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How to Parent When Your Ex Is Toxic

Co-parenting with a Toxic ExWhen you share a child with someone, getting divorced may end your marriage, but it doesn’t end your obligation to co-parent your child. So what happens when your ex is just downright nasty?

If your ex-spouse is making it difficult and burdensome to raise your children peacefully and cooperatively, you may be dealing with a toxic ex.

As New Jersey family law lawyers, we work with individuals and families with a variety of family dynamics. If your divorce or post-decree family law matter is being complicated by an ex who seems determined to make life miserable, we can help.

The Signs of a Toxic Ex

According to Healthy Place, a consumer resource for mental health, a toxic ex is a co-parent who “creates a loyalty conflict for your children.”

If you suspect your child’s other parent is engaging in toxic behavior, you may notice that he or she:

  • Tries to interfere with the communication you have with your child.
  • Says negative things about you to your child.
  • Tries to erase you in your child’s life, and may even try to substitute you with another person, such as a new romantic partner.
  • Undermines your authority over your child.
  • Attempts to convince your child that you are not trustworthy.

These behaviors can seriously damage your relationship with your child, especially if your child is very young at the time of your divorce. Many younger children lack the life experience and emotional intelligence to recognize when a toxic parent is trying to disrupt their bond with their other parent.

Tips for Handling a Toxic Ex

If your ex-spouse is subverting your authority and relationship with your child, don’t lose hope. It’s easy to get frustrated, but remember that your child needs a positive, grounded parent — and that needs to be you.

Here are a few tips to help you maintain your good relationship with your child despite your ex’s efforts:

Keep it positive. Don’t talk badly about the other parent in front of your child. It may be tempting to vent your frustrations, but save your anger for the ear of a good friend or family member.

Keep your cool. Many toxic people take a perverse pleasure in forcing others beyond their boiling point. They may engage in behaviors designed to cause frustration, anxiety, and anger. Whenever possible, stay calm and focused. After a while, they may realize they aren’t going to get under your skin, and may eventually give up.

Keep contact basic and professional. When you have a toxic ex, it’s usually a good idea to avoid engaging them in conversations and communications that stray outside basic information exchanges. If you need to text, email, or call, restrict your communications to basic details, such as where you will pick up your child, or what time your child’s school music recital will begin. If you indulge your ex in lengthy conversations, he or she may use it as a way to dredge up old arguments or imaginary complaints about you.

Keep clear boundaries. Just because you’re committed to being as positive as possible when it comes to your ex-spouse does not mean you have to be a doormat. Make sure your ex knows your limits. For example, if you can’t take phone calls at work, be very clear with your ex about not calling you while you’re in the office.

Get in Touch with a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer Today

Divorce isn’t always easy, especially if your ex-spouse is determined to make things tough for the long haul. If you have questions about a child custody matter, or you need help with any kind of family law case, speak to a New Jersey family law attorney today.

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