Co-Parenting After Divorce When You Hate Your Ex But Love Your Kids

co-parenting after divorce requires trust

A few weeks ago a divorce mediation client was venting frustration in a private session about certain aspects of child support and co-parenting after divorce. She was convinced that her husband would be irresponsible with the money and spend more of it on himself than the kids. To prove her point she pointed out that he had a new iPhone, just a month after getting an Android phone.

I can remember the vitriol in her tone when she declared his guilt by phone association!

I asked her about the possibility that he got the phone for an important reason? That perhaps, his employer had given it to him? That it was a gift from someone? That he returned the previous phone for an even exchange?


She was sure that it represented his impulsive ways and his failure to put the kids first. She was becoming increasingly convinced that co-parenting after divorce with him was going to be a disaster.

I was curious. When I saw the husband next I casually observed that he had a new phone and found out how he came to have it.

Where Did That Phone Come From Anyway?

It turns out that the phone was indeed given to him by his employer at no cost to him.

The wife had been so dismissive of this possibility because she jumped to conclusions about his intentions. Simply, she did not give him the benefit of the doubt.

I knew that the wife and the husband were both good people with nothing but the best intentions for their children. Due to the hurt and pain caused over the years of their marriage they were blinded to this fact and assumed false intentions of one another. And as a result there was no trust to establish a healthy co-parenting relationship.

Co-Parenting After Divorce With HIM?

From my perspective there was great opportunity to build trust with this duo, at least as it related to the children.

The next time I met with the wife privately I filled her in. She had one of those I don’t know what to say and feel kind of foolish looks on her face.

The iPhone led to a wonderful discussion. She reflected on the possibility of assuming that the hurt from their marriage would lead him to behave in a manipulative and deceptive way with issues related to co-parenting and the children. She realized that there may be opportunity to build trust as a co-parenting partner even though there was no hope of rebuilding trust as a marriage partner.

What Steve Jobs and Co-Parenting After Divorce Have to Do With One Another

I love when something symbolic occurs in a mediation that can illustrate a point more effectively than I ever could.

Ever since this exchange I would pull out my iPhone whenever the wife was quick to react to her husband’s decision-making. I would take out my phone, place it on the table, point, and ask her to remember the iPhone story. She would pause, reflect, and begin to consider interpretations of her husband’s decisions that did not always involve devious intentions and evil plots.

As a result, she is beginning to build trust and give him the benefit of the doubt. She does not always agree with him, but she is beginning to accept that like her she wants what is best for their kids.

Do you think Steve Jobs predicted that the phone would help divorcees improve their co-parenting? I wonder if there’s an app for that?

iphone reminder to help co-parenting after divorceWhat parts of your relationship do you need the iPhone reminder? What false assumptions are you making?

Comment below and share your experience with “iPhone moments.”

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About the Author ()

I help families resolve conflict through family mediation and divorce mediation in Massachusetts. My services include mediation for co-parenting disputes, marriage problems, separation and divorce, parents and teenagers, and family conflicts. The goal of my mediator's blog is to help teach or remind readers of helpful communication and conflict resolution techniques that can be used in their relationships. I live in Natick, MA with my wife, son and dog and mediate throughout the Metrowest Boston region. Please note that my name is spelled Ben Stich, not Ben Stitch.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Andrew Stich says:

    I guess we all know that things are not always as they first appear! Thanks for sending such a clear message.

    • Ben Stich says:

      That’s a great way to put it. In fact, I might “borrow” that phrase when I post it to some of my LinkedIn groups! Things that incorrectly seem so clear trip us up all the time, don’t you think?

  2. There are ALWAYS two sides to the story and your iPhone example is a great example. If we can learn to assume the best until we learn otherwise, wouldn’t we have more energy for what really matters!! You did just what Byron Katie with The WORK does – she asks the question: Is it true? Is it 100% true? Have you ever done something interpreted by others inaccurately? Could that possibly apply here? And as your story illustrates, once you say hmmm, yes, I have interpreted something inaccurately once, it is easier to admit to it again!

    • Ben Stich says:

      Thanks so much for contributing, Pegotty! Your passion for effective communication comes through loud and clear. You are absolutely right that there are two sides to every story — the challenge I find is when the other person hears out the other side, but doesn’t give “the other side of the story” credence. What has your experience been with this type of dynamic?

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