by Attorney Tana Landau
If you are were in a relationship where you experienced domestic violence, regardless of whether it was physical, emotional, or verbal, it is likely you deal with some ongoing anxieties relating to that trauma. But if you have a child with an abusive partner, the nightmare doesn’t always end when the divorce papers are signed. If your abusive ex is making co-parenting difficult, follow
these tips to keep yourself healthy and safe.
Keep your contact to a minimum. Keep necessary communications businesslike and child focused. Do not engage if there are communications outside that scope. If the conversations turn ugly or your ex tries to escalate things into a fight, end the communication as quickly as possible. Consider using one of the many coparenting apps that are available such as Our Family Wizard or Talking Parents to keep a record of your communications. Do not name call, insult, or threaten your abuser, especially in the presence of your child. Be sure to model compassion, empathy, and forgiveness. Showing respect to your co-parent is especially important for your child, who loves both their parents.
Do not have any. Since an abuser thrives on control, you cannot expect them to work with you. Even in a coparenting situation where neither parent was an abuser, routines and rules with differ between homes. This is okay if both parents are acting in the best interest of their children. Learn to accept it and the fact that you cannot control the other parent. Do not engage your abuser in a power struggle or try to micromanage what they do in their home. However, if you feel your child is in physical or emotional danger, then you should intervene immediately.
If you find yourself having to co-parent with an abuser, one of the most helpful steps you can take is having a very specific and detailed parenting plan. Most parenting plans will define who has the child on which days of the week, but also make sure that exchanges are defined, where they will take place (while school is in session and when it is out), who picks up, who drops off, and at what time. Also ensure that you have a very specific holiday schedule. The more detailed your parenting plan is, the less room there is for interpretation and conflict.
Build a support network. Don’t let co-parenting with an abuser make you feel like you are still trapped in the abusive relationship. Reach out to counselors, therapists, domestic violence advocates, and family and friends if you’re feeling trapped. These people will be important in keeping you confident in yourself and your decision-making abilities.
Even though you left the relationship, an abuser will continue to say things to you and attempt to manipulate you in losing confidence in yourself through their co-parenting. While you cannot control them, you have control over your own happiness!