Your marriage was definitely not healthy, but you would never have described your ex-spouse as a bad human – just “bad for you.” Since the divorce, however, your viewpoint has changed. While you keep trying to settle into a cooperative co-parenting relationship with your ex, your ex seems determined to make everything as difficult as possible.
When one parent exhibits behavior that is harmful to the child, the other parent or the co-parenting relationship, the situation can quickly turn toxic. That can make effective co-parenting impossible and lead to modification of custody requests.
How do you recognize when a co-parent has turned toxic? Here are some examples:
Refusing to communicate
Effective co-parenting requires open and honest communication between both parents. A toxic co-parent may refuse to respond to phone calls, text messages, or emails, or may consistently ignore important information or requests from the other parent.
Putting the child in the middle
Toxic parents will often use their child as a pawn in the co-parenting relationship, manipulating the child to gain some perceived “advantage” over the other parent. For example, a toxic co-parent may badmouth the other parent in front of the child or try to make the child take sides in disputes between the parents.
Dragging everybody back to court
It’s not unusual for a toxic co-parent to try to use the court as a weapon against their ex-spouse. They may feel a sense of power and control, knowing that they can drag everybody back into court for another round of hearings any time they allege that you violated the existing court orders.
Violating court orders
On the other hand, a toxic parent may not care what the court says. They may refuse to comply with the child’s visitation schedule or blatantly make important decisions about the child’s upbringing without consulting the other parent. When this violates the court’s orders, you can (and probably should) seek modifications in court to your custody to curtail this kind of behavior.
Protecting your children from this kind of negativity isn’t easy, so it’s always wisest to get some experienced legal guidance as you contemplate your next move.