It is rarely easy to co-parent and raise children with a person that you used to be married to. The history of a failed relationship, disagreements about how to best raise your kids, and the normal frustrations that come with having to work with another person on an important project are all associated with co-parenting after a divorce. However, there is an additional layer of difficulty added into the mix when you consider what it is like to co-parent with an ex-spouse who has abused you or your children in the past.
There are legitimate safety concerns that you have when it comes to working alongside your co-parent. This is true even if the two of you will never be within arm’s reach of one another. While you should do what you can to work together to raise your children there are certain steps that you should take to prepare yourself for the challenges and safety issues that arise when parenting with an abusive ex-spouse. Your safety and that of your children are the most important part of this entire discussion. It is not easy to co-parent with an abusive ex-spouse, but it can be done.
Learning how to set up boundaries
If your spouse is an abuser, then he or she has serious boundary issues. When I talk about boundaries, I am referencing the invisible, relationship line between yourself and other people. There can be physical boundaries for married people. There can be emotional or relational boundaries. Things that you just don’t do to the other person even though you are married. Your ex-spouse crossed numerous boundaries with you during your marriage. The result of those boundary crossings was the divorce and now a huge lack of trust that you have with him or her. Raising a child with a person that you cannot trust is going to be a huge challenge for you.
It is not easy to leave a marriage with an abusive spouse. People who have never been exposed to violence or abuse in a relationship may be wondering why that it is the case. If someone is physically abusing you, wouldn’t it be the easiest thing in the world to not want to be abused and therefore to simply leave the home and move on with your life? Well, from working for and with people who have been abused in a relationship I can confirm that it is not easy in most cases to leave an abusive relationship.
Leaving an abusive marriage
If you were able to identify the problems in your marriage, leave the home, and then obtain a divorce then you should be praised to no end. By the same token, if it took you a long time to gather the courage and strength necessary to leave the marriage then you should likewise be praised. The simple truth is that there is no direct path towards ending a marriage with an abusive spouse. All of them are winding and unique. What worked for you may not work for another person. Even though the divorce process is the same for everyone in terms of its steps, how you get to the divorce and how the divorce goes once the case is filed is unique to you and your spouse.
There is a certain degree of familiarity and acceptance that many people in your position feel when they are involved in an abusive marriage. “The devil you know” is a common way to express this situation. Even though you are involved in a marriage that sees you suffering abuse regularly that arrangement is a known quantity to you. There is some degree of stability in your life- as sad and painful as. Many spouses choose to stay in that arrangement since a divorce, and the life that follows the divorce is unknown. Rather than consider a life of unknowns the person will choose to stay in a bad marriage.
I would recommend that you strongly consider the possibilities that exist in your marriage if abuse is something that is a relevant factor. The sad reality is that you cannot bank on any type of future in an abusive marriage. Do not seek to avoid change and uncertainty in favor of remaining in an abusive marriage. This is a dangerous situation for you to find yourself in. Your life is hanging in the balance when you are the victim of domestic abuse. Understand that you are taking a major risk every day that you remain in your marriage with an abusive spouse. Fortunately, there is a path, or multiple paths, that you can take to care for yourself and your children outside of that relationship.
Something that you need to be aware of is that your spouse may utilize your kids as an excuse to be able to continue to have access to you. Whether it be during pick-up or drop-off times or simply being able to be with you physically more often than they otherwise would, be aware that your children may be the primary way that your ex-spouse has access to you in the future. You should continue to think about your safety and what you may want to do in terms of preventing your ex-spouse from being able to abuse you. Although there is nothing you can do to guarantee your safety there are several steps that you may be interested in taking that minimize the interaction that you and your ex-spouse will have in person.
For instance, instead of doing pick up or dropping off your children at either one of your residences, you may choose a third-party location to serve as a host for these circumstances. Any local police station, restaurant parking lot, or another public location may be something that appeals to you. This would allow all of your pickups and drop-off opportunities to take place in a location where you will be in public rather than in private and more vulnerable to words or actions by your ex-spouse that can be abusive.
The bottom line is that you are the one who determines what physical boundaries will be in place with your ex-spouse. It is not as if you can perfectly guarantee your physical safety or anything else in life. However, going through a divorce allows you to set the terms for your future interactions with your ex-spouse. While avoiding him or her completely may not be possible since you will be raising children together you can certainly minimize the frequency with which the two of you interact with one another.
Throughout the family law case, you will have an opportunity to go she ate with your spouse and their attorney to work on these types of scenarios. Contrary to what many people believe in a family law case there are long periods where nothing, but negotiation occurs. There are only so many dates for you and your spouse to attend court hearings. The other days will be spent living your life and working to Negotiate and settle your divorce. Take advantage of these opportunities by speaking with your attorney in making sure that he or she understands what your goals are period from there, you can work through the issues of your case by negotiation rather than litigation.
Additionally, you and your spouse will have multiple opportunities during a family law case to sit down with experienced mediators to see if you can avoid going to court altogether. Mediation is a process whereby you and your spouse agree to name a third-party attorney as the mediator in your case to help you settle any differences that you may be having. The mediators can help you all determine a parenting plan, child support, specific surrounding pick up and drop off your children, and any other provisions that you may feel to be appropriate considering the history of domestic violence between you and your spouse.
Additionally, if you do not believe it is safe for your children to be able to spend time with your Co-parent immediately after divorce the mediator can help you all create a stair-step plan where you gradually increased time for your spouse with the children. Well, he or she may be going through counseling or other types of therapy right now and are unable to be trusted with the children he or she will hopefully complete therapy and otherwise work on their life in the future. At that time, you all may be in a better position to have more traditional possession and custody of the children. For now, the creative workaround to that problem may be exactly what you need. Mediators not only have a chance to sit down and talk with both you and your spouse, but they also have an experience that can help you all put your case in a proper context and then see to it that you can work through any issues that you have encountered in your specific case.
What should be in your Co-parenting plan
The key to any successful divorce resolution when it comes to your children is to Have a plan with clear-cut expectations and defined roles both for you and for your expose. For instance, there should be designated periods of possession stating how many days a week, month, and year your child will spend with you and with your Co-parent. Usually, this is spelled out by dividing time between you and your ex-spouse during the school year, summer vacation, and holidays.
When it comes to holidays you and your ex-spouse should have clear lines of demarcation when it comes to determining when periods of possession begin, and, and how you will deal with drops often pick up during these holidays. Especially for newly divorced families, the holidays can be a difficult time for your family. It can be especially difficult for children who are made to feel sometimes like they are caught in between both sets of parents. To avoid a situation where there is doubt regarding Where these periods of possession begin and end it is better to spell everything out very clearly in the court orders. This is where having an experienced family law attorney can be very helpful. Your lawyer can make sure that the agreement that your Agreement with your Co-parent ends up being translated into court orders that can be easily followed and honored by both sides. This begins and ends with having a clear-cut Order with easily understood language.
How to maintain boundaries with an abusive ex-spouse
Going through all the hard work of ending an abusive marriage is well worth the effort unless you are not able to maintain the boundaries that have been set up because of the divorce case. As such, I want to take some time to talk with you about what it means to not only set up appropriate boundaries with your ex-spouse but have those boundaries honored and maintained. After all, this may be the first time that you have ever added appropriate boundaries with her ex-spouse. Here are some suggestions on how you can maintain boundaries and limit your they expose his ability to overcome those boundaries in the future.
First, you should expect that your ex-spouse will attempt to push back against the boundaries that you have set up. This is a normal step in the process, and it should not be a surprise for you to encounter as you begin your life as a single adult. Ultimately, all you can do is approach the case from the perspective of you as an adult. You cannot control the actions of your ex-spouse any easier than you could have when he or she was your spouse. For that reason, no one will be asking you to or expecting you to perform miracles in terms of controlling the bad actions of your Co-parent. However, there are some basic things that you can follow then tricks to be able to help you manage your relationship with your ex-spouse.
The first piece of advice that I would provide to you in this setting would be that if your ex-spouse is treating you respectfully, taking your child to school and the doctor, and abiding by the terms of your court order you will likely have to tolerate him or her and their actions. You may not like how they do certain things and may have hostility remaining from Your marriage towards him or her, but the simple truth is that you do not have to like your Co-parent. All he or she must do is abide by the terms of your court order and not infringe on the safety of you or your children.
There are many aspects of parenting that will be beyond your control. If you attempt to win every single battle with your Co-parent, even those that are unwinnable, you will end up being frustrated and likely will not want to engage in doing so for very long. Another aspect of this discussion to think about is that if you push too hard on your Co-parent to conform to an idealized view or certain role then you may come off looking like the bad guy to your children. The perception of your children should not be the only factor that you consider but is certainly something important when it comes to being able to maintain a strong place of respect in the life of your child. Avoiding circumstances that can place you in an unfavorable light with your children is something to be desired.
At a certain point, you need to be able to distinguish between merely bothersome behavior versus behavior that can be potentially damaging to your child on a long-term basis. that is up to you to decide in terms of your ability to parent effectively with someone that you don’t have a great relationship with. keep in mind that unless your child is in physical or emotional danger you should mind your boundaries but not push the buttons of your parent unnecessarily.
The best way for you to do this may be to work early on with your co-parent to define how you want to be contacted in the future by him or her. Sometimes personal communication just will not work because of your history with one another period, on the other hand, you may find that email or phone calls at a certain time of the week are better when it comes to needing regular communication with him or her. this lets you maintain boundaries and still be productive when it comes to communication.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions About the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.