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What Is Considered Harassment by a Co-Parent and How to Address It

photo of woman holding her hand up to gesture "stop" from blog post about what is considered harassment by a co-parent

Co-parenting can be challenging enough, but when harassment becomes part of the equation, it can feel nearly impossible to navigate. Understanding the signs of co-parent harassment, the impact on everyone involved, and the steps you can take to reduce co-parent harassment are all important parts of protecting your child’s well-being and maintaining safe relationships. Recognizing what is considered harassment by a co-parent, setting communication boundaries, and utilizing legal remedies and strategies for dealing with harassing behaviors are all necessary for the protection of you and your child’s well-being.

Quick Answers

Recognizing Co-Parent Harassment

The first step to counter co-parent harassment is to identify detrimental behaviors that undermine the co-parenting relationship. Harassing behaviors from a co-parent are not necessarily easy to spot. Some signs of co-parent harassment include:

These behaviors should be taken seriously as they can have serious legal consequences and should not be left unaddressed. Recognizing these behaviors is a significant step because they can negatively affect both parents and children, potentially requiring changes to the child custody agreement.

Co-parent harassment can manifest in various forms, and all of the following conduct is presumed to be harassment pursuant to Illinois law:

You must stay alert, monitor your interactions with the other parent, and note any changes in the co parent’s behavior. If you suspect that your co-parenting relationship is being affected by harassment, it’s important to keep detailed records of any harassing behavior, including dates, times, and specific incidents.

For an effective response to co-parent harassment, you should collect evidence like texts and emails about child support or custody, and any harassment instances on social media. By having a clear understanding of the situation and concrete evidence to support your concerns, you can make informed decisions about how to handle the harassment and protect your child’s well-being.

Impact on Children and Family Members

Co-parent harassment can significantly affect children and other family members. Emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and difficulties with academic performance and social relationships are all potential consequences of co-parent harassment. Children who witness intense conflict between their co-parents may also suffer from decreased self-esteem, lack of self-assurance, recurrent outbursts, emotional instability, and excessive obedience.

If domestic harassment induces fear and manipulation in children, it can be particularly harmful, making it essential to consult mental health professionals to address the psychological impact on the child. The long-term effects of parental harassment on a child’s development can include an increased risk of developing anxiety, depression, and memory issues, which can contribute to co-parenting problems and affect the overall well-being of the child.

You must be attentive to signs in your co-parent’s behavior and take appropriate steps to address them. Some steps you can take include:

By taking these steps, you can mitigate the negative impact of co-parent harassment on your child’s mental health and well-being.

Setting Communication Boundaries

Setting communication boundaries with a harassing co-parent is key to maintain a productive co-parenting relationship and protect one’s mental health. One way to set boundaries is by including provisions in the custody arrangements that clearly state that any form of abusive or threatening language is not tolerated in communication between the parties involved.

To establish clear limits regarding what is and is not acceptable from one’s ex, communicating that the unwanted contact is against your wishes is key. By setting expectations and addressing any breaches of those boundaries promptly and calmly, you can maintain a sense of control and prevent harassing behavior from escalating. Avoid engaging in communication with people who are harassing you, because it may be used against you or as an excuse for the harassing communications to be justified.

Obtaining professional assistance, such as therapy and other tools for dealing with harassing co-parents, can also provide helpful direction and support in addressing these difficult circumstances. By working with professionals who understand the complexities of co-parent harassment, you can develop effective strategies for setting communication boundaries and maintaining a healthy co-parenting relationship.

Strategies for Dealing with Harassing Behavior

In the face of harassing behavior from a co-parent, it is important to:

Retaliating could potentially increase the severity of the harassment and eliminate any potential advantages. Additionally, it could be seen as a sign of equal culpability in the eyes of the law and the court.

Seeking professional support when dealing with co-parent harassment can provide guidance, strategies, and emotional support. Therapists, counselors, or mediators can help individuals with:

These professionals can offer valuable assistance in navigating the challenges of co-parenting harassment.

Utilizing communication platforms designed for co-parenting situations, such as Our Family Wizard and TalkingParents, can also help manage and address harassing behavior. These neutral platforms can serve as a safe space for communication, allowing for transparency and documentation of interactions, which can be especially helpful in cases of co-parent harassment.

Documenting Harassment Incidents

Documenting co-parent harassment incidents is significant in identifying behavior patterns and providing evidence in legal proceedings, including custody modifications. When recording co-parent harassment incidents, it is important to:

Documentation can serve as a reliable source of evidence should legal action become necessary and helps to ensure a clear understanding of the situation. By maintaining a journal or calendar of harassing incidents, you can provide a comprehensive account of the other parent’s behavior, which can be instrumental in legal proceedings and custody modifications.

In addition to written documentation, gathering physical evidence, such as screenshots of harassing messages or pictures of any damage caused by the harassing parent, can further strengthen your case. Putting it all together can be more powerful than you realize. In other words, reference your calendar, screenshots, and photographs throughout your journal. This evidence can be invaluable in demonstrating the severity of the harassment and the need for legal intervention.

Knowing your legal rights and remedies while dealing with co-parent harassment is important. Consulting with a family lawyer and exploring options such as restraining orders and custody modifications may be advisable. An attorney experienced in family law can aid in understanding your legal rights when dealing with co-parent harassment and guide you through the available legal avenues.

When making custody arrangements, the best interest of the child should always be the primary concern. However, you can be stuck in the cycle forever if your co-parent hates you more than they love their kids and you fail to recognize that. In certain situations, you may be prolonging the pain for your kids if you continue to try to co-parent with a person entirely unwilling to co-parent with you. Be careful about being open with a harassing co-parent, because they are likely to weaponize your statements against you. If the child’s emotional stability and well-being are at risk due to co-parent harassment, the arrangements should be adjusted accordingly. Legal remedies for co-parent harassment may vary by state, so it is important to consult with a local attorney to understand the specific laws and protections available in your jurisdiction.

If your co-parent threatens you with harm or unacceptable intrusion, it is important to ensure your safety and well-being. Contact the police and file a police report, and consult a lawyer to explore your options for obtaining a restraining order or protective order against the co-parent.

Protecting Your Child’s Well-Being

Safeguarding your child’s well-being amid co-parent harassment requires open communication, emotional support, and seeking therapy if needed. It is important to communicate with the relevant parties instead of involving the children in conflicts with a harassing co-parent. Encourage your child to express their feelings and concerns, and reassure them that their well-being is your top priority. Be mindful of your reactions to your child telling you bad news. You may need to change your tone in order to create a safe space for the child to be open with you. If you allow your child to see your pain, they may not be quite as willing to share their negative experiences with you.

Therapy can be beneficial in helping both the parent and the children to address their emotions and manage the psychological distress that results from co-parent harassment. A mental health professional can work with your family to develop coping strategies, improve communication, and address any emotional issues stemming from the harassment. However, you should know that some counselors defend or minimize the harassing behavior of your co-parent.

In addition to seeking professional support, it’s important to maintain a sense of normalcy and stability in your child’s life outside of problems such as co-parenting harassment. Ensure that they continue to have access to their regular activities, friends, and support networks, and work to establish a consistent routine to help them feel secure and supported.

Preventing Parental Alienation

Avoiding parental alienation can be an important part of maintaining a healthy co-parenting relationship and ensuring your child’s best interests are met. To prevent parental alienation, it’s important to keep children out of conflicts, avoid badmouthing the other parent, and foster a healthy co-parenting relationship. However, some parents are capable of alienating the children from themselves. You do not help the child if you minimize the bad behavior of the other parent or cover for them, if the other parent is an abusive person.

If the other parent is abusive, manipulative, and badmouths you towards the minor child, then you may lose the authority that you should have as a parent over the child. In other words, you being a parent to your child might be turned around on you by the other parent to try to convince the child that you do not trust the child or do not love the child. If your co-parent intentionally upsets the child because you make the child follow rules, then your ability to discipline your child will be diluted. If you observe that your relationship with your child is deteriorating, you may need to change you tone and become less strict. Choose your battles when disciplining your child. This will help prevent the other parent from being able to weaponize the child against you.

You should avoid speaking negatively about the other parent when possible. By maintaining a neutral stance in front of children and avoiding disparaging the other parent, you can create a healthy and supportive environment for the child, reducing the risk of emotional abuse and manipulation. However, you cannot always control what the other parent says to the child when you are not present. You may need to adjust your approach to stop the child from resenting you.

Some effective communication techniques to use with children affected by co-parent harassment include:

These techniques can help to prevent parental alienation and maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship.

If you suspect your child is being influenced by one parent to the point where they do not desire a relationship with the other parent, it is essential to take action to address the issue and protect the child’s well-being. This may include seeking therapy, working with another expert, or consulting with a legal professional to explore your options.

Cyber Harassment and Social Media

Cyber harassment, comprising online harassment, cyberbullying, cyberstalking, and online impersonation, can notably affect a co-parenting relationship. It’s important to monitor online interactions, block the harassing parent on social media, and report any abusive behavior in order to mitigate the negative effects of cyber harassment.

In today’s digital world, it’s essential to be proactive in monitoring your child’s online activities and interactions, especially if you suspect co-parent harassment. Regularly check your child’s social media and online communications to ensure they are not being subjected to further harassment or manipulation by the other parent.

If you’re experiencing cyber harassment from your co-parent, it’s important to take the following steps:

  1. Document any incidents, including screenshots of harassing messages or posts.
  2. Report the harassment to the appropriate authorities.
  3. This evidence can be crucial in legal proceedings, demonstrating the severity of the harassment and the need for legal intervention.

Confronting Physical Violence

Immediate action is required in case of physical violence in co-parent harassment situations. It is essential to take action and contact the police if harassment has escalated into stalking or if there is a risk of physical violence against you or your children. Ignoring the situation may lead to more dangerous consequences. You also may be accused of lying if you wait to disclose what happened to you; abusers will say that you would have come forth immediately if you were actually afraid, which is untrue but can cloud the situation. Ensuring the safety of yourself and your children should be your top priority.

To confront and address physical violence, it’s important to:

This evidence can be invaluable in legal proceedings and custody modifications.

In addition to seeking legal protection, it’s essential to reach out to a support network, such as friends, family, or a therapist, who can provide emotional support and guidance during this difficult time. By taking these steps, you can ensure the safety and well-being of yourself and your children in cases of co-parent harassment involving physical violence.


Co-parent harassment is a challenging and emotionally draining issue faced by many parents. Recognizing the signs of harassment, setting communication boundaries, and seeking legal remedies are crucial steps in addressing this problem. Prioritizing your child’s well-being, preventing parental alienation, and dealing with cyber harassment and physical violence are all essential in maintaining a healthy co-parenting relationship. By taking these steps and seeking professional support, you can navigate the complexities of co-parent harassment and ensure the best possible outcome for your child.

Schedule a Consultation with Attorney Zachary Townsend

Call or text today – (815) 200-8802

During your consultation, Attorney Townsend will go over the history of your legal matter, ascertain your goals, and help you develop a new path forward for you and your family.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an uncooperative co-parent?

When a co-parent is aloof, doesn’t prioritize their children, is late for pick-ups, and engages dangerous behavior to exert power, they are being uncooperative and negatively impacting the lives of their kids.

Do I have a right to know who my ex brings around my child?

You should have the right to know who your ex brings around your child. However, judges differ on this issue, and you may not know when your ex brings other people around your children. If the person does not pose a safety risk, then many judge say that it provides no basis to restrict limit the child from visiting the other parent. it will largely depend on your ex’s history and how safe your ex is as a person.

What are some common signs of co-parent harassment?

Common signs of co-parent harassment include repeated phone calls, text messages or emails, verbal abuse, repeated name-calling, showing up at your work or school, and threats to conceal or disappear with your children.

How can I set communication boundaries with a harassing co-parent?

Including provisions in your custody arrangements that spell out specific methods of communication, and other parameters, can help you set boundaries with a harassing co-parent. Otherwise, you may need to obtain an order of protection if the co-parent will not stop the harassment.

If facing co-parent harassment, consulting with a family lawyer to explore remedies such as restraining orders and custody modifications are advisable. You may be entitled to an injunction, and the harassing parent may even be criminally prosecuted.

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