Your ex is supposed to pick up your son for soccer practice and he’s late — again. You’re starting to wonder if his tardiness is more than just poor time management. He might be 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.
Co-parenting after divorce
When couples with children divorce, they must decide how they’ll work together in parenting moving forward. This determination is related to the legal question of allocation of parental responsibilities in Illinois, and their parenting agreement will indicate how much decision-making power each person retains.
When conducted in the spirit of the agreement, co-parenting offers a strong, healthy platform for raising a child as a divorced couple. The relationship can break down, however, if one parent fails to hold up their side of the arrangement.
If one person violates the legal or personal commitment, they made to actively co-parent their child, it can be frustrating for the other parent. He or she may shoulder the bulk of parental duties or conversely be left out of decision-making contrary to 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 afterschool activities
● Changing their place of residence without informing the other parent
Uncooperative co-parent: Is it a legal violation?
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.
Communicate 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.”
Fixing a tardiness problem could be as simple as rescheduling. If your co-parent’s cupboards are always bare, help them set up a grocery delivery service. Some people are poor communicators, so suggest a weekly check-in call or a text template to follow. Even if your ex-spouse harbors resentment toward you, their negative feelings may not be the reason they’re falling short as a co-parent. However, those feelings could be the reason for not knowing how to resolve co-parent problems. To avoid introducing your personal feelings, focus conversations on solutions that improve the situation for your children. Counseling often helps in managing issues or personal disputes between co-parents. A trained therapist acting as a caring third-party can help each person separate how they feel about their ex-spouse from what they need to be a successful co-parent.
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