Not all of us have the luxury of leaving a challenging relationship behind us when we say goodbye. After a divorce, many of us have children that we need to look after; children that have a mother or father that we used to be married to, who we still need to talk to for parenting purposes. Co-parenting in modern days has a range of manifestations. More couples are attending to the “conscious uncoupling” method, where open communication and mutual respect are paramount for both parties. Honestly, however, even in modern times it’s rarely that cut-and-dry. When one party is a little unhinged, refuses to respect the other party, or simply can’t behave appropriately, a mutually respectful co-parenting situation may seem simply impossible.
Communication between divorcees regarding the parenting and custody arrangements of their children can be as open and friendly or as closed as is necessary, depending on the degree of respect and cordiality between parties. If you’re like some parents, and you’re trying to handle a situation with a belligerent ex, here are some ways that you can set up a situation for your family that will cut down on the drama. The goal here is not necessarily to keep your ex from seeing your kids, but to whittle down the excessive chaos; to set up a structure that does not allow for nonsense.
- Consider a Restraining Order.
La. R.S. 9:372.1 was put in place specifically for divorcing couples to prevent harassment. If you find yourself in a predicament where your ex is taking out his personal grievances on you or your children, your attorney may advise you to look into this type of restraining order:
"In a proceeding for divorce, a court may grant an injunction prohibiting a spouse from harassing the other spouse."
When the legal action is taken, it can act as a “stop sign” for the unreasonable ex. This restraining order is temporary and, once you receive and attend your court date, a more permanent injunction may be made at that time.
2. Put co-parenting guidelines into your custody agreement.
Being specific and clear with your expectations is not only a great practice in life in general, but it’s also a relevant and helpful practice when it comes to custody proceedings.
It’s completely reasonable to write out specific expectations with your lawyer to prohibit hostile behavior around yourself and your children. Once you’re in court, you can ask to have these expectations written into your custody agreement. For example, you may want to explicitly state that you and your ex can only have conversations regarding co-parenting and/or your custody arrangement. You may even decide to limit communication between you and your ex to text messages or emails.
One tool many families find useful in this scenario is the Our Family Wizard app, which shares schedules, communications, and expenses between exes following a divorce. Whether you decide to take this route where all communication is monitored, or you simply wish that your ex not speak poorly about you to the children, all of those requests can be put into a legally-binding agreement.
3. If all else fails, let the court handle it.
Don’t think that your ex can simply look at all of this legal action and then decide to ignore it. If your ex violates the child custody order, they may be held in contempt of court. In the event of the violation of an order, that person may be fined, and you can seek attorney’s fees and costs. The violating party may also be asked to attend parenting courses or anger management courses as a result as well.