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How to Handle Parenting Plan Sabotage

by | Jan 31, 2023 | 0 comments

The term “narcissism” on this blog is used to describe a specific set of personality traits. It is not intended to be used as a professional diagnosis.

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Is your co-parent sabotaging your parenting time?

Are they consistently manipulating the parenting plan?

Having a parenting plan is great for co-parents who want to get along for the sake of their child.

Drawing from my experience and insights shared in my book about parallel parenting, I understand the complexities of this situation.

However, toxic and narcissistic individuals will always find a way to manipulate and sabotage the plan in order to create conflict and gain control.

This can be extremely frustrating!

All you want to do is create consistency for your child and a relationship of peace and respect with your ex, but then they go and try to mess it all up.

I get it, I really do.

If you’re in this situation, here are some ways you can deal with parenting plan sabotage:

High Conflict Parenting Plan Checklist

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Navigating a high-conflict parenting plan can be a challenging and emotionally draining experience. To help you manage this difficult situation, here’s a checklist of key points to consider:

  • Assess the Situation: Evaluate the extent of the conflict and identify the areas of concern within your parenting plan.
  • Maintain Communication: While difficult, maintaining open and respectful communication with your co-parent is crucial.
  • Document Everything: Keep records of all interactions, agreements, and violations related to the parenting plan.
  • Prioritize the Child: Always make decisions based on the best interests of your child or children.
  • Seek Mediation: Consider involving a neutral third party to mediate discussions and find common ground.
  • Follow Legal Routes: If necessary, consult your attorney to explore legal options available to enforce the parenting plan.
  • Focus on Self-Care: High-conflict situations can take a toll on your well-being. Prioritize self-care to stay emotionally resilient.
  • Stay Flexible: Be open to adjustments in the parenting plan as circumstances change.
  • Involve Supportive Networks: Lean on friends, family, or support groups to gain emotional guidance and perspective.

Remember, managing a high-conflict parenting plan requires patience, determination, and a focus on the well-being of your child.

What is Parental Sabotage?

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Parental sabotage refers to the intentional and harmful actions taken by one co-parent to disrupt or undermine the parenting plan.

This behavior can manifest in various ways, such as undermining the other parent’s authority, withholding information, or manipulating the children’s perceptions.

The motivation behind parental sabotage is often rooted in unresolved conflicts, anger, or a desire for control.

This behavior can have severe negative impacts on the children involved.

Witnessing their parents’ constant conflicts and manipulation can lead to emotional distress, confusion, and a strained relationship with one or both parents.

It’s essential to recognize the signs of parental sabotage early on to address the issue and mitigate its effects on the children’s well-being.

How Do You Deal With a Manipulative Co-Parent?

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Talk to Your Ex

If your ex is not following the parenting plan, the first thing you should do is talk to them.

Discussing the issue may be enough to resolve it. Perhaps there needs to be changes made to the schedule to better accommodate everyone and provide consistency for your child.

Try to communicate calmly with your ex even if you suspect they will not respond in kind. If you can, send your concerns via text or email, and keep your message firm, clear, and to the point.

Don’t Engage in Conflict

Stick to the parenting agreement if your ex is constantly canceling or rescheduling visits – don’t give in to their tactics, don’t start an argument, and don’t get drawn into one.

You could say: “Hey, I noticed you cancel every Friday, do you want to swap that day for another one?”

Or: “This constant canceling and rescheduling is not providing consistency for our child. We’re going to stick to the parenting plan unless you want to discuss any possible changes.”

If they throw a fit or won’t work with you to resolve the issue, stick to the agreement.

Keep a Record of Everything

When it comes to communicating with your ex regarding the parenting plan, it’s recommended that you have everything in writing. You can do this by communicating through text or email.

You should also keep track of canceled or rescheduled visits, as well as no-shows and last-minute changes.

If your ex is constantly sabotaging the parenting plan, this documentation is helpful if you do decide to take legal action and get a court order.

Find a Mediator

If you’re not ready to take the parenting plan sabotage to court, you can offer to find a mediator to help you and your ex come to an agreement.

A mediator is a neutral third party who can help both of you state your concerns and work through issues or challenges related to the parenting agreement.

This allows you and your ex to take control of the agreement instead of letting a judge decide what the parenting plan will be.

However, mediation is not recommended if there is a history of domestic violence or if your ex is aggressive, threatening, and/or violent.

Get a Court Order

If all of your attempts to stop the parenting plan sabotage haven’t worked, it’s probably time to seek legal action and get a court order.

This is where any documentation of parenting plan sabotage is going to prove useful.

Also, conducting yourself in a civil manner is going to help further prove your case if this goes to court. If your ex has proof that you fly off the handle and make threats, things will get messy.

Keep a cool head, gather your evidence, and take your ex to court.

Pick Your Battles

Ultimately, when it comes to parenting plan sabotage, sometimes you just have to pick your battles.

It can be exhausting to deal with every little manipulation, and sometimes it’s best to let the small things go.

For example, if your ex is always five minutes late to pick up your child, it’s probably not that big of a deal. Either they are doing it because they truly can’t get there on time, or they are simply finding a way to piss you off.

But if they are half an hour late, this is something that needs to be addressed.

For the sake of your own sanity and mental health, pick your battles.

Sabotage Versus Life and Mistakes

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Before we get into parenting plan sabotage, it’s important to note the difference between blatant sabotage and life happening.

In every co-parenting situation, both parents are human. Things will come up, and mistakes will be made that may defy the parenting plan.

When we talk about sabotage, this refers to someone purposefully defying the parenting plan in order to manipulate the situation and create conflict.

They will constantly sabotage the parenting plan on a regular basis.

So if your ex misses a visit here or there, or you guys make a mistake about holidays due to confusion but work it out, then allow yourself and your ex some grace and work on the issues they occur.

Otherwise, there are ways to deal with the manipulation of the parenting agreement.

But before we get into that, let’s talk about what happens if you violate a parenting plan and how a toxic co-parent can manipulate a parenting agreement.

What Happens if You Violate a Parenting Plan?

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Parallel Parenting Plan

When it comes to informal parenting plans, such as a parallel parenting plan, there’s really not much you can do legally if your ex manipulates and sabotages the plan.

If you don’t have a legal court order, you will have to address the situation (which you can do using the tips in this article!).

However, it’s important to note that deliberately violating a parallel parenting plan will not look good if the situation does end up in court.

So, if you have proof that your ex is sabotaging the parenting plan, you can use this as evidence when filing for a court order.

Court Order

A court order is a legal document signed by a judge that outlines the parenting agreement in regard to visitation. It can also include other provisions, such as transportation plans, holidays, and more.

Because it’s a legal document, it has to be followed.

Just keep in mind that while a court order will keep your ex accountable for following the parenting plan, you have to follow it as well.

Plus, you both need to come to an agreement in front of a judge. You can’t make demands about the parenting agreement unless you have proof (text messages, documentation of missed visits, etc.).

However, if you have a court order, you can file a motion to enforce the parenting plan and visitation schedule and request that the judge holds your ex in contempt of court if they are not following it.

This can result in penalties and, in severe cases, jail time.

Why Do Toxic and Narcissistic Exes Sabotage the Parenting Plan?


Before we get into what you can do in regard to parenting plan sabotage, let’s talk about why toxic and narcissistic co-parents do this in the first place:

  • To get you in trouble. If you make a verbal agreement but don’t change it on the parenting plan, they may go back to what’s in the plan and then accuse you of not following the agreement.
  • To control the situation (even if it doesn’t make sense). Narcissists, in particular, do not like to be told what to do, even if what they are being told makes sense. They will purposely sabotage the parenting plan so that they can make the decisions and take control of the situation.
  • To piss you off and cause an argument. Ultimately, they may sabotage the parenting plan simply to pull you into an argument and conflict to feed their need for attention.

Let’s look at some examples of parenting plan sabotage, and you’ll see where these motivations come into play:

How Do Manipulative Exes Sabotage Parenting Plans?

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They Cause Issues with Drop-Off and Pick-Up

Your ex may show up late or purposely go to the wrong location.

Maybe the parenting plan states that your ex picks up your child at your home, but because you are already heading in their direction at that time, you make a verbal agreement that you will drop off the child.

You go to leave and get a text from your ex. They are at your house waiting!

Chances are that they will turn the situation on you, stating that they were exactly where they were supposed to be according to the agreement – despite the changes you made verbally.

They Mess With the Visitation Schedule

They may start switching days, canceling visits, and not even showing up for them.

This inconsistency can be frustrating for both you and your child. Either they are looking forward to seeing their other parent, or they are let down.

Or they are anxious about seeing their other parent and sit with that anxiety until the other parent decides to show up (or not).

If your ex does this, you may get a plethora of excuses (often blaming the circumstances on someone else), or they may not offer you any reason for changing the schedule.

They may notify you that they are switching or canceling, or they may just not show up.

They Twist the Words of the Agreement

It’s important that every word that is used in a parenting plan has a clear meaning. Otherwise, your ex could start twisting the words.

Here’s an example: “Shared” holidays mean that the child spends time with both parents on that holiday.

However, your ex could take that to mean, “We share the holidays, so the child spends Christmas with me one year and with you the next.”

(Which is “alternated,” by the way.)

You’re cool with that, so that’s how you do Christmas.

But then the next year, your ex is fuming because you didn’t make plans for your child to spend part of the day with them – because the plan says “shared,” and it means shared time on a particular day.


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Getting Out of the Co-Parenting Nightmare

Co-parenting with a narcissist or toxic person really can be a nightmare!

Figuring out how to deal with parenting plan sabotage can be confusing and frustrating, but there are things you can do to take control of the situation.

Just remember that if all else fails, you can always get a court order to hold your ex accountable.

How do you deal with parenting plan sabotage? Let us know in the comments!

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