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Three Tips for Dealing with a Manipulative Co-Parent

Three Tips for Dealing with a Manipulative Co-Parent

March 29, 2023

By Johnson/Turner Legal

Three Tips for Dealing with a Manipulative Co-Parent

March 29, 2023

By Johnson/Turner Legal

Parenting is hard. According to a recent survey released by the Pew Research Center, 36 percent of respondents said parenting was “somewhat harder” than they expected and another 26 percent claimed parenting was “much harder” than they initially thought it would be. 

Parenting alone or with a cooperative partner is difficult enough; the challenges multiply when the other parent is actively working against you.

A divorce or separation can be an emotionally difficult experience for some, and these individuals may vent their frustrations toward you indirectly through the way they parent your child. These efforts can frustrate you, undermine your relationship with your child, and make parenting that much more difficult. 

Through words and actions, the other parent may attempt to manipulate you to gain a concession or simply to exact some toll for a perceived slight suffered during the relationship, the break up, the divorce or the separation. With some timely action, though, and help from a seasoned child custody lawyer, you can overcome these efforts.

Fight Back Against Manipulative Parenting

Whatever the motivation might be, manipulative parenting is a problem and needs to be addressed. The longer you permit the other parent to attempt to manipulate you, the more challenging it can be to stop the behavior and the more damage can be done to your relationship with your child. 

An experienced Minnesota child custody lawyer suggests the following tips:

Identify the Signs of Manipulation and Call It Out

Before you can take action against a manipulative co-parent, you must first identify manipulative behavior. Some co-parents are more covert with their efforts than others, which is why you must learn to recognize the warning signs. Be on the alert for any of the following:

  • The co-parent sends messages to you through the children and avoids talking directly to you
  • Your children report that the other parent speaks ill of you or allows you to be spoken ill of in their presence
  • The co-parent tells your children lies about you, about your family, or about your new partner
  • They don’t respect your boundaries or they attempt to disrupt your parenting time

When you recognize any of these signs or other attempts to use your children against you, call it out immediately. Enlist a child custody lawyer to help you if you are uncomfortable having this conversation.

If these efforts are part of a broader pattern of behavior, then you may need to take further action right away. If you have been getting along with the other co-parent, though, and this behavior is an abnormality, calling it out may be all that is necessary to stop it from continuing.

Do Not Reward the Behavior or Retaliate with Manipulative Behavior 

While it may be tempting to “fight fire with fire,” resist any urge you may have to engage in manipulative behavior yourself. This does not mean you need to give in to the bad behavior, though. Do not allow the other parent to obtain what they are not entitled to through manipulation, but do not try to manipulate the other parent.

For example, if the other parent routinely shows up early for their parenting time, you do not need to allow your child to go early. Inform the other parent that your child will be ready to go at the time reflected in the custody order. But do not begin showing up early to pick up your child or otherwise try to disrupt the other parent’s visitation time.

The main reason you want to avoid this behavior is that when parents try to manipulate one another through their children, it is the children who lose. Additionally, if the matter goes before a judge, your bad behavior will also be noticed and you risk being seen as the wrong-doer.

Bring the Matter Up with the Court

If you cannot talk with the other parent about the manipulative behavior, take the matter up with the court with help from a child custody lawyer. 

Parental manipulation is one factor a court can consider in setting custody orders; the court may choose to modify existing custody orders in response to efforts by the other parent to alienate you from your children or turn your children against you.

It is best to bring the matter to the attention of the court as soon as it appears that you cannot resolve the issue by talking with the other parent. Allowing the behavior to continue only causes further damage to your relationship with your child and encourages the other parent to continue with their behavior.

Where to Get Further Help

If you are struggling with a manipulative co-parent, Johnson/Turner Legal wants to help. Contact us right away and ask for a quick guidance call with our seasoned Minnesota family law team. We can help you identify if manipulative co-parenting is occurring in your case and will provide you with direction on how to address it through the courts.


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