13 Times Co-Parenting With Your Ex May Not Be A Good Idea

Co-parenting isn’t always the best choice or even possible after divorce.

Why Co Parenting Can Be Bad And Cause Negative Effects Of Divorce On Children getty

Nearly everywhere you look online, you’ll find article after article extolling the virtues of co-parenting after divorce.

In fact, some even hint if not outright state that the only way to make sure your kids adjust well to the divorce is if you co-parent.

And many divorce professionals tell their clients that co-parenting is the best way to parent after divorce.

If you have kids, life after divorce almost always includes trying to get along with your ex and maintaining the image of a happy family.


And, if you’re divorced or separated but co-parenting isn’t working for you, it’s easy to understand why you might feel like a failure when it comes to your parenting skills.

RELATED: 10 Golden Rules To Protect Your Kids From A Messy Divorce Tug-O-War


The divorce process is tough not only for you but also for your kids. And the effects of divorce on children can range from anger, anxiety, and even depression.

Since you want to avoid these, how can you raise happy kids if you can't get along with the other parent?

Yet, before you sink deeper into depression and being afraid that you’re screwing up your kids, you need to know there are some very valid and legitimate reasons why co-parenting doesn’t work for everyone.

But, before getting into those reasons, it’s important to understand what it takes to successfully co-parent. Knowing what it takes will make it easier to accept and understand when and why co-parenting doesn’t work.


Successful co-parenting requires these 12 things:

  1. Clear boundaries
  2. An open dialogue between both parents
  3. Consistency with rules and parenting styles in both households
  4. Pre-determined, predictable scheduling
  5. Willingness to be flexible when something comes up
  6. Zero disrespectful talk about each other in front of or from the children
  7. Amicable interactions at school and extra-curricular activities
  8. Making plans with the other parent before making them with the children
  9. Frequently updating the other parent about the pertinent changes in your life
  10. Recognize and respect that each parent has a relationship with the children
  11. Basic agreement on things like healthcare, education, discipline, and spiritual upbringing
  12. Your kids’ belief that you and their other parent get along pretty well

This list of requirements is fairly daunting, even if you had an amicable divorce or consciously uncoupled. But, they're necessary if you want to raise happy children. 

However, if your divorce was strained or even high-conflict, you can start to get an idea as to why some co-parenting advice just doesn't work for you.

Here are 13 reasons why co-parenting after divorce doesn't work for everyone.


1. An active issue with alcohol, drugs or other substance abuse

If a parent suffers from substance abuse, they are simply not able to be consistent in their parenting because their cognitive abilities are impaired and their behavior can be erratic. There’s just no way to predict when or if a parent with substance abuse issues will be able to behave in the ways necessary to successfully co-parent.

If your children’s other parent has an active abuse problem, then there’s absolutely no way you can co-parent with them.

2. Incarceration

If this is the case, it’s impossible to co-parent because one parent is unavailable to parent.

3. Violence or threats of violence against an adult, child, pet, or property

A violent parent is not a fit parent. They are not in control of their emotions or behavior.


At a minimum, they are not capable of co-parenting. They may not be capable of parenting either.

4. Inappropriate sexual or other acting out behavior

To co-parent successfully, parents need to be on the same page. If one parent behaves inappropriately and could harm the children, then there’s no way to co-parent.

And maybe there’s no safe way for this parent to parent either.

5. One parent has a restraining order against the other

A restraining order reflects a high level of mistrust and fear.

It also means that, legally, the parents can't to communicate, which prevents co-parenting.

6. One parent neglects or has abandoned their children

If a parent is unfit or unwilling to parent, then co-parenting isn’t an option.


7. A history of frequent unexpected moves or plans to move out of the area

When a parent is prone to moving frequently or unexpectedly, they are not able to provide the stability children need for successful co-parenting.

If a parent plans to move out of the area, their move will prevent co-parenting. They won’t be able to spend the time necessary to co-parent their child/children.

8. One parent is engaging in parental alienation and poisoning their children against the other parent

Parental alienation is a horrible thing because it denies children a safe relationship with either parent. The alienating parent is demanding allegiance from their children at the expense of any relationship with their other parent.

When this type of dynamic exists, there’s no way to have the open communication necessary for co-parenting.


RELATED: 10 Healing Ways To Help Your Child Cope After A Devastating Divorce

9. One parent can’t rise above their anger at, resentment of, and/or jealousy of the other parent

When a parent is stuck in strong, negative emotions about their children’s other parent, these feelings prevent consistent, collaborative communication.

So, co-parenting is impossible.

10. The parents are incapable of collaboration

Co-parenting requires collaboration, but so does marriage. If a lack of collaboration was prevalent in the marriage, there’s no reason to expect that once the couple separates and divorces that they’ll suddenly be able to collaborate.

Parents who have never been able to work together won’t be able to co-parent either.


11. At least one parent is trying to control the other

When there are power struggles between the parents, it’s not unusual that the children are used as pawns.

These types of struggles prevent the collaboration and communication required for co-parenting. They also show that the controlling parent has a lack of respect for the other parent.

12. One parent has a rare psychological disorder that prevents them from being able to co-parent

This can include a narcissistic personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder. The term "narcissist" is thrown around quite casually these days. It’s actually a fairly rare condition, as are sociopathy and psychopathy.


However, if a co-parent truly has one of these rare conditions, it is beyond their capabilities to co-parent and it shouldn’t even be attempted.

13. One parent is emotionally and/or mentally abusive of the other

Abuse is the ultimate sign of disrespect. And without respect, it’s impossible to co-parent.

If co-parenting isn’t working for you because it can’t (at least right now), that doesn’t mean that your children are destined to be screwed up.

What it means is that you’re going to have to be the strong parent that they can always count on — even if it makes you unpopular at times.

It’s by parenting your children with consistency and structure post-divorce, regardless of whether you’re able to successfully co-parent with your ex or not, that your children will continue to grow, thrive and blossom into the wonderful people they’re capable of becoming.


RELATED: Hey, Divorced Parents: 7 Ways You're Likely Using Your Kids As Pawns

Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce and life coach. Her writing on marriage, divorce and co-parenting has appeared on MSN, Yahoo! & eHarmony among others. You can learn more about Karen and her work at drkarenfinn.com.