Good, Bad, And Inappropriate Co-Parenting

Last Updated on January 22, 2024 by Lori Pace

It’s best to understand whether you’re doing great as a co-parent to your child. This is because the only relationship that matters now is yours and your child. But you can’t simply throw away the relationship you have with your child’s other parent. As difficult as it may be, you have to be civil. So, how are good, bad, and inappropriate co-parenting?

The Other Side Is An Inappropriate Co-Parent – Why Should It Matter?

It happens to all parents. Frustration levels rise and you eventually give back as much (or less) of what your parents have done for you. You’ve made a mistake by becoming a bad parent, which will eventually affect your child custody case.

One parent is a narcissist or an evil person. It is not good for co-parenting to fight back. Multiple cases have been presented to me where the custody evaluator discovered domestic abuse by one parent and then “dinged” the victim’s spouse for bitterness, hatred, and for alienating children from the abuser.

It doesn’t matter if it’s fair for the victim to be blamed (it’s unfair!). A family law judge must look out for the best interests of the children and not blindly accept bad acts by parents with grudges, regardless how justifiable or understandable.

Inappropriate Co-Parenting Hurts Children

Your children will be grateful that you didn’t use coparenting to retaliate towards the other parent. Many mental health and parenting professionals can help you explain the positive psychological effects of being a good parent.

This article doesn’t go into detail about how co-parenting can be harmful to children. Instead, it is a practical guide on how to avoid bad behavior from a law company that has witnessed firsthand the self-inflicted harm they cause in thousands of child custody cases. There are better ways to deal with toxic parents than to retaliate by parenting.

One Bad Act Can Offset Other’s History Of Inappropriate Co-Parenting

Judges tend to adopt a “plague upon both your houses” approach when both parents are guilty of bad behavior. Even if your ex has dropped the “F-bomb” 10-20 times, when you finally swear back you have lowered yourself to that level. Instead of a win-win situation where you see the difference between you and your bad co-parents, the judge sees two parents who let their grudges get in the way of the best interests for the children.

The judge will not view one parent as being 10 times as bad as the other. One little bit of poor co-parenting can negate a whole series of bad acts by the opposite side and thus negate what should have been your advantage.

This is a common saying that holds true for child custody cases. Your custody case will benefit more if you are able to turn the other cheek and avoid retaliation. Do not fight the co-parent who isn’t up to your standards. He wants to drag you down to the gutter because that’s where he feels most comfortable fighting. A good parent will lose a race at the bottom and forfeit any advantage she might have in a child custody hearing.

What You Should Avoid?

Profanity or Insults | Inappropriate Co-Parenting

inappropriate co parenting insulting kids

Profanity, particularly the “serious obscenities”, is often a sign of anger and can lead to poor co-parenting. It can be considered emotional abuse if directed at another parent. It’s child abuse when directed at children. It’s also a form of “parental alienation” when it is directed at the children.

Profanity is rarely a good thing in a custody case. Domestic relations judges won’t allow the excuse that “it’s just how I talk”. I have read custody evaluations in which children raised concerns about one parent’s abusive language and were advised against that parent.

Every email and text message you send can be used as evidence against you in court. Every conversation with your ex could be recorded. You can’t be polite 9 out of 10, but that won’t stop you from sending that 10th email in which you rant against the other parent. That’s the email that gets played in court. You have to be able to resist the urge to fight back, no matter how much the other parent pushes your buttons.

Derogatory Nicknames

This is related to the previous point. In your communications (texts and emails) with the other parent, refer to them by their names. It won’t work if you call her a loser or a greedy bitch. Avoid using false formalities in emails (e.g. Mr. Smith instead of James). This “over-politeness”, which is not genuine courtesy, comes across as sarcastic.

inappropriate co parenting derogatory nicknames

Similar rules apply to your mobile device, including in privacy (i.e. you email address book or phone) to refer to the other parent as their name. Period. If you have a less than flattering nickname for your ex on your phone, and your lawyer needs to take screenshots for court purposes, the judge will see them and find them offensive and dehumanizing.

Venting or Criticizing | Inappropriate Co-Parenting

It can be difficult – you used to love the other parent and have children together, but now he is an extreme narcissist. If you feel the need to vent, talk to a counselor or your friends, and not to the other parent. No:

  • Stream of consciousness, rambling email to get things off your chest
  • Emotions are rarely helpful. Judges and custody evaluators are not impressed by crying or saying that “my baby is my universe”
  • Accusations against the parent who is not yours – (Calling them unreasonable, selfish, or otherwise). While your accusation will not change the mind of the other parent, it can backfire because it is evidence that you are difficult.
  • Lectures – Even if you feel you are being helpful, unless asked by the other parent, don’t give criticisms or suggestions for improvement. They are rarely appreciated.
  • Argue. You can deny any false accusation without further explanation. If the entire email sent by the other side is just vitriol, you should ignore it.

The facts speak for themselves. Your ex doesn’t need your assistance in pointing out her reprehensible behavior to you. Rarely will this cause a change of behavior. The evidence that you present to the judge/custody evaluator if the other parent is acting badly will speak for itself, without you needing to mention it to them.

The flip side of the coin is also true: if the conduct of the other is not as bad as you think, your complaining about it may not convince a judge that it was bad but could backfire on the judge as he considers you too quick to criticize.

Although it is difficult to remember a case in which one parent criticized the other to help the case, I have seen cases where it did.

Badmouth Other Parent To Children

inappropriate co parenting bad mouthing
Bad Mouthing other parent reflect poor parenting!

It can cause harm to younger children, while older children may resent it. In both cases, if this is happening, the other parent will find out. If a custody evaluation has been appointed, the children will inform her. The family court judge will then read the report of the expert.

These little tricks, subtle jabs, and telling children to ask their other parent for money because he hasn’t paid his support are all worse than bad co parenting. They could be considered parental alienation. They reflect poorly on the parent’s ability to “encourage the sharing of love and affection between the child.

Interfere with Other Parent’s Time | Inappropriate Co-Parenting

Respect the parenting schedule. You must only take a trip during your parenting time if you wish to go on a trip without your ex’s consent. You can deal with your ex’s refusal to pay support by contempt of court and not by denying him parental time. Your ex-spouse must make arrangements to pick up your children if he is late to an exchange.

You can’t refuse to give your vacation dates to your ex or an out-of-state parent if they don’t give you the required notice of 30 days. This is unless you have truly unalterable plans. Consult with an attorney before you make any changes. Judges will not approve of the idea of the children being involved in a fight with their ex.

Talk to your lawyer if you believe your ex is endangering your children or refusing to take them. It is rare that the advice is to withhold the children unilaterally. In more serious cases, you may need to file a motion or contact DHS or police. Disobeying the parenting schedule is considered co-parenting and a violation of the court order, unless it’s modified by the court.

Being Inflexible

Judges don’t like clock-watchers. A bad co-parent is one who exhibits excessive rigidity just for the sake. Even if the other parent has been rigid in the past, she should be allowed to exchange the children. Remember, this is for your benefit and the children’s sake, not because the other parent should be flexible. Don’t try to ruin the moment by demanding that you get an additional couple of hours of parenting added onto your week. If a parent has 4386 hours of parenting time per year, does it really matter if you miss 2, 10, or 100 hours?

If the other parent suggests that you swap a weekend or holiday with him/her, it is a good idea to do so. Even if the other parent refuses to change your requests, it is a good idea. No matter how awful the other parent is, you should never refuse permission to take your children to a special occasion (weddings, family reunions, funerals, etc.) even if it is during your parenting time. These events are important for children’s memories and you will be seen as unreasonable.

If a parenting plan forbids one person from having contact, you should never refuse permission to the other parent to allow a friend or relative to pick up the children. You don’t have the right to request a background check. Each parent is free to choose who they trust in their parenting.

Threaten, or Actually Call Police Or DHS | Inappropriate Co-Parenting

Often, calling DHS and the police on the parent who is not the one you are calling backfires. The state doesn’t thank you for protecting Colorado’s youth. Instead, the judge sees it as interference with another parent’s parenting time. Talk to your attorney if you have credible evidence that the other parent is abusing or committing other crimes. 

Record/Photograph Kids as Forensic Evidence

Do you want to capture photos or videos of your kids doing fun family activities? It’s a great idea. It preserves memories. And just in case you are ever attacked for your parenting, the proverbial picture is worth 1000 words means that the judge can see the happy, smiling children in your care.

If your son comes home with a bruise, do you treat him as a criminal? Have him take off his shirt and pants so that you can take close-up photographs, making him believe he committed a crime. A photo can’t show a serious injury, so it’s possible that the judge will not be able to see the bruises or scratches. A photo of a visible bruise on an arm, leg, or foot is acceptable, provided that you don’t make too much about it.

Recording your conversations is legal. However, the judge and children, when they learn about it later in life, will see it as a betrayal and a violation of trust to gain an advantage in litigation. There have been only two instances where lawyers consider using these recordings in court. 

Except for special events, there are no video recordings. Recording a conversation about the other parent is a terrible way to send a message. The judge will know it.

These concerns do not apply to children being recorded. Surreptitiously recording your interactions with the other parent is fine (as long as you are in Colorado; if not, consult the law of your state). Sometimes, such recordings may be a good idea if there are problems in the past. They may also protect you from false claims or prove bad behavior towards the children.

Withholding Information | Inappropriate Co-Parenting

Tell the other parent if something happens to your children, good or bad, and send photos. This is a list of items that you should absolutely tell your other parents about:

Grades/report cards

Medical information (appointments, treatment, etc)

Day care (and ensure that another parent is listed as contact)

Activities for children

Milestones (losing teeth or religious rites)

Information about you and your family that affects the children (cohabitation or new child, etc.)

Even if you have given the same information before, if the other parent questions you again, don’t withhold it and say “I already told you”, but give the dentist number and name again.

Make Unilateral Decisions or Changes to Status Quo

Parents share joint decision-making power, you should not make decisions for yourself. Even if you are the sole decision-maker, it is almost always your responsibility to inform the other parent. Even though a court might not consider all the examples above to be actual violations that warrant contempt of court, it can still harm your case if you make these types of unilateral decisions.

  • Medical – Choosing or changing doctors or consenting for non-emergency treatment or therapy
  • Education – Tutoring, changing schools, selecting new schools
  • Day Care – Choosing, changing or terminating
  • Activities – It’s good to talk about them regardless of their time, but it is critical that they do not overlap or it could be risky.
  • Major Appearance changes – drastic haircuts (or the first haircut for a child), piercings or tattoos
  • Major Lifestyle Changes – If a child has never received vaccines, do not start with them unilaterally. You shouldn’t begin with meat if your child was raised vegetarian. You are not prohibited from eating meat, but it is best to consult your attorney before you do.
  • Driver’s license

Sometimes, it can be difficult to decide between a major and a “day-to-day” decision. If in doubt, you won’t be accused of poor co-parenting for choosing the side of conferring. It’s not the opposite.

Ready to be a Good Co-Parent?

This article will show you how to avoid your domestic relations judge labeling you a bad parent. Sometimes that’s all you can realistically expect. If you are willing to go above and beyond to prove yourself as a co-parent, then you will be able to shine in a child custody proceeding.

After you have removed the negative co-parenting, you can move on to earning “extra credit” by affirmatively proving yourself to be a good parent . Read our article.

Lori Pace
Lori Pace

Lori Pace is a single mother of three daughters ages 7 and under. As a working mom from home, she balances kids, work and two crazy dogs with humor and love. Follow Lori as she honestly gives tips and advice based on her own experiences as a single mom!