I receive a surprising number of calls like this one that came in last week.
“Brad, my ex never was easy to live with,” the client began. “But since we got divorced, it’s gotten even worse! She’s spreading rumors about me and speaking poorly of me in front of our children. She even tried calling my CEO. How do I deal with it?”
It is bad enough having to deal with a toxic boss or workplace. But when a divorced man or father in New Jersey has to cope with a toxic ex-wife, it can become unbearable. The tension never goes away and it can affect not just your children but your own mental health and well-being.
They do not respect boundaries, never let go of what they perceive of as past hurts and slights, and expend tremendous energy undermining your ability to co-parent or move on with your life.
To begin with, recognizing that you have a toxic ex will help you develop a strategy to deal with them, whether on a one-to-one basis or in the courts. Here are typical things they will try to engage you with:
- They don’t respect your privacy.
- They will use your children against you.
- They blame you for their unhappiness.
- They try planting seeds of doubt in your mind.
- They interfere with your relationships, whether with a new romance or old friends.
- They try using the family court system to stay engaged with.
Appropriate Strategies to Blunt A Toxic Ex-Wife
So, what to do?
There are some recognized and appropriate strategies that a divorced man or father in New Jersey can use when dealing with a toxic ex-wife.
- Don’t engage with them. Refuse to discuss their allegations or blaming. It’s not a conversation that either of you will “win.”
- Keep meetings with them impersonal. For instance, when picking up or dropping off the children, don’t engage if she issues a challenge about why you did or did not do something with the kids.
- Have a “script” when talking with her. For example, before calling her write out what you want to say and what you won’t discuss. Stick to the purpose of the call: “I’ll pick up the kids at six” or “I will be at the parent-teacher meeting Tuesday.” Don’t let her goad you into going off-script.
- Manage your conversations by staying on parenting matters. It’s common for a toxic ex to try steering the conversation to things that happened in the past. If she relents, disengage by saying something like “Let’s try this again later when we can focus on the weekend schedule for the kids.”
- Try to find some forgiveness. If you cannot make a positive statement when talking with your ex, strive to find neutral ones.
Ask for Help
Sometimes, these strategies don’t work and the ex will escalate the war by denying you access to your children even though she’s required to do so under the terms of the custody and visitation agreement or order.
When that happens, we will be in court rapidly on your behalf asking a judge to direct her to live up to her commitments. Failing to do so may result in her being held in contempt and fined or possibly even jailed. Likewise, if she is interfering with your ability to earn a living such as calling your boss or co-workers, we can send a “cease and desist” letter to her. If she continues, we can request that a court order be issued barring her from contacting anyone at your place of work unless they are an immediate blood relative of hers.
If you or a man or father you know is struggling to cope with a toxic ex-wife, feel free to call me or any of our family law attorneys for men and fathers in New Jersey. Call me at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620.