When Things Don’t Work Out: Co-parenting Through Divorce

No one plans for it, but the unfortunate reality is that up to 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. Divorce is a chapter of life that is filled with complex challenges. As a mom navigating co-parenting after a contentious divorce, I want to share what I’ve learned through my experience of navigating these parenting challenges with my ex-spouse, with my focus always on putting my children’s well-being first.


In the face of ongoing disagreements and strained communication, one unwavering commitment remained – my dedication to my children. No matter how challenging the relationship with my ex-spouse was, I was committed to my belief that our children deserved love, care, and stability above all. Despite my basic instinct to fight back when provoked, to poke back when poked, I made a decision to compromise for my children’s sake, when appropriate. There have been many time when my ex-spouse has caused me angst and frustration, and I’ve had to approach each situation through the lens of what would be best for my kids. When he fails to show up to take them to school per our divorce agreement, I take them even though my instinct is to get angry and refuse, because at the end of the day, my kids need to know that they have at least one parent that is steadfast and willing to do whatever it takes to care for them.


Developing our co-parenting plan required a great deal of compromise. My ex-spouse and I had to find common ground despite our disagreements, and we were able to form an agreement with which we were both satisfied.. The plan was detailed, outlining visitation schedules, child-related responsibilities, decision-making guidelines, and holiday schedules, providing structure in an otherwise uncertain journey. While we have found a way to be flexible with our divorce agreement when necessary, it is a document we are able to refer to whenever we do disagree. It has helped solve many issues in an objective way, even when tempers have flared.


Life’s unpredictability is a constant in any parenting journey. As I mentioned in the previous section, flexibility must have a place in your co-parenting strategies. While having a strong agreement or settlement is imperative, the reality is that life is rarely as black-and-white as the ink on the page. Flexibility became a necessity as unexpected events arose. Despite ongoing disagreements, I strived to keep my children’s needs in the forefront of my mind. This meant being flexible and making changes when necessary – even when it didn’t feel good.

On the other hand, maintaining personal boundaries amidst a contentious divorce was also essential. Being clear about what we would and would not tolerate regarding our relationship with one another and with our children has been difficult but crucial. While being flexible is essential to coparenting, setting limits for yourself and your children’s sake is equally important and contributes to your children’s sense of stability.


Although disagreements were bound to surface (and still do), I knew it was important to my kids to maintain an underlying sense of unity, even as a family now separated by divorce. Although it is not always possible or beneficial, there are times when you may find it appropriate to invite your ex-spouse to birthday parties or other family gatherings that involve your children. Your children will benefit greatly from seeing their parents coexisting peacefully, united by their mutual love for their kids. Although it was awkward and difficult at first – and sometimes still is – I have made an effort to include my ex-spouse in plans for birthdays, Christmas, and other celebrations, and my children have been grateful to spend that time with both parents together, rather than having a reminder of their splintered family unit with one parent absent.


In the end, children thrive on and need stability. When we are dealing with an unpredictable ex-spouse, it is a privilege to stand strong and be the steadfast parent your kids need. Children sense uncertainty and their little bodies and brains can’t process it the way we, as adults, can. It’s up to us to model healthy coping skills and demonstrate to our children that no matter what happens, what anyone else says or does, or what may befall them in their own lives, we will be there, unwaveringly standing strong with them.


My journey through co-parenting after a difficult and contentious divorce has been marked by challenges and personal growth. It’s a testament to my unwavering commitment to my children’s well-being, a commitment that transcended disagreements and difficulties. No matter the circumstances, my children deserve the best from me, and I am determined to provide them with love, stability, and support, even in the midst of my personal struggles with a difficult ex-spouse.


Do you have experience dealing with divorce and co-parenting? Share your experience in the comments and help another mama in need.

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