Coparenting Tips for Improving Communication from the expert authors of Overcoming the Alienation Crisis: 33 Coparenting Solutions. For more information about OCB Publications go here.
How might a parent respond if their coparent is not providing needed information, e.g., times of doctor’s appointments, contact information for sports coaches, child’s health insurance card?
Your coparent may think that you do not need or are not entitled to the information you are requesting. As a first step, take a look at the divorce decree/parenting plan. Refresh your understanding about each coparent’s communication responsibilities. The general rule is that both parents are entitled to information from the school, medical providers, and extracurricular activities that occur during both parents’ parenting time, and each parent is responsible to obtain that type of information on their own. The court-ordered parenting plan usually says that when an extracurricular activity, such as piano lessons, occurs only during one parent’s time, that parent has no obligation to provide this information to the coparent. The courts recognize that each parent wants to enjoy time with the children without the tension of unnecessary coparenting communication. A Neutral Coparent will offer information about a child’s special activities, even though they are not required to do so. They will be guided by best practices, rather than the minimum obligation of information sharing. For example, they could forward notices about special events at the school or special moments the child has with their friends. This is an easy way to make a peace offering.
There are instances when the coparent will not receive information directly from a third-party source (school website, team parent, etc.) and it must come through their coparent, such as what happened at a child’s medical appointment.
Out-of-town travel is another instance when information needs to be shared. The parent traveling with the child should provide information about the child’s sleeping location each night, contact information the non-custodial parent can use to reach the child, transportation details, and an airline itinerary if air travel is involved. But the parent vacationing with the children is usually not required to disclose the day-to-day schedule of activities for the children or who they will be with. And Neutral Coparents accept that when a parent is on vacation with the children and enjoying a break from their usual responsibilities, they also want to enjoy a break from coparenting tension, so the Neutral Coparent does not get upset if they go several days without talking to the children.
Coparenting conflict escalates when parents do not freely share information about doctor’s appointments, extracurricular activities, health insurance information, and the like. An Escalated Coparent may send less than the minimally required information, or they may withhold it. When both parents are escalated, the response may be an angry/threatening text or email, or a parent may, in turn, withhold information. Or, a lawyer may file a court motion alleging contempt and seeking a sanction such as a fine and reimbursement for the cost of bringing the action. Trying to obtain information from your coparent by threat, pressure, or intimidation rarely works. Even when it works, it sets a terrible tone for future interactions.
If an Escalated Coparent is not providing information, the Neutral Coparent could choose to write something such as: “We don’t seem to be doing very well at exchanging information in a timely manner. I hope I am not doing anything to make it hard on your end. Can we agree to respond to each other’s emails within 24 hours? Or if either of us is too busy to timely respond, then maybe you could respond by saying I will get the needed information in 48 or 72 hours.” A diplomatic request like this may need to be repeated several times. If repeated requests do not bring resolution, then the wise response may be for both parents to sit down with a professional to talk about what is going on and what can be done to improve coparenting communication.