5 Tips for Dealing with a Difficult Co-Parent


By Evan Compton, Divorce and Family Law Attorney

Your relationship and ability to interact amicably with your former spouse is one of the greatest indicators of how your divorce case will unfold. Unfortunately, many of our clients at Stern Perkoski Mendez face conflict with their spouse during and after divorce—especially when it comes to parenting their children.

Here are a few of the most important tips I share with my clients when they’re dealing with a difficult co-parent.

  1. Focus on what’s best for your children.
  2. This is my biggest, most frequently given piece of advice. It can be very easy to focus on your spouse’s frustrating behaviors and parenting tendencies—but what’s most important is how your children are treated.

    If your former spouse is treating your children well, try to focus on that. If you can make a parenting plan that works well for everyone, the chances for conflict can be significantly reduced, saving yourself future headaches and trips to court.

  3. Manage your expectations.
  4. As much as we want to, we can never control how your former spouse acts during and after your divorce. All we can control is how we react to it. It may be challenging; but with clients in the past, I’ve found the best way to handle this is to adjust our expectations.

    Unfortunately, your spouse may not be cooperative and amicable—they may even be difficult and unfriendly. If you approach your case with the knowledge that they will be uncooperative, it can be easier to handle when it happens—rather than continuing to expect them to change.

  5. Remind yourself that the divorce process is temporary.
  6. Often, in the middle of a divorce, it feels as if the process will last forever. My colleagues and I always remind our clients: the legal process of divorce is temporary. Whether it’s two months or two years, it will end—and things tend to get better.

    For some clients, it’s also helpful to remember that co-parenting won’t look the same forever. It’s easy for divorcing parents to get stuck thinking, “I have to deal with this for the rest of my life.” If you’re divorcing while your kids are young, it’s hard to look past who will bring them to school, who gets to attend soccer games and who celebrates which holidays. This can be a scary, overwhelming and anxiety-inducing thought process.

    But your co-parenting relationship will change as your children grow older. Your relationships will evolve, and it typically becomes easier to manage these special events and holidays—much easier than it is during the process of divorce.

  7. Remember that parenting is not a competition.
  8. Sometimes when dealing with a difficult co-parent, clients get stuck thinking that divorce is a competition of who can be the better parent. Clients often tell me that they feel as if the other side is “winning”. It’s a natural instinct to want to be the absolute best parent possible for your child—but you don’t need to be better than your former spouse. If your spouse hasn’t been a great parent in the past and suddenly starts to make a strong effort for your children, that’s a good thing!

    While divorcing parents tend to compete with one another, I try to remind my clients that, if their spouse is trying to be a better parent, everybody wins. It’s easy, and understandable, to wonder why they couldn’t have done so during the marriage. However, it is more productive to try to focus on how this change can positively impact your children moving forward.

  9. Advocate for yourself and your children.
  10. There’s a difference between a difficult co-parent and an abusive former partner. If you are dealing with any type of abuse, domestic violence or financial control, the Court will step in. These are not “difficult co-parent” issues, but illegal and dangerous retaliation tactics.

    You are protected by law, and we’ll help make sure you are safe and have the resources you need to take care of your family. These issues can be scary, but there are clear steps we can—and will—take to keep you safe if you’re in this situation.

Contact Our North Shore Divorce and Family Law Firm

Dealing with a difficult co-parent can be very frustrating. But at Stern Perkoski Mendez, we are here to support you in navigating the situation delicately—and we’ll advocate for you strongly in court if necessary.

If you’re considering divorce and are concerned about co-parenting with your spouse, I encourage you to contact our team. You can request a free consultation online or call us at (847) 868-9584. We’ll happily meet with you at our North Shore offices in Evanston or Lake Forest, our DuPage County office in Oak Brook, or at our downtown Chicago location.

We’re Here to Help

For a free consultation, call Stern Perkoski Mendez at (847) 868-9584 or contact us.