded from decision-making in defiance of a court order.Failure to follow a consistent co-parenting plan is also disruptive for the child or children involved. All children rely on routine to help them regulate their emotions, and it can be especially damaging to remove predictability from a child whose life has already been disrupted by divorce.
Uncooperative co-parenting actions are often chronic behaviors and can take many forms. First and most importantly, if you think your ex-spouse is neglectful or abusive of your children, seek legal help immediately. Regardless of any parental agreement, no parent has the right to hurt their children or treat them negligently.
Other behaviors include:
- Repeatedly picking up children late for visitation time, school drop-off, medical appointments or recreational activities
- Repeatedly dropping off children late at the other parent’s home or outside of agreed-upon times
- Repeatedly canceling parental time with their child
- Not caring for children when in their care
- Denying financial responsibilities related to children
- Not communicating in a timely manner with the other parent, or not communicating at all
- Being deliberately disagreeable with decision making, such as refusing to enroll children in after school activities
- Changing their place of residence without informing the other parent
Legal Considerations for Uncooperative Co-Parenting
If your ex-spouse is not upholding your co-parenting agreement, first consider whether the behavior breaches your legal parental agreement. While all these actions feel bothersome and hurtful, not all of them may violate the parenting agreement you signed as part of your divorce.
In cases when the conduct does violate your parenting agreement, your ex-spouse could face legal consequences if you brought the issue to the court’s attention. In Illinois, numerous remedies can be available for a parent who has violated a Court Order.
Bringing the issue of an uncooperative co-parent to court involves preparing documents to prove your case to the judge. You’ll need to show that your ex-spouse’s conduct exceeds typical forgetfulness, for example, and that it rises to a certain level of severity. Some situations may require these extreme measures, which undoubtedly will forever alter your relationship with your ex-spouse, and in some instances even the relationship between them and your child. Before reaching this level of action, however, you can choose to resolve the situation through communication.
Tips for Dealing with an Uncooperative Co-Parent
People entering into co-parenting agreements obviously started with aspirations of being able to work within the system to which they consented. Divorce can engender some of the harshest discord of a person’s life, so it’s remarkable that two parents can settle on a co-parenting agreement in the first place. Give your co-parent the benefit of the doubt that he or she isn’t trying to sabotage the situation but consider that some other issue is at play. Divorce dramatically changes a person’s life, and not everyone has the same aptitude for adjusting to new schedules and “rules.”
Improving tardiness or other co-parenting issues can be resolved with practical solutions. For instance, rescheduling appointments may help alleviate tardiness. If your co-parent’s cupboards are always bare, help them set up a grocery delivery service. For poor communicators, weekly check-in calls or text templates can be suggested. Negative feelings between ex-spouses may not be the direct cause of co-parenting difficulties. However, these emotions may hinder conflict resolution. It’s important to focus on solutions that benefit the children, rather than personal feelings. Counseling can also assist in managing issues between co-parents. A therapist can act as an unbiased third-party and help individuals separate their emotions from effective co-parenting strategies.
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