Tips for Successful Coparenting With a Difficult Ex-Spouse

When you have children, going through a divorce may present extra challenges. In addition to going through divorce proceedings, you and your ex must come to custody and coparenting agreements. If your ex is argumentative or refuses to cooperate, trying to coparent with them can feel frustrating and stressful. This guide details essential tips for successfully coparenting with a difficult ex-spouse. 

Work With Professionals

In some cases, coparents require assistance from professionals such as:

  • Family law attorneys
  • Parenting coordinators
  • Therapists

These professionals can provide guidance and support in navigating communication and coparenting challenges.

Hire an Attorney

A family law attorney thoroughly understands your state’s laws pertaining to child custody, child support payments, and divorce. Hiring an attorney in the early stages of your custody case may help preserve your rights. Additionally, when you work with an attorney, you’ll have someone you can trust for legal advice.

Having a “difficult ex” can mean something different for everyone. However, sometimes, that challenge is their refusal to cooperate with the coparenting plan. For example, you may have to file for Contempt of Court if your ex fails to pick up the children, drop them off, or make child support payments. Filing this charge becomes more efficient if you have a pre-established relationship with a lawyer. 

Consider a Parenting Coordinator 

If you and your coparent have high levels of interpersonal conflict, a parenting coordinator decision maker (PCDM) can serve as a mediator and neutral third party between you and your ex. This professional can assist in negotiating between you and your ex and developing parenting strategies as they strive to prioritize your child’s well-being.

Seek Out Counseling

Going through a divorce and child custody case are two major changes to your life, and a counselor can guide you through the emotions you experience. 

A therapist can teach you essential coping methods to help you be emotionally resilient when your ex is hard to deal with. Everyday efforts like deep-breathing exercises, meditation, and journaling are often good first steps toward achieving emotional resilience. By remaining grounded, you can react more calmly to your ex and hopefully diffuse a challenging situation. 

Put Your Child First

A young mother standing outside on a beautiful, sunny day as she happily holds her giggling little girl.

During custody matters, judges are tasked with putting the child’s best interest first; this approach to coparenting may make it easier to work with your ex. Putting your child first means remaining consistent, establishing a parenting style, and creating or requesting a legal parenting plan that you believe is in your child’s best interests.

Remain Consistent 

The divorce will be a major change for you, your ex, and your children. Strive to keep your child’s current schedule as consistent as possible to lessen the impact on their life. Maintaining your child’s school schedule, extracurricular activities, and specific routines gives them a sense of stability and security.

Discuss Parenting Styles

Determine what values and rules you want to enforce for your child, and then discuss them with your ex. By agreeing on a parenting style, you can present a united front to your children, even if you are no longer together. 

You and your ex should have similar rules in terms of the following child-rearing principles:

  • Daily routine
  • Behavior expectations
  • Discipline

Maintaining a similar structure in both households makes it easier for children to know what to expect. 

For example, if you have a teenager with a 10:00 p.m. curfew on weekend nights with friends, ensure this rule exists in both households. This way, the teen doesn’t experience a “good cop/bad cop” dynamic if one parent is strict while the other is lenient. 

However, it is important to understand that when parents separate, each household is likely to have variation in expectations or rules, and that accepting the differences between your two households is often a realistic outcome for separated parents and their children.

Agree to a Parenting Plan

Parenting time refers to who the child spends time with and when, while decision-making involves who makes important decisions for the child. It’s important to agree on a parenting plan that outlines physical and legal custody to avoid any confusion or conflict in the future.

In addition to parenting time, your parenting plan should detail how you’ll communicate and handle changes to your child’s life. For instance, if your child wants to join an extracurricular activity, determine how you and your ex will handle the situation. 

Focus on Communication

A mother and father sitting in a family therapist’s office with their child as they work through their co-parenting dynamic.

Effective communication is the lifeblood of any type of parenting and focusing on it is a vital tip for coparenting with a difficult ex. You and your ex no longer live together, so you can’t see what’s going on with your child in their home. During your custody case, decide how to communicate, when, and what boundaries there may be. 

Listen to Your Coparent

It isn’t always easy to listen to someone who left us with emotional wounds, but you both share a child. There may be times when your ex has ideas for helping your children through difficult times as each child grows up. 

Children experience numerous changes and encounter challenges as they grow up. Some struggle with school classes, while others outgrow friendships. Listen to your coparent if they vocalize concern for your child so you can support your child as a united front. 

Pro Tip

You and your ex may no longer be a couple or friends, but you are parents. Viewing your ex as a coworker or teammate may make it easier to provide your child with the best support, even if you are not afforded the same respect in return.

Establish Boundaries

When you coparent with a difficult ex, you most likely want to keep communication to a minimum, and creating boundaries helps with this. Together, you two can determine what you can and cannot say to one another. 

For example, you may decide that questions about work, friends, or relatives are too personal; however, you may agree that you should disclose all information about your child.

If you and your ex struggle to communicate, consider working with a counselor who specializes in divorce and coparenting. This professional can help establish healthy boundaries and methods for communicating. Additionally, the use of a coparenting application can be an effective tool to increase communication.

Understand Your Child’s Perspective

Put yourself in your child’s position to ensure your efforts keep their best interests at heart. How would your child feel if they heard you complaining about your ex? Likewise, how would they view you two arguing in front of them? Divorce is difficult for children, and they don’t like to see their parents fighting.

When children see their parents arguing or speaking poorly of one another, they may feel anxiety, guilt, confusion, or frustration. As a parent, you know that caring for your child and their emotional well-being is one of your top priorities, and this includes shielding them from the conflict. 

Contact Jones Law Firm, PC

Jones Law Firm, PC, has a skilled team of family law attorneys who understand Colorado’s legal system as it pertains to family law. Our attorneys take a personal interest in every case, and we work as a unit to help our clients. If you live in Denver, CO, or the surrounding area and need a family law attorney, please reach out to us. Our Denver child custody attorneys understand the nuances of child custody laws and will advocate for your best interest.


The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

Our team includes attorneys licensed to practice in multiple states including April D. Jones in California, Patrick G. Barkman in Texas, the Cherokee Nation, the Northern District of Texas, and the District of Colorado (United States Court of Appeals 10th and 5th Circuit).