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Dealing with a passive-aggressive co-parent

If you're divorcing a spouse who often engages in passive-aggressive behavior rather than handle disagreements openly and the two of you will be sharing custody of your children, you may see that behavior continue in your co-parenting relationship.

Too often, people learn to deal with a passive-aggressive spouse by responding in kind. However, that's not going to help your children as you all adjust to your new family dynamic. By learning how to identify passive-aggressive behavior in your co-parent and in yourself, you can help keep parenting disagreements from escalating.

One common passive-aggressive tactic in divorced parents is procrastination. When people don't want to do something they've agreed to or are expected to do, but want to avoid a confrontation, they keep putting it off. That only exacerbates the issue and likely increases the other parent's frustration -- potentially leading to a volatile argument.

The silent treatment is another form of passive-aggressive behavior used to avoid conflict. When people don't want to get into an argument, they shut down. In a co-parenting relationship, people may refuse to respond to emails or texts, for example, or avoid opportunities to talk to their ex. Like procrastination, this only postpones the inevitable confrontation.

If the other parent decides to give in rather than fight through these passive-aggressive behaviors, he or she may hold a grudge and "get back" at the co-parent at the next opportunity. Ultimately, none of this helps the children.

If you're having issues dealing with a passive-aggressive co-parent, and the two of you aren't able to work out your issues to reach compromises that are in the best interests of your kids, it may be necessary to seek changes to your parenting plan. Having a more detailed plan that makes expectations clear and minimizes the need for communication between co-parents can help things go more smoothly for everyone.

It may not need to be a long-term solution. However, it can help during the early stages of co-parenting in two homes while the wounds from the marriage are still healing. Your North Carolina family law attorney can help you work to seek changes to your parenting plan.

Source: Our Family Wizard, "Passive-Aggressive Co-Parenting," accessed June 14, 2018

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