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Ideas for dealing with a difficult ex-spouse

Many marriages end in divorce. What the ex-spouses do after divorce and how they choose to behave toward each other is up to them. However, unless children are in the picture, there is often no reason for exes to see each other or to stay in touch. The fact is, though, that quite a few marriages do include children, and dealing with a difficult ex-spouse may be required for the kids' sake.

Examine your own role

It is easy to identify countless flaws in other people while overlooking your own shortcomings. This aspect of human behavior is especially common in divorce and after divorce. Emotions run high, and your life may feel out of control. You might be angry at your spouse for putting up obstacles to you seeing the kids, but have you examined your role in the matter? For instance, is there a history of addiction or broken promises that has your spouse on guard?

By looking at yourself (counseling is one option), you may be able to better understand why your ex-spouse is being difficult. In turn, you can deal better with the roadblocks. That said, some exes do behave irrationally through no fault of your own; parental alienation is a very real and damaging occurrence. If the thought of going to or returning to court in cases of alienation has your stomach in knots, consider mediation first. In fact, mediation should be considered before court anyway.

Take the high road

Being nice to your ex-spouse and saying nice things about him or her may be one of the most difficult things you do in life, but children appreciate when their parents take the high road. In other words, don't deal with a difficult ex-spouse by badmouthing your ex to the kids. Don't post bad things about your ex on Facebook; the kids are likely going to see it at some point.

Create a parenting plan

A well-defined parenting plan solves many issues related to a difficult ex. For instance, it may spell out in exacting detail who has custody or visitation and when, thereby getting rid of an excuse such as, "Oh, how was I supposed to know you were coming at 3 for the kids?" Plans provide predictability, stability and structure for both parents and children, and they often pave the way toward a smoother co-parenting relationship.

If you need help with a parenting plan, an attorney can assist. In fact, attorneys help with any aspect of your divorce and, frequently, with what comes after it.

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