Co-Parenting with a Toxic Ex
Florida law favors shared parental responsibility after a divorce with minor children. Judges frown on parents who try to alienate one parent from another. Florida Statute §61.13 acknowledges that the parent who tries to facilitate a relationship with the other acts in the best interest of the child.
Learning to co-parent with your former spouse may be one of life’s most difficult
tasks. If you feel you are losing your child to a “toxic”ex,” - who tries to turn the children
against you- the task becomes all the more challenging.
If you recognize a toxic ex, try to focus on strengthening your own bond with the
children. That tends to immunize them against your former spouse’s efforts to turn
them against you. Practice respectful communication and learn to listen even when
what the kids are saying is hard to hear. Children who are drawn into loyalty conflicts
tend to treat one parent very badly. Essentially, they have been given permission by the
one parent to break the other’s heart. Conflicted kids often feel guilty later about taking
sides. On some level children naturally desire the love and attention of both parents.
Devoting extra time and attention to a struggling child who may be acting out and
setting reasonable but firm limits is key. Discipline yourself to postpone reacting when
a child says things like “Mommy says the you’re a deadbeat.” Often the child has no
idea what that means and is looking for an explanation.
If you can take the high road and not be drawn into the cycle of criticizing the
other parent in response, you will be on the side of the law and your children will benefit
in the long run. There are lots of resources out there for parents who want to improve
their listening and coping skills. Developing a few disciplined parenting strategies may
help you to avoid ongoing litigation, save on attorney’s fees and even enable you to get
a good night’s sleep. I often tell my clients that if a child has one great parent- it will
make all the difference in the world- and that parent may have to be you.
Our experienced family law attorneys at Rice & Rose are available for consultations by appointment on custody matters. Please give us a call if you have questions.
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