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My ex isn’t adhering to our parenting plan!

Updated: Mar 10

You have a parenting plan in place, but your ex isn’t adhering to it and it’s driving you nuts!

You may think, what is the point in having a parenting plan if it isn’t going to be followed.

A parenting plan provides the written agreement that you both sign off on how coparenting will be done post separation.

There may be times when your ex drops the kids home late by hours…not by minutes. They may also just arrive unannounced to pick up the kids at the school gate which isn’t their time as you are already there to pick them up.  They may turn up half an hour late to changeover causing unnecessary stress to you and the children as you sit waiting, watching out the window for their car to pull up.

They just seem to be flouting the rules that were agreed causing chaos, frustration and diminishing trust.

You start to think, how can you believe that they will bring the kids back on time, which can lead to stressing that they may not bother bringing them back at all keeping them overnight!

Ask yourself… this behaviour something new? Pre-separation did your ex flout the rules in life? Were they late getting to work or events? Did they turn up unexpectedly without advising people they were coming?  Do they generally follow rules, or do they disregard them and do what they want?

It is so important to reflect on pre-separation parenting style behaviours before you react thinking they are doing it just to tick you off. Did this use to happen throughout your relationship? If so, then it isn't a separation issue, it is a parenting style issue.

If they were like this pre-separation, you may want to list out the types of incidents and identify which ones have little impact to let go of or identify ones you need to sit down and talk through to work out how you will manage in the future. If your ex is difficult to deal with you may want to engage a third party such as a parenting coordinator who can be a 3rd party helping you implement the parenting plan and resolve day to day issues. They would setup a communication protocol and identify the impact on the children. It helps keep parents responsible and accountable to adhering to the plan. Since the plan is not a legally enforceable document, the parenting coordinator can help you assess where it may need to be tweaked so it works for the family.

If this behaviour is out of character and not how they use to behave prior to separation, then they may be exerting some form of control as they may feel they have no control over the coparenting decisions. They may not value the parenting plan as a workable solution for the family. Assess the parenting plan to see how the best interests of the children can be met whilst being a liveable solution for the coparents.

Sometimes, it can take some time to transition from a family under one roof to separate homes adhering to a set of rules. You may have been freely able to make decisions about staying out longer with the kids without feeling you are under a curfew. The kids may have been asking to stay longer so they can finish a game or watching a video before having to get back by a designated time.

A parent may be missing not seeing their children and feel it is OK to pop over to see them at school for a few minutes or call them to hear their voice. Always reflect on the intention rather than on the impact. It may be the non-resident parent doesn’t feel they get enough time with the children and want to connect with them as much as they can, even if not agreed.  This may be a great opportunity to build in more regular facetime calls so the non-resident parent gets to talk to the kids.

Calm communication is key. Find out why the parenting plan is not being adhered to. If communication is fraught with raised voices, escalating conflict or scaring the children which is detrimental to their mental health and emotional safety then you need help. You are both their parents and love the children, so it is important to ensure that the children see that you are both working together and not fighting over them.

Your relationship with each other has ended, but your children’s relationship with each parent shouldn’t have to end, unless there is a physical safety issue.

Gain the help you need to build a good coparenting relationship built on a parenting plan that works for your family.

Author – Cheryl Duffy, Divorce Coach, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, NMAS Mediator and Parenting Coordinator

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