familyIf you and your ex could get along perfectly well, you probably wouldn’t have needed a divorce in the first place. But once the divorce is over being able to co-parent with your ex is crucial to moving forward for you and your children. What happens if your ex is unreasonable or vindictive and you just can’t get along?

Here are some strategies for co-parenting in less than ideal relationships:

  1. Avoid using the children as tools for revenge – sometimes parents, maybe even without realizing it, withhold the other parent’s access to the child out of anger about the personal relationship. This is always a bad idea. The children usually know the real deal, so it is just making the bad actor parent look even worse to the children. In responding to the revenge parenting, it is best to respond with a positive attitude at all times, even go to the extreme in exuding positivity. For example, if one parent feigns a child’s illness to withhold access, reply “Thank you for letting me know so I can be prepared. I will have soup ready at home when we get there.”
  2. Don’t give the other parent ammunition – Be reliable, be on time, and bite your tongue. Don’t speak negatively in front of the children or to the children about your ex. If switching schedules triggers conflict, then do everything you can do stick to the written schedule without changes.
  3. Don’t use the children as messengers – as much as you don’t want to have direct communication with your ex that might lead to conflict, don’t put your children in that position either. Keep adult conversations between the adults.
  4. Consider using a third party to facilitate communication – If communication with your ex is impossible, try getting a family member or friend to run interference. Or ask your attorney to have a Parent Facilitator appointed to be the go between for communication about important issues.
  5. Reduce direct contact with your ex – Once your custody orders are in place, there should be very little need for direct communication with your ex unless there is a problem with the children. The custody orders spell out the details of who has the children when. If there’s a need for doctor visit or exchange of medicine, that communication can occur via text or email. And, stay on point. A program/app called Our Family Wizard is a good way to keep a record of all communication between you in a format that can easily be read by a judge or parent facilitator as well.
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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.