Co-parenting after a separation or divorce requires patience, compromise, and communication from both parties.
But what happens when your co-parent is hostile or communicates with you in an abusive manner?
In this article, we will discuss what is considered harassment by a co-parent to avoid any doubts and save you from a potentially dangerous situation.
What is Co-parent Harassment?
Harassment from a co-parent occurs when one parent communicates with the other in an abusive or hostile manner.
Co-parenting harassment is a form of bullying. It is typically employed to intimidate, control, or manipulate the other parent into doing what they want, usually involving child support, custody, or other issues related to your child.
Additionally, the harassing co-parent may use their antagonistic behavior as a form of revenge against the other parent for their marital issues.
Harassment of any kind is bad co-parenting as such aggression can erode the quality of parenting for both parties, which can, unfortunately, contribute to the child’s emotional and behavioral problems.
What Things Are Considered Harassment by Co-parents?
Co-parenting harassment can be emotional, verbal, or physical and it can be in-person, through phone communication, or online.
Although there is no definitive list as to what constitutes harassment, here is a list that may help you determine if you are experiencing harassment from a co-parent.
- Your co-parent is sending you threatening, demanding, or demeaning texts.
- You receive unwanted phone calls from your co-parent, including late at night.
- They show up uninvited at your home or place of work.
- Your co-parent denies you time with your child.
- You are not receiving important information from your co-parent about your child’s welfare or behavior.
- They threaten to harm you or your family.
- Your co-parent spreads rumors about you to your friends, family, or co-workers in person or online.
- They verbally abuse you.
- Your co-parent physically assaults you.
- They stalk you.
Any behavior not included in this list that causes you emotional distress, such as fear or intimidation is considered co-parenting harassment.
This type of bad co-parenting can lead to a damaged relationship with your child due to the unnecessary suffering inflicted upon you.
How to Stop a Co-parent from Harassing You?
When good communication and the willingness to work together for the sake of your child is no longer possible due to harassment from a co-parent, you may have to consider a few ways to stop it.
Here is a list to guide you:
1. Call the Police
If you are experiencing physical abuse or stalking, or you fear for your safety, do not hesitate to call the police. You may be able to file charges against them.
If the abuse is not physical, the police may not be able to do much, but at the very least, they may be able to talk to your co-parent about the harassment and their unacceptable behavior.
Be sure to document all the harassing behaviors either by writing in a journal, taking screenshots of messages, or saving text messages, e-mails, and voicemails.
Record what happened, when, and how it made you feel at the time. Include as much information and details as possible.
2. Do Not be Hostile
Although harassment from a co-parent can be emotionally draining, try to control your temper. Do not use bad words or get pulled into heated arguments where you exchange belligerent messages.
Do your best to communicate calmly and respectfully to try to de-escalate the situation.
Do not engage in any online co-parenting harassment as it can provide a written record of your behavior to the courts.
3. Set Boundaries
Establishing boundaries with a harassing co-parent does not mean you have to block all communication between the two of you.
It does, however, mean that you are setting limits on what you will and will not tolerate. It also allows you to express how you will communicate with your co-parent and what you consider appropriate behavior.
4. Get a Restraining Order
If the co-parent harassment is severe enough, filing a restraining order will require them to stay away and have no contact with you. It will include provisions specific to your situation.
If you are granted a restraining order against your harassing co-parent, be sure to always keep it with you and report violations to the authorities immediately.
5. Seek the Help of a Professional
Talking to a therapist will help you sort through your feelings and process your emotions at a time when you may feel shame, guilt, and confusion.
Allowing your child to talk to a professional will also help them navigate such a turbulent time.
A List of Co-parenting Boundaries
If you have never set boundaries in your relationships, it may be a difficult and uncomfortable concept for you.
However, when talking about a harassing co-parent, setting boundaries is essential for your peace of mind.
No relationship is the same. Therefore, you will need to determine which boundaries have been crossed by your harassing co-parent and implement them as best as you can. The list below can get you started.
1. Communication Boundaries
Determine what are acceptable subjects during your communication with your co-parent. When experiencing harassment from a co-parent, it is best to keep your communication about your child only. Do not engage in small talk or personal conversation. Do not share private matters with them.
Establish the method by which you will communicate with your co-parent. Will you communicate through text, e-mail, or an app? Or will you choose a third party, such as an attorney or a mediator? If you will only e-mail, will you allow texts or calls in case of an emergency involving your child?
The language you will tolerate during your communication is just as important. Keep all communication short and respectful. Reply, but do not react to any hostile or aggressive interactions.
Additionally, establish appropriate times of day to send and reply to messages or inquiries. Express to your co-parent that repeated or excessive contact will not be tolerated.
2. Respect Parenting Time
Set guidelines around communication between your child and their parent. Give your child access to their parent. However, ensure your co-parent respects your time with your child.
Do not allow your co-parent to harass, control, or manipulate you by communicating excessively with your child.
3. Establish Drop-off and Pick-up Meetings
Determine when and where you will drop off and pick up your child. You may choose a public place for safety reasons. Or you may choose to pull up to the curb of your co-parent’s home to avoid any face-to-face tension or aggressive remarks.
By dropping off and picking up your child at the curb, you allow them to enter their parent’s home independently and you show them respect for boundaries and privacy.
4. Agree You Will Not Involve Your Child
Children should not be involved or witness any hostility between their parents. Additionally, they should not be used as messengers or as middle persons between their parents.
Express you will not allow your child to be used to hurt each other. Doing so can be considered parental/child alienation. Furthermore, you will not discuss your issues with them.
When setting boundaries, it is important to keep all agreements in writing and to be consistent. Document everything, especially if it involves your child.
As a parent, your child’s welfare is your highest priority. However, bad co-parenting and harassment from a co-parent can make caring for your child, and yourself a challenge.
Knowing what is considered harassment by a co-parent, how to stop such behavior, and how to set boundaries with them can help you diminish any emotional distress caused by co-parent harassment.