How to Limit Contact with a Co-Parent After a Divorce
Divorce can be hard enough to survive on its own without considering the emotional and financial fallout. While some people never have to see their ex again after divorce, other divorcees don’t have that option. This is especially true for divorcing co-parents, as court-ordered child custody arrangements, visitation schedules, and parenting plans often make it impossible to avoid ex-spouses altogether.
More often than not, ex-spouses with kids can expect to interact with the other co-parent on a semi-permanent basis. Even after children turn 18 years old and leave the nest to start lives of their own, divorced parents may still encounter each other at various milestones, such as college graduations, holidays, and other significant life events in their adult child’s life. While it can be nerve-racking to consider being tied to an ex-spouse forever, there are steps that Washington co-parents can take to limit altercations and prioritize their mental health and emotional well-being.
Keep reading to learn how to limit contact with a co-parent after a Washington divorce.
4 Ways to Avoid an Ex without Violating Court Orders
After making the difficult decision to end a marriage, it’s only natural to desire time and space away from an ex-spouse after a Washington divorce. Sadly, this isn’t a possibility for every couple. Co-parents in particular may be forced to interact with one another more frequently following a divorce than those without children due to parenting plans and child custody orders, often leading to significant stress and concern for families.
From shuttling children between co-parents to attending school events to requesting a relocation, it’s normal to feel concerned about seeing an ex-partner post-divorce. Luckily, there are steps that ex-spouses can take to limit contact with each other. Consider these 4 ways to minimize interactions with an ex-partner after divorce:
1. Safeguard your privacy.
In today’s modern world, options for restricting online information aren’t limited to simply unfollowing someone. Now, there are countless ways to fortify your virtual privacy, from “restricting” friends on Instagram to “snoozing” or Facebook friends. There are also ways to customize who sees your information and who can directly message (“DM”) you on certain social apps.
Whatever your social media preferences, there’s no time like post-divorce to ensure that you’re prepared with strong defenses. Consider asking yourself these questions to fortify your personal space and online privacy:
- Shared subscriptions – Do you share any subscriptions with your ex, such as Netflix, Spotify, or other regular service? It’s wise to untangle your accounts and financial information as much as possible to prevent yourself from being taken advantage of.
- Social media privacy – Do you have private social media accounts? If not, it may be worth your time to consider it. Even if you find it unlikely that your ex would take serious action, there’s never a guarantee. Your ex may also be acquainted with others who would take action, whether by using location services to track you after an Instagram post or hacking your account to destroy your reputation.
- Banking information – Often, our financial data (such as credit card information and routing account numbers) are pre-saved or auto-filled in our computers and smartphones. Couples may want to consider resetting this to avoid leaving important financial details out in the open for a disgruntled ex-spouse to find.
2. Limit live or face-to-face interactions when possible.
While the internet has given us a wealth of options when it comes to connecting with others, there are still times when virtual connections are impossible—especially when it comes to complying with court-ordered processes and requirements.
While some face-to-face time with an ex is typically inevitable for divorced co-parents, there are benefits to keeping communications online when possible, such as:
- Messages can be brief and to the point – There’s generally no need for small talk in online correspondence with an ex. Conversations can be kept short and to the point so the focus remains on the child.
- Both spouses can respond on their terms – Unlike the give-and-take of in-person interactions, virtual correspondence allows couples to engage on their own terms. For example, one spouse may decide to cool off with a quick workout before responding to a passive-aggressive text or email.
- Emotional attachment can be reduced in virtual interactions – Unlike in-person interactions, virtual correspondence doesn’t offer the interpersonal of facial expressions, cues, and body language. Couples can capitalize on this by detaching from their emotional state, empowering them to keep communications strictly professional and to-the-point.
- Online correspondence permits organized recordkeeping – Virtual communications are traceable, meaning that spouses can access time-stamped proof of correspondence when needed. Online correspondence also gives couples the chance to report any abusive or threatening messages before the situation escalates to physical violence or other harm.
3. Consider a supervised exchange.
Did you know that it’s possible for co-parents to exchange custody without coming into contact with each other? This is known as a supervised custody exchange or a monitored exchange in Washington State.
Supervised exchanges are only an option for couples who share custody of their child, meaning that both co-parents have visitation rights, and can be an excellent choice for co-parents who may find it difficult to be in each other's presence due to conflict or safety concerns. They can offer ex-partners a more structured, less stressful way to help their child transition between parents without escalating any ill will or bad blood.
Generally, exchanges involve a neutral third party (the “monitor” or “supervisor”) who oversees the transfer of the child from one parent to the other. The primary goal of a supervised exchange is to ensure the child's safety and well-being while minimizing potential conflict between co-parents.
4. Work on emotional detachment during interactions that can’t be avoided.
While it's all well and good to steer clear of your ex when possible, it's no secret that co-parents can't avoid seeing each other forever. At one point or another, ex-spouses have no choice but to engage with one another for childrearing purposes, whether it’s to drop off or pick up their child, request modifications to custody orders, amend parenting plans or visitation schedules, or other legal matters pertaining to the child’s care and well-being.
In moments where you have no choice but to engage with your co-parent, emotional detachment can be an excellent way to maintain healthy boundaries and prevent the interaction from escalating into an unpleasant altercation. The ability to “switch off” your connection with your emotions can be an intentional coping skill in stressful situations—particularly those involving emotionally draining people.
By emotionally detaching, you and your ex can focus on the task at hand rather than trudging into uncharted territory or airing dirty laundry.
Award-Winning Family Lawyers in Washington State
McKinley Irvin has been advocating on behalf of Washington families since 1991. No matter what family law dispute you’re facing, our family lawyers can help restore your peace of mind and empower you to move on to your next chapter. Call 206-397-0399 to schedule a consultation.