Top 10 Rules for Divorced Parents – By Shirley Cress Dudley, MA LPC NCC – Director of The Blended and Step Family Resource Center

1 – Don’t send messages to your ex-spouse through the kids

Your children have been through some major changes- mom and dad not living together, divorce, and now visitation back and forth between the houses. They do not need to be involved in adult discussions or arguments.

2 – Keep contact to a minimum

One phone call a day is excessive, several text messages a day is extremely excessive.  If you have a subject related to the kids-, speak briefly and clearly about your expectations.  Emails are better than phone calls, if your issue is not an emergency.

3 – Do not speak negatively about your ex-spouse in front of the children

It doesn’t make you look better in front of the kids, and it does not help with the co-parenting relationship you have with your ex.  Children are confused by negative talk and should not be trapped in the middle of your marital issues.

4 – Don’t question the kids about their activities when they return from a visit with the other parent

Children are very suspicious of this and wonder what they are supposed to say.  They wonder if it’s O.K. to have fun at the other parent’s house without upsetting you.   You want your children to have a positive relationship with both parents and want them to feel that they don’t have to “report back” every activity from the other parent’s home.  It’s O.K. to ask them if they had a good time over the weekend, and then smile and say, “great” after their brief response.  Move on to another topic, immediately after the question, so that the kids know its O.K. to have enjoyed the time, and that you’re not being nosy.

5 – Work together with your ex-spouse to coordinate a visitation schedule for the kids

Let your ex know if there are any changes to your schedule, as soon as possible.  Emergencies will arise (for both parties) but planning ahead allows both parents to care for the kids as best as possible.


6 – Don’t sabotage family events at your ex-spouse’s house

You may be considering planning a huge meal to serve to your kids right before dropping them off for Thanksgiving dinner at your ex’s house, or bringing them to their other parent’s house, late, so that they miss an important event scheduled for them.   Rethink this. You may think these tactics hurt your ex, but in reality, you are only hurting your own children.  Step back, and remember to do what’s best for your kids.



7 – Don’t speak negatively about your ex’s new partner

Your ex-spouse’s new partner is going to help raise your children. This person is helping to care for your children when they are at the other parent’s house.


8 – Choose a new partner that loves your kids

Now that you’re a parent, you can’t just marry someone for your own needs, but also someone who will be a great parent to your kids.  Make sure this person is willing to devote time to get to know, love and help you care for your kids.


9 – Don’t ask for extra funds, in addition to child support

You and your ex-spouse have a separation agreement that discusses custody, visitation, allocation of assets and child support.  You signed this agreement and agreed it was fair and reasonable.  Do not ask your ex for additional funds now that this agreement has been finalized.

10 – Do not contact your ex-spouse unless you have a topic related to the children

You no longer have a relationship with this person, except that he or she is the parent of your children.  Asking for assistance with household repairs, or even just talking about your day- is no longer acceptable.

Some of these rules sound pretty tough, but remember to focus on your kids.  This isn’t about trying to hurt your ex-spouse or “get even” – your goal should be to do what’s best for your children.


Shirley Cress Dudley is a licensed professional counselor and nationally certified counselor, author of Blended Family Advice, and director of The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.  She has a passion for helping blended families grow strong and be successful.  Sign up for our Free newsletter and receive a Free ReportTop Ten Worst Mistakes You Can Make in Your Blended Family,

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