Tips for Dealing with a Toxic Ex-Spouse
after a Divorce with Children
Divorce may offer a way to begin a new life free of an emotionally distant, unpleasant, abusive, or “toxic” spouse. If you have children, though, that freedom is qualified. Even after the divorce papers have been signed, you will still have to co-parent with your ex, no matter how bitter the divorce.
Divorce Decree Tips for Parenting Time & Visitation
Divorce attorneys suggest that the pick-up and drop-off times should be clearly specified, even to the minute. To be fair (and realistic), grace periods should be built into the agreement in the event that someone runs late. In very contentious divorces, drop-offs and pick-ups may need to occur in public, neutral locations, or in front of a neutral witness. A well-crafted divorce agreement will contain clear guidelines that you agree to in advance, and will form a foundation for peaceful hand-offs.
Similarly, extracurricular activities and school events can create tension between ex-spouses. Who takes the children to play practices, sports events, music lessons, play dates and birthday parties? Clear communication is vital here. Both you and your ex must be notified of events in plenty of time to arrange for transportation and other important details (are uniforms or special clothing required, who will purchase birthday presents, etc.). Be sure your ex has copies of school calendars, sports schedules, contact information for parents of your children’s friends, and whatever else you yourself would want to have if the roles were reversed.
Many extracurricular activities require added expense for lessons, costumes, uniforms, or equipment. Divorce agreements should clearly spell out a fair way of dealing with these costs to avoid misunderstandings.
Communication Tips after the Divorce
In most divorces, communication is a significant problem. Even simple subjects can become powder kegs that ignite quickly. A divorce attorney can help by negotiating a settlement agreement that clearly spells out details that could become disputes otherwise. Communicating with a toxic ex may best be done in writing through emails or text messages. This gives you the opportunity to think about what you are saying, and to make appropriate edits before hitting the send button. It also offers a record of what was actually said, that would not be possible in face-to-face or telephone conversations.
Not Putting the Children in the Middle of Disputes
It is important that you and your ex avoid putting the children in the middle of your ongoing battles. The children should be kept away from the details of the divorce as much as possible. It is important for children to maintain a healthy relationship with both of you, and undercutting your ex or seeking to get the children on your side can be very damaging (and will likely backfire). It is critical to remember that your children are innocent victims of the divorce. Although it may be difficult, try to step back and remember that they need to be able to love each parent unconditionally.
Legal Measures for Dealing with a Difficult Spouse after Divorce
Despite your best efforts, sometimes things get so contentious that the court may need to step in. An intermediate step is to voluntarily enter into mediation to help resolve issues without the need to go to court. Some judges will appoint a therapist or attorney to assist with communications, parenting time/visitation schedules and other disputes. In the most extreme cases, the court may even appoint a legal guardian (a Guardian ad Litem) to protect the rights of the children.
A well-crafted divorce or settlement agreement can go a long way to keeping some peace between you and your ex. Your divorce attorney has a good deal of experience knowing what issues may arise, and will negotiate an agreement that will benefit both you and your children.