Don’t Be an A$$hole – Shared Custody is Hard on Everyone

There are two key ingredients that can transform a seemingly decent person into an asshole, they are: 

  • A lack of respect
  • A lack of consideration

Add either (or both) of these ingredients to your handling of any co-parenting situation and you will likely transform yourself into an asshole. 

There are basic rights that you and your ex both have as parents.  You need to understand and respect that despite how much of a controlling jerk your ex is, at one point in time you decided to have children with them.  You had a part in this. You are both equally responsible for bringing life into this world. Yes, you are the child’s parent and nothing can change that, no court-order, judgment, or decree.  The same applies to your ex. You are both the biological parents of your children, and that alone affords you a base set of rights and obligations.  

Here are some of those:

  • Both parents have the right to spend time with their children
  • Both parents have the right to provide for their children
  • Both parents have the right to love and care for their children
  • Both parents have the right to information regarding your children’s care

Parents who are abusive, negligent, substance abusers, etc. are working against themselves and their children, and may only have a modified or version of these rights.  Short of these exceptions, doing anything to deny or impede your ex’s inherent parental rights will undeniably earn you the asshole designation. When you co-parent, you need to consider the other parent and respect their rights as a parent.

You do not have to agree with their parenting style.  You do not have to like them. You don’t have to take into consideration how they will feel about anything that doesn’t impact the care of your children.  If it’s not related to your kids, it’s likely none of their business and it shouldn’t concern you much.  

So what types of situations would likely make you an asshole?  Here are some examples:

Your ex is due to have your children back to you by 5PM, but wants to take them to an event that ends at 5:15.  Your ex could have the children back to you by 5:30PM if you agree. You have no plans, and the variation in the schedule will not cause you any real difficulty.  In the past year of co-parenting with your ex, this situation has never come up. You refer to your court-ordered parenting agreement that clearly states the children are due back to you by 5PM.  You tell your ex, “Sorry, but the court-ordered drop-off time is 5PM.”  

Result:  You are an asshole.  

Well done!  You knew your kids wanted to get an autograph, but the will have to miss the last 30 minutes of the event when the autographs are signed, because rules are rules.

Your ex has taken the children to see “The Best Kid’s Movie Ever”, “The Best Kid’s Movie Ever 2”, and “The Best Kid’s Movie Ever 3.”  The latest follow-up in the series, “The Best Kid’s Movie Ever 4” just came to the theatre near you. You know your kids loved the first three movies; you decide you going to take them to see this one.

Result:  You are an asshole.  

Nice job!  You could have honored the tradition that you ex had established with your kids, but you decided to be an inconsiderate jerk instead.

You are reminiscing with your children as you look at an old family photo album from your married days.  Your kids remember how much fun everyone had on that trip to the beach. You can’t resist, and comment that your ex probably takes their new significant other to the same beach now.

Result:  You are an asshole.  

Good one!  Who cares how it makes your children feel; that little quip sure made you feel better.

There should be a voice inside you (some folks hear this voice louder than others) that tells you to think how you would feel if you were in your ex’s place.  Listen closely for that voice and let it guide you. If you let it, it will fend-off potential arguments, conflict, and disagreements. Remember the so-called Golden Rule, and treat others as you would like to be treated – with respect and consideration.

Forgive, Forget, or Fake It

If you can’t forgive or forget what your ex did to you, you can still fake it.  You’ve probably heard the common saying, “Fake it until you make it.” In addition to the countless other areas in our lives where this saying is indeed suitable, it applies here as well.  If it suits you, fake your way through every interaction with your ex. Become the best actor or actress you can be. You have been cast in the role of a cordial, cooperative business partner. 

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