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Deciding when to engage with a toxic ex-spouse

A Virginia parent who shares custody of their kids with a toxic ex-spouse may have to deal with a lot of manipulation, name-calling and power plays. While it may be a struggle to co-parent successfully with a high-conflict individual, it can be done. Maintaining personal integrity and looking out for the children’s best interests should be the top goals.

It’s important to think about how and when communication will take place with a toxic ex-spouse. After going through a divorce, one does not have to feel like they’re constantly “on call.” They will need to respond to emergencies involving the children, but they have the right to decide when and how they will engage with the ex-spouse. Many have found that business-like communication using email is the best option for keeping their sanity and focusing on parenting.

Before engaging with a toxic ex-spouse, it’s sometimes beneficial to recognize how the dynamic typically plays out. There may be certain recognizable patterns of communication or triggers that can cause interactions with an ex-spouse to escalate quickly. While a person has no control over the way an ex-spouse responds, they may be able to interrupt a harmful dynamic and steer conversations away from dangerous topics.

A co-parent is not required to respond to everything a toxic ex says or does. At times, the ex-spouse is simply looking to push the other person’s buttons or bait them into engaging when they don’t have to.

Most co-parents want their kids to engage with both parents as they grow up. However, there are times when a concerned parent may feel that limiting time with a toxic ex-spouse is better. A lawyer may be able to provide information about modifying child custody agreements or answer other questions that are related to post-divorce parenting.