If you feel you will struggle with co-parenting and communication in a high-conflict divorce, these are some items I put in my child custody agreement. I am not a lawyer but I wanted extra protection and boundaries. This also applies to child custody agreements if you were not married to your co-parent.
After the first modification in our decree, I felt necessary items for my and my child’s well-being dealing with a combative ex that lacks boundaries. I pushed for “extras” during mediation because they are court-ordered and can be enforced.
Here are some suggestions (I am not a professional, please consult with a mediator or your lawyer) when dealing with a high conflict divorce and co-parent. All of these must be mutually agreed upon and/or approved by a judge. You may not think of these items during your divorce, items I had to learn the hard way.
A court-ordered co-parenting app.
In my two divorces, my first divorce, we did not even need to use a co-parenting app; we communicated fine and in a respectable manner. We have mutual respect to stay out of each other’s business. I must point out there are two differences in divorces.
One, you have moved on from the relationship, and no emotions or feelings are getting hurt anymore. This by far makes it easier to co-parent and communicate.
The second, hurt feelings, love, and anger come into play and make co-parenting difficult. Traditionally, I have been there and am here. Therefore, our hurt and feelings have come out as anger, and boundaries must be clear and directed.
Court-Ordered Parenting App
Therefore, I pushed for the court-ordered parenting app in my second divorce. My relationship was and can still be mentally and emotionally abusive. Having the court-ordered app feels like a boundary, and it feels safe and not personal, like a text or email. Text and email are MY private resources.
With that said, if there is a dire or urgent matter, my co-parent can call or text and vice versa. I have explained these boundaries to my co-parent over and over. However, it is ordered by the court to use the app. If your co-parent does not comply, it may be enforceable.
The app I use, and the court order is Our Family Wizard. The Our Family Wizard App uncomplicates your communication with your co-parent and reduces the stress of managing two households. You can create calendars, request a swap, and keep a journal and moments your child may have had.
My favorite part is the message board, and unlike traditional emailing or texting, this is a secure platform between you and your co-parent. These messages can never be deleted, retracted, or edited for court purposes.
You can put these messages away for future use if needed. The application also has ” “Tone Meter” to keep your communication positive and productive.
You can also use the check-in feature to document your exchanges and places you may be if that needs to be communicated with your co-parent. Also, there is an expense log to keep track of shared expenses, attach receipts, keep accurate payment history, and send documented electronic payments.
I love this app for co-parenting. I pushed hard to get it even though my lawyer told me he still would cuss me out, which is true, but it feels like a boundary and more like a business. Sometimes, co-parenting needs to be running like a business with absolutely no emotion. Some people cannot cooperate and will continue for years to not cooperate.
This app documents everything. You may never have a smooth-sailing co-parenting relationship, and it can be years of animosity and stress, so make things a little less stressful, create a healthy boundary, and protect yourself.
A no cussing rule for the parents in ANY communication.
That is texting, calls, emails, in-person, or the app. I have been called every name in the book and told I was nothing, and it hurt me and my self-esteem.
Cussing and being bad-mouthed is something I will not put up with; I made sure of it. I do not want to communicate for eighteen years with someone who will use profanity or digs every time they feel necessary.
I clearly stated what I needed in the decree—no cussing of any form. If you feel this can be an ongoing issue in years to come, request it crystal clear in your decree. You can ask your lawyer to word it for you. I believe it is standard in most states, but when I went back to modify it, I asked for this to be an extra stipulation.
No-bad mouthing the other parent in front of the children.
That means saying ANYTHING negative about the other parent in earshot of the child or children. I have a provision in my decree that both parties indirectly or directly bad-mouth, talk negatively, disrespect, or discredit the other parent that may estrange the child from the other parent or potentially brainwash the child.
I had the unfortunate opportunity to see how my ex talks about his son’s mom in front of him. If he did it in front of his son and me, he probably would bad mouth me in front of my child. She was young and still is young, so she cannot tell me everything, but it is just another level of protection from your toxic ex. It is hard to uphold in court, but just in case.
I did not want my ex to feel like it was ok to use my child as a sounding board for how bad her mom “apparently” is. Kids do not want to hear about how bad or what their parents have done. It is not enjoyable for your kids, do not do it. The other parent is part of who they are, and it is their blood.
No derogatory comments about the child.
My ex does not have custody of his son currently. It is not my story to tell but, in my decree, as horrible as it may sound, a stipulation that either parent uses derogatory statements towards the child. Put the child down or negative comments about her physical, mental, or emotional being.
Why did I do this? Because I experienced first-hand what my ex can say and made his child feel like nothing. I will do anything to add an extra layer of protection for my child. Will he likely still do it? Probably. But it will not be tolerated by a court judge if it’s in the decree. Especially if you went out of your way to put it in your custody order.
Yes, it would be best if you protect your children as much as you can. If it is not upheld, it possibly can be enforceable.
Child Haircuts and the Likes
A stipulation that you, exclusively, can only trim or cut the child’s hair and trim or paint their nails, toenails, or pierce the child’s ears. Sound extreme? You will not believe the lengths exes will go to annoy or start something that includes these items.
My lawyer agreed with me on this one. He said the amount of anger from a parent who received their child back with a horrible haircut from that parent or a grandparent.
My lawyer, in one case, stated that the mother put this item in her case, and the dad cut the child’s hair that was down to her bottom to the top of her ears, out of spite. He very much was contempt in court and had to pay a $500 fine and the other party’s lawyer fees. My lawyer told me it is a significant problem in high conflict and contentious divorces.
First Right of Refusal.
I removed this during our first modification. It would be fantastic to have the first right of refusal for him and not myself, but it works both ways. The first right of refusal is when a parent will need care for the child for a period, say two hours or even two days, the other parent can take the child or refuse.
During our year-long divorce with an infant, we had a two-hour first right of refusal. An ex who controlled and had trauma bonded me to the core; if I wanted to go somewhere outside of his custodial time, I had to ask him, which brought on a new set of problems.
If you have ever been in an abusive relationship, asking someone to watch the child, then being interrogated with a million questions, and having to leave a small child with an angry person is no fun.
Therefore, I removed it.
I did the first right of refusal to protect the baby, and I lasted a year. I did not want to risk him leaving her with a new girlfriend or stranger. However, it was necessary to remove the stipulation to have privacy, create boundaries, and live my own life.
You may feel you NEED this in your decree. You may have an ex that leaves the kids with babysitters all the time and parties all night. You may rather have your children home safe instead and sacrifice.
Both child custody agreements, which I believe are standard in most states, are written and notarized consent to travel with the child or children internationally. I do not have the stipulation for domestic travel.
If it is our custody time with the child, we do not have to ask permission or written consent. If you feel extremely unsafe, ask for international and domestic permission from the other parent. Remember, it works both ways.
In my first divorce, I made a regrettable mistake, and I somewhat blame my expensive lawyer for not going over this with me. I am responsible for health insurance and who will “maintain” the insurance.
Make this VERY clear in your agreement. I signed off in my first divorce that I would “maintain” the health insurance for the two children. I thought it meant I handled getting the health insurance premiums.
What maintaining means is I FULLY pay for the insurance. Being a business owner and a 1099 employee meant $1200 out-of-pocket insurance, and if I did not have the insurance, it could be contempt of court.
My co-parent and I have since worked it out, but I will have to go back to court if it comes up again because I cannot afford that.
My suggestion is to make health insurance 50/50 out-of-pocket and 50/50 out-of-pocket that is not covered. If there is a significant difference in income, of course, it will be different and decided upon in mediation or by a judge. Think hard about how the costs and situations may come up for medical and dental in your agreement. For example, braces, and who will pay the costs of braces?
In my second divorce degree, I get the insurance for the child, and he must reimburse me up to $200. He currently has a job that offers insurance, so he pays for that which is most cost-beneficial for him and me.
In this stipulation, think about the future. Could you get a new job with fewer benefits? Could your ex lose their benefits? How will it be handled? If you must pay for private insurance, who will pay the premiums and out-of-pocket costs? Just look into different scenarios.
I also have a very unconventional item I put in my decree regarding my child. However, this was agreed upon and nearly impossible to get unless there is proof or legal reasons you are asking for this.
I asked that one of my ex’s family members never be left with my daughter; my ex must always be present with her if this family member is around. She is never to be left alone or with someone else this family member. My co-parent MUST be present. I did not budge on this, and I feel great and safe it is in agreement.
How will I ever find out? That may be hard; however, if I have proof, it is enforceable. This was to protect my child, and I have no regrets nor care if I offend anyone.
If you know you will have a high conflict co-parent, think about provisions or things they have done in the past or a pattern that will harm you or the child and push to have it put in your legal agreement.
If you are struggling with healing from your divorce, visit my post on how to move on after divorce for some ideas on getting back to you.
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