How to Co-Parent–Especially under Stress

“I  just don’t know what to do!” exclaimed John. “I’ve tried talking, reasoning, and even asking to go back to mediation. She either says we’ll work it out between us, she or doesn’t respond at all. What can I do?”

John is caught in a classic war of wills with his ex-wife—and feels he had no options for resolving the issues.

When the couple initially set child support, Anne was to pay the children’s portion of health insurance premiums. She has since dropped the children from her policy. So, John added them to his to keep coverage going—at a much higher cost.

Now, John pays the same child support plus higher out of pocket expenses. When he asks Anne about adjusting child support, Anne refuses to discuss the issue.

Meshing differing parenting styles in one house when parents get along is hard. Trying to mesh styles from two homes between parents who don’t get along proves grueling. What are the options when changes must be made?

Go to Court

Many parents consider court their only option. And, with completely uncooperative co-parents, this may be true.

John would like to simply pay for the children’s health insurance and give Anne a reduced amount of child support. Unfortunately, he can’t. The Court can only enforce the child support order in place. If John unilaterally reduces his payment, he will be in violation of that order. If Anne won’t agree to file an adjustment, John’s only way to lower support is to ask the Court to make an adjustment.

If Anne continues to refuse to talk to him, John may need to get the Court involved–if even to force the conversation.

Like many parents, John doesn’t want to take Anne to court. He doesn’t want to further antagonize her, nor does he want legal fees to make her financial struggles even harder. While it might help with child support, going to court could make the overall situation worse. John needs other options.

Clarify Communications

“Most conflict arises because expectations clash. Expectations generally clash because they aren’t stated,” Tess Worrell, mediator. Better communication helps co-parents understand each other and work together.

When Anne’s refusal to talk with John exacerbated his frustration, a friend recommended “Diane and I do all our communicating through the messaging center. Now, we don’t have to go back through old texts, emails, and voicemails to find what we said. All communications are in one place, so we are clear. 2houses also records financial expenditures for the kids, medical records, and calendars. This keeps us on the same page—without having to talk to each other.”

John got Anne to agree to use 2houses. The record of insurance payments forced Anne to see how much more John really is paying. The concrete figures made her more responsive to his request to adjust child support.

Set Boundaries

The old quote, “Good fences make good neighbors” offers helpful wisdom to co-parents. Like fences, boundaries clearly mark territory and responsibility. When parents attend to the issues within their territory (and leave the issues that concern the other parent for them to resolve), they co-parent more effectively.

John is frustrated by paying both Anne’s health insurance responsibility and his child support. Because the insurance responsibility is Anne’s, John needs to leave it with her.

When Anne announced she was dropping her payment, John could have asked, “How will the children be covered?”

Anne assumed John would pick up her slack (which he did). If he had instead refused to accept her responsibility, the pressure would have remained on Anne to provide or deal with the lack of healthcare.

Conflicts tend to escalate when one person steps into another’s territory. Guarding boundaries forces people to own their responsibilities—reducing overall conflict.

Co-parenting proves challenging. Better communication, stronger boundaries, and even court intervention help parents meet the challenge.

If co-parenting proves frustrating and you would like a way to work together, call 317-244-9740 or email We help parents understand their options and find ways to work together. We look forward to serving you.

Take Action. Begin Today.

Though we come from a variety of experiences and backgrounds, the team at The Resolution Center shares one common goal: to bring healing and hope to those going through turmoil. ‘We know conflict wreaks havoc and wrecks dreams. Each of us brings specialized skills and a proven process to move people through the conflict to a place of stability, peace, and the possibility for their future.

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