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Happy Mother's Day


Book: Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex



In high-conflict divorces, parents get to a point when they just can not cooperate on the most basic things in life, especially when in comes to jointly supporting their children. Rather than continuing to work proactively to find a way to integrate parenting, they chose an alternative method known as “parallel parenting” with the hopes that this would provide a healthier environment for the children.


Usually couples know it when they see it. The most common situations are:

  • when dealing with a spouse who displays traits of narcissism,

  • when one partner has been betrayed sexually due to an affair or sex addiction,

  • when other forms of addiction have been present such as gambling or addiction,

  • when children have been drawn into the middle of a conflict by one or both spouses, and 

  • when the parents are unable to communicate in a civil and constructive manner.


The basic premise of parallel parenting is that it allows each parent to separately choose how to handle their daily parenting duties during their time with the children.


This childcare strategy allows:

  • both partners to play an essential part in their children’s life with minimal interactions with each other, and

  • parents to choose how to raise their child within their household.


Collaboration between parents is limited to major decisions, the most important of which is the children’s medical care.


A parallel parenting plan should be as specific and detailed as possible since the goal is to limit communication and contact between former spouses.


The benefits of this approach is:


  • it protects children’s relationships with both parents, 

  • shields them from any parental arguments and conflict, and

  • shows the child that both parents can resist interfering with the other partner even if they can not maintain a relationship.  


Our experience is that that children are harmed more by watching their parents fight than the content of the fight itself.


The parallel parenting process seems simple but rarely is executed smoothly in practice. The process should be built on the following principles:

  • The couple should attempt to develop a written parallel parenting plan and review any disagreements with your therapist to reach an agreement. Also, bring conflicts to your therapist and avoid the adversarial path of the legal system.

  • Keep communication with your former spouse at a minimum in writing (via emails, text messages) to avoid personal interactions.. Keep emails short and to the point. No extra commentary is needed. 

  • All contact with your ex-partner should be business-like and focused solely on your children. Other issues should not be intermingled. 

  • On your custodial day, reach out to the other parent only for an emergency.

  • Do not attend child-related activities on non-custodial days.

  • Rotate attendance of school conferences or other extracurricular events or only attend on custodial days.

  • If anything needs to be litigated, inform the other party and your therapist first. Cease discussing that matter in therapy.


Please know that your efforts to find a workable parenting plan will pay huge dividends for the long-term wellbeing of your children. We would be honored to help you with these efforts.

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