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Co-parenting after a high-conflict divorce

Many divorced parents in Washington struggle with the new realities of co-parenting. It can be emotionally draining and logistically difficult to go from being with the kids 100% of the time to sharing them with a former partner. While these challenges can emerge even in amicable divorce situations, the situation can be much worse in a high-conflict divorce. This is especially true when one of the partners is toxic, narcissistic or otherwise disruptive, even if their behavior does not rise to the level of child abuse or neglect. Despite the personal conflicts that remain, parents have a responsibility to put the best interests of their children first.

There are a few things that can help divorced parents navigate a difficult child custody situation more effectively. The support of friends or a therapist can be critical, and a parent can take the time to wait and respond thoughtfully rather than immediately replying to a former spouse with an emotional response. In both cases, parents should be careful to confide in other adults rather than the children. Even when the other parent is behaving badly, one parent should not prompt the kids to choose a side against the other.

Parents can also benefit from drawing strong boundaries around their communication, talking about the kids and scheduling only while excluding personal conversations. Sharing kids is one reason people do not block their former partners on social media, but in a difficult situation, parents may be better off blocking each other and using a dedicated parenting app to communicate.

In some cases, parents may need to turn again to family court to deal with repeated interference in the parent-child relationship or violations of the child custody order and visitation schedule. A family law attorney may help a parent navigate the system responsibly and seek a child custody modification.

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