Q: My ex drives me crazy. He looks for ways to disrupt my life and make things difficult for me. We have a custody arrangement but he constantly breaks rules and tries to renegotiate agreement details. It’s expensive to have my attorney involved at $400 an hour. Now he’s trying to change upcoming holidays. Honestly I’m exhausted by it.

A: Unfortunately even with the best custody orders, often dozens of unanticipated issues will come up that need to be negotiated and resolved. In addition, it sounds like issues already resolved are being brought up for debate. Here are some strategies that may help keep your stress down and save you some on attorneys fees.

When dealing with a challenging ex: shore up your boundaries and do your best not to antagonize by demonizing or showing expressions of contempt. The former will be critical to not be run over and the latter will avoid unnecessary provocations that are counterproductive.

Sometimes a less-is-more response like, “Making changes to our custody agreement on these upcoming holidays is not going to work for me.“ is best.

On issues not addressed in the agreement, consider trying the following:

  1. Take opportunities the emphasized shared values and goals. “We both want Billy to have a memorable experience at summer camp.”
  2. Clarify the points of disparity between the two positions. “Your proposing several out of state camps, but I’m not comfortable with him doing overnight camps yet.”
  3. Re-emphasize shared values and goals as they relate to your positions. “I believe we can find a camp option that will provide the quality experiences we both want for Billy while also being in a day camp format this yer.”
  4. Look for area for compromise. “I am open to revisiting the overnight camp question next summer when he has shown more comfort with overnights at friends houses.”

If even your best effort’s, things are still a struggle, consider in listing the help of a certified divorce coach or parent coordinator. These professionals can offer a cost effective alternative to continuous legal support.

Originally posted in The Lakelands Leader in November 2020.