Certain actions of divorced parents can be considered bad co-parenting, even if they seem justifiable. While some bad co-parenting habits are obvious, others may be harder to pinpoint. The following are some warning signs of bad co-parenting.
1. Unwarranted Threats to Call or Calling Police/DHS
A child may arrive home several times with bruises, scratches, and other signs synonymous with frequent injury accidents. A parent may suspect the other parent has been abusing the child. Though it is important for parents to watch for signs of abuse, making unwarranted threats to call DHS or the police when there is no indication of abuse can interfere with a co-parent’s parenting time and may cause undue stress to children.
Badmouthing a co-parent or directing other forms of negative communication at him or her in front of the children puts the children under constant stress. It is stressful to children if they are made to feel that loving one parent angers or hurts the other parent. In addition, children may internalize the negative comments made about one of their parents, negatively impacting their self-image.
3. Making Unilateral Decisions
A bad co-parent makes decisions on his or her own without discussing them with the other parent. Some of the decisions that the other parent may be entitled to participate in include:
- Choosing or changing medical facilities, treatments, or treating doctors
- Choosing or changing schools
- Selecting or ending daycare
- Major lifestyle changes
- Significant appearance changes
- Activities, especially if they are potentially risky or overlap the other parent’s time
Inflexibility is one of the less obvious habits that can hurt someone engaged in child custody litigation during divorce. A parent may be rigid in the name of sticking strictly to a parenting time schedule. However, inflexibility concerning reasonable requests for change to the parenting plan is not conducive to successful co-parenting.
In one case, a judge criticized a mother for withholding children from the father on Father’s Day even though it was her weekend to be with them.
A parent who refuses permission to bring the kids to special events, like weddings and family reunions, is taken to be unreasonable. That also applies to a parent who refuses the other parent’s proposal to swap a holiday or weekend despite it working well with his or her plans.
5. Alienating Behaviors
A parent’s alienating behaviors can be psychologically damaging to the children. The parent can engage in such behaviors by making it hard for a child to text, call, FaceTime, or Skype with the other parent, failing to give a child the other parent’s phone messages or censoring them, telling a child not to write, call, or text the other parent and rewarding the child for rejecting the parent, and making a child unavailable during scheduled call times.
Avoiding the actions above helps to prevent a parent from being characterized as a bad co-parent. It also promotes a child’s emotional health. Bad co-parenting can cause problems in development, which can spill into a child’s life when he or she reaches adulthood.