Co-Parenting With An Abuser

December 6, 2012 Kellie Jo Holly

All of us survivors know that our ex will at least verbally and emotionally abuse our children. We survivors also know how hard that type of abuse is to prove, and even proving it doesn't mean your ex will have less time with our children. Proving non-sexual or non-physical abuse typically results in therapy if it results in anything at all. Therapy doesn't work unless the abuser wants to change. They don't want to change which is the reason you left them in the first place.

If you are in this position, then you have to fight back through education and love. That is easier said than done, but it is very important to "do it" more often than you don't.

  • Educate your kids about bullies, sexual predators, and dating violence.
  • Empathize with them when their other parent hurts them, remind them how great they are, and have faith that your children are smart cookies who will continue to talk to you about their problems.
  • Introduce your children to therapy, keep your eyes open for signs and symptoms of abuse, and report any allegations or proof of sexual or physical violence as soon as you see it.
  • Create a new safety plan with your children. Make sure they know what they can do if they feel afraid while at your ex's house. You may have to be very careful about this because focusing on "what to do if you're at mom's house and she starts hitting you" could have negative effects. Instead, create a safety plan for your home, the babysitter's, grandma's, their friend's and your ex's. Make it a general "what to do if I am scared" plan without singling anyone out, then practice it with them.

Yes, it feels horrible to know that your kids cannot escape the emotional manipulation and pain like you did through separation or divorce. It is very difficult to cope with your kids' visits to your ex when you truly believe it is but a matter of time before your children are injured on the outside too. It is a helpless feeling to watch them go off to your ex's home, knowing "something bad" is waiting for them there. However, you cannot allow yourself to remain attached to your abuser through the children. So long as you feel like a victim (out of powerlessness to help your kids like you want to) you will remain a victim.

Remind yourself that now you are free of your ex's daily abuse, much stronger and smarter, and therefore in a better position to support your children in helpful ways. When you lived with abuse, you did not have the freedom to combat it that you do today. Remember to be grateful that you set an example for your children and try to stop beating yourself up every time they visit their other parent. Your kids visit your abuser because the court says they have to do so, not because you want it that way.

Forgive yourself for being unable to protect them 100% from their abusive parent. You can't protect them all of the time anyway. Children must learn hard lessons about all kinds of things on their own. They will be grateful that you were there for them, their safe place, if the other parent abuses them. They'll see the difference in the two of you in time. Let that awareness be as natural for them as possible (meaning don't habitually point out the other parent's flaws even if they talk badly about you).

Protect Yourself

You are no good to your children if you allow yourself to be abused by your ex.

  • If you stay on the phone while your ex admonishes you for your poor parenting skills so you can eventually talk to them about the kids, you're allowing the abuse to continue. Hang up the phone at the first insult and send an email instead. Write only about the children.
  • Don't allow your ex to enter your house without knocking and respect their home in the same way.
  • Keep your personal boundaries strong. Let your children see that your ex can't get to you (at least not for long). They need to see you as separate from your ex; they need to know they have two homes, two parents, two different families to love. (They do love their other parent, always will - let them, and be there without "I told you so" if your ex lets them down.)

Your way of parenting will not affect your ex's ideas about parenting. Don't let their way of parenting affect yours. The idea is to work with your ex when it is reasonable to do so, but remember that you have separate homes and separate lives. You get to set the rules at your house.

  • Don't let them talk you into spanking when you prefer time-outs, not even "for consistency between households".
  • If your ex grounds your daughter from her cell phone (for good reasons) but you feel more comfortable if she has it on her at school, then take it from her as soon as she gets home.
  • Drop any expectation that your ex will enforce a punishment you set for your child while the child visits them.

Realize that your children will play you against your ex sometimes. Your kids are smart; they know both of their parent's well. Our kids do not label us "bad" and "good" people. We're "mom" and "dad". If you think you're being played and that your child is doing something dangerous, email your ex to tell them about it.

  • You may get no response or your ex could degrade you for your thoughts, but keep in mind that, most likely, your ex wants your children alive and well too (If they don't, you probably have proof of that and already took it to the authorities).
  • If you receive a nasty reply, read it (I know you will), then archive it. I add my ex's emails to a folder labeled "Jerk" - it feels really good to hit the button sending it to that folder! I save them just in case I need proof of something in the future. I don't reread them, and I don't give them a second thought. I did what I needed to do when I informed him about our child.

Remember that you cannot see the future. Your gut instincts and intuition do not determine destiny. Your fears may never come true. Trust that if they do, you will have the presence of mind to do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons.

Do the best you can today. Take a deep breath, hug and kiss your kids, and talk to them. Parent the best way you know how, keep educating yourself so you can teach your kids how to live free of abuse, and keep your ex abuser's voice out of your decisions.

Keep your focus on your relationship with your child. How your ex fixes or screws up their relationship with your child is beyond your control.

You can do this. It isn't easy, but you can do it.

You can find Kellie Jo Holly on her website, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.

Tags: co-parenting

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2012, December 6). Co-Parenting With An Abuser, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 25 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

October, 15 2014 at 11:12 am

Unfortunately, emotional and psychological abuse are very wide spread. According to Childhelp, about 11% of child abuse is physical... what makes up the rest? My child is 5 and is being psychologically abused by my ex-spouse, he even pointed a gun at her claiming that he will kill us. My child is in therapy. I believe England is working to rewrite family law to address the issue. The same needs done in the U.S. courts. Do a search for "Cinderella Law". As parents we continually need to remind both legal professionals and counselors of the disconnect here in the states and how the issue needs immediate attention.

October, 14 2014 at 2:56 pm

I wanted to say thanks for an excellent article. And offer hope to all those going through this. I got divorced 13 years ago and had 3 daughters who at the time were 2, 4 and 5 years old. Over the years I've dealt with and continue to deal with much drama from him. The girls have grown up and become fine young women. And each in her turn has realized on her own that their father is emotionally abusive. They've had therapy and I've provided a loving, supportive, stable, safe home for them. They developed coping skills and have learned to draw the line with him. The oldest has had to take the step of cutting off all communication with him because he had recently become much more abusive, harassing and full of rage. She came to the correct conclusion that she did not need to take that behavior. It makes me so proud to see them have the strength and self respect that I didn't have until I was much older.
Take hope survivors! We can teach our children love, respect and self worth even in the face of the ex's continued abuse. It's far from easy and can break your heart to see them go through it, but kids can do more than just survive, they can thrive. Believe in yourselves and them. The law may let us down by not seeing the danger of verbal and emotional abuse, but we can get through it and maybe one day bring about a change in the system that fails us and the kids in these situations.

October, 10 2014 at 8:15 pm

I have been separated from my ex for approximately three years, and even though I still keep fighting to have sole custody, as I have evidences that my daughter might be in danger (by the way child protection can be useless sometimes), I still refuse to say anything bad about my ex in front of my daughter. I also make sure that she can feel safe around me, by showing her that I can stand in the middle of any legitimate battlefield for her. This way, when she gets older she will able to see the differences between good and evil, and feel confident that I will always be there for her, even after I'm dead. Many women might think that all man are bad. However, I believe that the ones who think this way are usually a part of these problems as well. This is my opinion that it is important to stay impartial and rational so that my daughter can grow up normal.

October, 8 2014 at 5:31 am

This article is great. Can you please provide me any tips on getting my current partner to be more supportive when I am trying to co-parent with an abusive ex.

October, 7 2014 at 5:19 pm

I finally left my abusive partner when our twins were nearly 2 years. We were in a same sex marriage. It was very difficult to leave, I had left twice before but always thought I couldnt cope so returned. She used to scream at the babies if they woke her in the night, swear and abuse them for pooing in their nappies or spilling food, punched holes in the walls, leave me at home for days on end with no car/food looking after little babies. And abuse me endlessly, the psychological abuse was intense. I never slept because I was scared to leave her with the babies... so I became incredibly sleep deprived. And I still feel like nobody believes me. She denies anything ever happened. She is a public figure, well known and that all added to the cover up. I feel that am still attempting to get out from under the fear of her. She isolated me severely and I am sure has told everyone who will listen that I am crazy. She would scream that at me constantly. In the end I decided I was crazy and went to a mental health respite... after sleeping for 3 days I had a much clearer picture. My boys are 3 years now, I am putting myself back together. She says she wants the boys then leaves them with people they have never met and goes away with her new partner... its agony. The law should not allow abusive partners access. But she has so many rights, its frightening.

September, 30 2014 at 6:29 pm

Thank you for this. Its the little things:)

September, 29 2014 at 10:10 pm

Thanks for this. I'm up at 4:30 AM thinking about how I'm still allowing my ex to scare me. I'm mostly afraid she is actively doing what she can to turn my daughter against me. My ex is very manipulative. Even though I left because her emotional abuse got to be too much, she is playing a victim to anyone who will listen.
And I realize I have to plan, but take this situation one day at a time.
I'm going to try and go back to sleep now - I feel a little better.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
October, 5 2014 at 3:15 pm

Mike, I know how real your fear feels. The best antidote to fear is knowledge. If you are afraid of your daughter turning against you, take her to family therapy (you two are a family now) and ask the therapist to model to you the best way to combat your ex's manipulations as well as help you and your daughter's relationship grow stronger.
If you cannot afford therapy, then read everything you can and come up with a plan on your own.

September, 27 2014 at 10:53 pm

Samantha -
Reading your comment was like reading my EXACT experience. My ex would do the same thing to me - verbally abuse me to the the extreme..getting in my face, backing me into a wall, even holding me down so I couldn't get away from him. He would take my phone my car was hell. The issue is control. Abusers NEED to control you. When they feel they are losing the control, that's when things get particularly nasty. I had to call the police on my ex and when they arrived he had a wonderful story concocted about how it was ME who was abusing him. Abusers are great at turning things around to make themselves appear the victim
It is disgusting
The worst part is that my child still has to see her father and be subjected to his abuse and emotional manipulation. And as a child, she does not understand the abuse or even that it is abuse
..she is simply not equipped to be able to recognize it a and stand up for herself. All she knows is that dad makes her feel worthless. But she loves dad, so on some level she protects him by excusing his treatment of her. What results is an absolute stifling of her needs and feelings and a complete destruction of her sense of self worth and identity.It is heartbreaking to say the least, for me to have to watch this. This article was helpful, definitely, but I'd love to find some more in depth advice about helping your child set boundaries with an abusive parent..

September, 14 2014 at 9:45 am

My ex was abusive (physically, mentally,emotionally). He was also a liar, cheater, alcohol-abuser,and porn addict. I was glad to make it out alive when things hit rock bottom. Because I did not report each instance, I have little proof, save the last attack which settled out of court. A few years post divorce, the screaming has stopped and been replaced with avoidance or false pleasantries in public. Great, but the problems are now passed to my child. My pre-school-aged daughter just told me he has a picture of a topless woman hanging on the wall (calendar). She described it and I assure you it's not artsy! It's porn. I'm so sick of his influence. WTF am I supposed to do to combat that? Should you really have to explain to someone why it's not ok to show porn to their child?

September, 14 2014 at 6:53 am

I want to leave my verbally abusive husband, and have wanted to for some time. It is very difficult to leave your partner to protect your kids from witnessing this and yet the reward for that is instead of you being the object of the abuse your children now are. Or the abuse just continues on another level. This is what stops me from leaving. I can not tolerate the thought of what my kids will suffer and I try to come up with other ways to protect them, but can't. I realize my husband may not "abuse" the kids, but I have seen enough in my home of his unreasonable behaviour with them to know better. He has flat out admitted he would do whatever it takes to take my kids from me, and most recently he called the police on my after he verbally assaulted me while keeping me backed up against the wall just screaming at me, when I tried to get away I had to get physical for him to allow me out of his face. I see what's he's doing trying to make me look unfit, but seriously I don't want to be away from my kids for a minute, never mind 50% of the time, which he will probably be awarded. BTW the police understood the situation for what it really was and they were very supportive in trying to get me to get a divorce lawyer and get me out of here and away from him. At this point I think they are right, although my children were not here to witness this, this time, it's becoming more than anyone should have to deal with. And know I see he will prove there is something wrong me one or another even if he has to play dirty. He has now warned me from know on "I am going to get it" if I piss him off or go against "his authority in the house as a parent"
oh the court system is terrible many woman stay for way too long due to fear of their ex's behaviour with the kids when the other parent isn't there to protect them. It's more than I can handle!

September, 12 2014 at 12:38 am

I am very disturbed to read that it is ok for my children to go with an abusive manipulative covert aggressive father, of which his sole purpose is self serving and is raising a future generation of aggressive behavior and future domestic violators! That is ok for my children to visit their father just because a decree says so and no one can do anything about it because it is an invisible harm, it's the slow silent death of the future and there isn't anything or anyone that do or can protect me or them without phisical evidence or paying over $1000, no one will rescue anyone, and the wicked and terrible bully will take advantage of those who are less protected and lost and in need of love.
This man whom constantly puts down their mother or bullies her in front of their children demeaning her as if she is nothing more than a comic strip, and the innocent laughs. Who teaches them how to rob, or do fraud, to steal cheat and lie.
The children forgotten and learned from him not to even obey me and disrespect me and any of the rules or boundaries that have always existed, but he has so brainwashed them to have him called everytime the I talks to them or ask of them something, and he continues to manipulates his ways and control them and me in the process by using them!
No I am not ok!
My kids within a year has gone from good sweet children to almost monsters!
And despite police phone calls because of sons running away, suicidals, attempts
I got only refferals and not help.
The system got to change!

September, 8 2014 at 7:30 am

I am reading that (big shock) that the ex husbands still are abusive on the phone,
In person. No way. Insist all communication in writing. You do not have to speak
To these men at all! Set that boundary. Even hearing their abusive mouth
Disturbs your tranquility. He has no right to any access to you.

August, 30 2014 at 3:34 am

My ex keeps threatening court, he keeps telling the little ones to never tell me anything, keep secrets, that they'll find out if little one does tell me. He tells her why we broke up which is all lies, he will promise her something and then post a buy on get on free voucher through solicitor making him look good, he tells child I am a bad mom, he tells child I don't pay for her, I need to put my hand into my pocket yet actually ive spent over 600 on her alone for uniforms, birthday, and new bedroom, he blamed other form of abuse onto me saying she'd not need councillor if wasn't for me when actually hes abuse isn't helping, he is always trying to make out im a bad mother who doesn't care when its totally the other way around, he charms others inc teachers, head mistresses, solicitors, social workers and police, he uses another women and his parents to be strong because his parent is an abuser and the other is scared and the girl he is with is obviously blind to it. He blames me to my child for everything going wrong in his life, he doesn't bother to call child in three weeks then starts being nasty when I get funny about him not asking how she is, then hen he does ask I reply ''oh my your remember you've got a kid'' he confides in our child about his personal life, relationships ect, he doesn't provide for child, he stalks me, he threatens me with court yet he breaks the court order HE forced into place, he is jealous of me being happy, he doesn't like to hear I am having fun. When I and my partner go to go out he cant have our child? he stops working in order to take me through court, he stops working when I used to break up with him and get with some one else in order to get me back because I had no money so I ended up back with him, he lies, he forced me into things I never wanted to do, he doesn't put childs needs first always how he feels and what he wants where do I end. These tips are really great and Ill try them :) anything worth a chance I really hope I can get some one to see him for who he really is because emy child is depressed a 6 years old NOT GOOD x

August, 21 2014 at 10:03 pm

Its interesting to me how the "offended" people are just as defensive of the potential abusers when they have no right to be. It's as if they're either still scared of a possible abuser in their life, are afraid to admit they themselves really are abusers, or forgot to live in reality and learn to apply the facts to the situation.
This story is the writers experience and the writer's suggestion based on their life story. You can't take it all as "this will 100% apply to my life".
Use common sense!

August, 14 2014 at 7:14 pm

This blog is good, I like what you said as far as protection. My ex cusses me out every time I drop my son off, she constantly tries to mentally abuse me (Tells my son I wasn't apart of his life for the first yr in front of me, tells me I am a bad father, always says my wife and I will get divorced because I am a loser ETC it never stops) sometimes I get very down and its a dark road sometimes when you feel no one can help, I have been to court multiple times, had multiple custody revisions and I feel like nothing changes, coming from someone who has a criminal justice degree & works with lawyers and courts a lot for a living you would think I could some how figure something out to make it stop but unless someone literally hits you or does something to you physically its almost as if no one cares about mental abuse or someone who screams at you in public places where I pick my child up and cusses me out in front of my son. Its a sad world when you feel like you can't get help in any direction the only thing I advise is to just be the best parent you can be, pray for the other person to have a change of heart and do your best to not take to heart what an abuser says because they say it to have power, and at the end of the day letting someone believe they won won't help you. Good luck.

July, 30 2014 at 9:42 am

Thank you so much for this article. And a thank you to all of you who posted/commented to it. I have been committed (secretly) to divorcing my verbally abusive husband for 3 or 4 years. The only thing that has stopped me is our now 4 yr old daughter. I completely relate to another commenter about staying in the relationship because you feel like you have to be there to protect your young child. I keep thinking I have to wait until she's just a little bit older, old enough to call me if she's in trouble, old enough to feed and dress herself, etc...but I'm realizing that she will never be at the age where I can say, "ok good, she's old enough to handle this without me" and since that is true, I really just need to get out as soon as I can.

July, 27 2014 at 6:02 pm

This article was what I needed right now. I'm trying to leave a verbally and financially abusive husband who is also a alcoholic drug addict and porn addict . I know it's better for me and my daughter (4 years old) to leave him but the thought of her alone with him terrifies me like I physically throw up at the thought of it. What if what if what if is all I can think. He has never been a real dad to her an she even at such a young age has little respect or trust in him. But seeing I'm not alone in this has given some hope. One strong healthy parent is a whole load better seeing her mommy bein called names and treated like crap every day. Thanks I'm goin to browse around the site now

July, 1 2014 at 12:51 pm

Honestly i dont know what i was thinking my ex treats me worst than a hore calls me all sorts of bad names and accuses me of being a prostitute while i work 10 hours a day in accounting and come home to do my mommy dutties my only comunication with him is because of my son and for his own good but honestly it ends up hurting me so much,is there really nothing i can do about this? Do i just have ro put up with hom mistreateting me and bringing me to tears w his abusive and offensive words????

June, 29 2014 at 4:39 pm

Thank you I am still have coping issues. Currently i am not allowed to see my little girl becouse i told my ex ad her sister NO I wont do that anymore.I still visit her I day care everyday I can. But the courts move so slow thanks for the advise I am starting to rebuild my self now.

June, 27 2014 at 1:30 pm

Thank you for this post. It gave me some encouragement. I also have a diagnosis of PTSD, and I think mostly due to the fact that there are too many red flags about boundary violations between my daughter and her father. While I think that by now I have an excellent team of professionals to support me and my daughter with this, I also reached a stage of burn-out, which makes it difficult to keep up with my job, and even taking care of my daughter and myself. Luckily I am about to travel to see my family where we will get additional support from loved ones and organizations.
Will keep this page as a reference for the future.

June, 27 2014 at 8:31 am

Thank you so very much for this website. It is invaluable. I am sure like many parents on this site I never thought that I would be in a position where I would experience having a child with an abusive partner and then having to cope with them going to visit that person (after separation) knowing that they were at risk of being emotionally/psychologically/verbally abused as I was. I did speak out about it but was not believed by those that had a say in contact arrangements. Thankfully my child eventually stopped the contact themselves. Initially I was scared as to what the consequences would be as well as feeling guilty that my child had to take matters into their own hands. The reasons my child gave were that he was a 'bully' and 'unkind' and 'shouts at me a lot.' Kellie Jo, you said that children will continue to love their other parent despite their behaviour. While I have huge admiration, respect and thanks for the work you do, I actually disagree. My child feels quite differently and has reached this stage without any encouragement whatsoever from me. I believe that many children do eventually see the other parent for who they really are, especially if the role model they have at home (whether that is mum or dad - this isn't a gender issue) is warm, loving, supportive, caring, empathic and consistent. My thoughts go out to all of you who have not only endured abuse (I was diagnosed with PTSD) but are also dealing with seeing their children in the care of someone who is not fit to be in the lives of vulnerable children. It makes me very angry that this seems to be so widespread and yet agencies and those in positions of power won't acknowledge or do anything about it.

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Kim W-M
June, 22 2014 at 3:07 pm

I forgot to say thank you for the article. It was helpful and gave me some positive things to do when I get the harassing phone calls and emails (which like you said, I have to read). I am going to put them in the "asshole" file and try not to think about them or worry about them.

Kim W-M
June, 22 2014 at 3:05 pm

I am almost crying as I read this article and many of the comments. I have felt so alone and have no idea what to do. I can't believe there are other people in the same boat as me. I wish there was some sort of support group we could getr together. I get physically sick when I have to send my 10 year old with his dad. He is nervous before he has to go, too. He never knows what to expect. He is bullied and put down the whole day. He has to listen to lies and mean things his father says about me and his older brother (who was allowed to choose whether or not to spend time with him at 14 years. Never wanted to be with him, and now at 19 has nothing to do with him). As far as us "letting" our children go to the other parent's home, as Mary stated. You can tell she has not been in this situation. These are men that will be sure to document and call the police if you refuse to let the child go. I have had a judge say they didn't weant to know about what happened when my child was with his father, I just need to follow the Parenting Plan. I have had the school call DFS on my ex 2 different times for actual physical abuse (without any marks). NOTHING was done except a warning. I think this actually educated the school counselors who could not believe that my ex got away with the things he did. It is easy to say don;t let your children go, but then believe it will come back to you and you will have to "make up" those days so not to be in contempt of court.

June, 12 2014 at 12:11 am

Thank you so, so, much for writing this article. I am at my wits end but want to be stronger and this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear! Thank you!

May, 30 2014 at 3:41 pm

Not being able to protect your child from an abuser is a special kind of hell. The courts often offer no protection, even when there is proof, which makes us feel even more helpless. Thank you so much for this wonderful advice. I will read this page over and over again through the abuse.

March, 2 2014 at 7:02 am

Hi and thanks for your post. I too am in a very similar situation. My ex is so unreasonable and irrational. The latest example its he has just picked up our little one and as he was putting her into her car seat I said from the for wait I forgot to give her a kiss at this he started to shout at me saying for good sake hurry up then and extremely over reacting,, I could see the concern on my little ones face. I make it as easy as possible for him regarding seeing her and never stop him from having her because I love her more than I can't stand him. I try to ignore the constant insults and put me downs but they really do hurt me, I don't want my daughter bring exposed to this but even the shortest amount of contact I have with him he manages to get on some sort of spiteful remark. I am so thankful not to be in that relationship anymore, he was physically and sexually abusive then also but the emotional and verbal abuse remain. I still feel very controlled by him even though we have been separated for over a year. He does not give me any financial support either, I provide everything our child needs. I want to be free and unaffected by his behaviour. There is no reasoning with him. I just want my little one to be happy.

March, 2 2014 at 6:43 am

Hi and thanks

February, 7 2014 at 7:32 am

Mary - not sending the kids if there is a court order can actually put you in a worse custody situation. The ex can turn you in for violating the court order and then use that as leverage to get even more time with the kids.

January, 19 2014 at 12:48 pm

I am v annoyed that this site seems to think its OK to send kids where they no there ex is abusive verbally to there kids child of mine wud b goin to my ex if he was abrupt or upset them and also even if it is in a court agreement tell the court u not sending them as they upset and are not going to the ex end off..really put out that patents are allowing kids to go to the ex partners home !

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
January, 22 2014 at 5:15 pm

I hear you, Mary. Unfortunately, the courts don't work like we wish they would.

November, 11 2013 at 6:33 am

I am so thankful for this article, but like many of the people here am so disheartened for my children. You can't get protection from verbal abuse. I was shoved to the ground in front of my kids, but because there wasn't enough physical violence and we mainly suffer just verbal abuse, we can't get a PFA or any protection. I have to follow our custody agreement and can't protect my children.
The safety plan is a great idea and I will implement this right away. In the days where there aren't house phones and the ex can take a mobile phone from them, they don't don't even have a way to contact me for help if they need me.
Remember to love and hug your kids everyday, we may have to over compensate for the pain they have to endure from the other parent.

October, 28 2013 at 2:31 pm

I just got back from picking my 3 boys up from their dad's house and once again, there was another blow up. This article is exactly what is happening to us! Why it continues to surprise and hurt me, I don't know. He controlled and mentally abused me the whole 15 years we were married but I really didn't think he would do it to the kids. It was fine when they were younger, they were his little soldiers and everyone was terrified to go against him, but now they are older, 15, 12 and 11 and they have beautiful minds and spirits that just want to be free to learn and experiment. I really believe that he loves them but hates them. He looks at them and sees and hears ME, and for that they must suffer. I feel helpless and scared when I have to send them to visit but I am bound by law. How do you explain to them that they have to be bullied and called worthless because this man shares their blood? How do you explain that they have to show respect for someone who has such little respect for them? And all in the name of a court order. I am so frustrated and fed up with this, I don't even know where to turn anymore. Social Services is already looking into our case because he hit the 2 little ones with a belt. I have talked to school and I continue to hold my kids and rebuild what he tears down with every visit. As I read what you wrote, I felt like I wasn't alone, but it also shows me that no one can do anything to help us. I will take from you the good advice and just pray that things change, for us and all of you. Thank you.

October, 19 2013 at 2:53 am

What's most interesting, I find, is that from a man's perspective. (Mine, anyway) although I had my ex arrested for verbal threats about killing my son, and then again when she tried breaking into my home, men have zero chance in hell of ever really winning any ground in the war of abuse by a mother. None. She leveled the playing field and filed false reports of abuse by me with the police, the school, and ruined my reputation at social events. There's no way to combat this other than trying to live a happy life. But this woman is so manipulative and cunning (masters Degree in Psychology) she will never get caught threatening me or my kids. I have no idea what to do. I have numerous recordings of her manipulation in public and the courts and police say that just because she's a bitch doesn't mean we need to get involved. That's a quote btw. Unless there's violence, nothing can be done. Nothing. Great legal system!

October, 19 2013 at 2:42 am

I have an abusive ex-wife who, when angry, yells something hurtful into the phone then hangs up. Tonite for example, I let my son go with her for a couple of extra hours after the parent teacher student conference, and she was to drop him off later. When she called about the drop off and I stated It was earlier than we planned, by an hour and a half and that I was at my other sons football game, she yelled that I have now upset my youngest son so much that he didnt want to see me now so she wasn't bringing him back tonight and she would keep him until tomorrow, then she hung up. This happens regularly.
Of course I get nervous, leave the football game to cater her needs and go to the drop off site. I missed the rest of the football game and she was late anyway. When I asked my youngest son why he was so upset, he said he had no idea what I was talking about.

July, 30 2013 at 7:36 am

Thank you for your words. I have felt completely lost at times. I have an ex-husband who was emotionally manipulative and abusive our entire marriage. But he is cunning--he never treated the children poorly until we separated. He has become determined to degrade me in front of the kids. It has taken every ounce of will power I have to take the high road, and just to say "I'm disappointed to hear that", instead of telling them who their father REALLY is. I believe in my heart that when children see their other parent treat you this way, they are smart enough to know it is hurtful. And I feel sorry for him--that one day his sons will be so angry at him and resent him. But if so...he did it to himself. Thank you again.

June, 5 2013 at 6:01 am

Thank you for this article. I am trying to do the best I know how, similarly to the advice you have given. It is so difficult and painful as I am beginning to see my ex treat our youngest child in the same way he treated me with verbal/emotional abuse, and no consideration or understanding. What makes it slightly more difficult is that he does not treat the elder two sons in the same way. I think its because he naturally tries to control and manipulate the most vulnerable people.
I think people who have disagreed or challenged this article are not in the same situation so cannot fully appreciate it. It's not about the ex being male or female, and it doesn't apply if your abusive ex is not the same with the children. Because if you are in this situation this information makes you feel understanded, supported and not alone.

May, 24 2013 at 10:55 am

Thanks For the info Kelly :)
I will apply what I've learned here.

May, 24 2013 at 10:53 am

I'm a man and found this article informative. After dealing with verbal abuse(15yrs) from my x-wife, I can start to comprehend why some men would become so enraged as to cause physical harm to the abuser. When we feel backed into a corner with what seems like no way out or no end to this abuse, the victim starts to quickly fantasize about illegal solutions.
Interestingly enough, once I STERNLY said NO MORE or else I will call the police and have a harassment restraining order, the abuse quickly stopped. Though for the record, it's only been 24 hours, I think she finally got the message. And I'm really happy I didn't do anything that I would regret the rest if my life.

May, 13 2013 at 10:21 pm

This is the best article I have ever come by to help me through by current situation. I am sorry that any individual would accuse this of being offensive. I feel this article was not aimed to offend but to help individuals like me who are struggling with how to cope knowing that your children are being forced by court order to go to another parent who is mistreating them. My children are suffering and I do feel a lot of guilt and extremely helpless knowing that neither the courts or Cps will do anything to stop it. This article helped put into words the best thing I can do with what I have. Thank you

Joy Hamilton
April, 13 2013 at 7:44 pm

Thank you Kelly! This helped me very much. I researched co-parenting with an abuser. I am very shaken up now and when I was routed to your page I felt unalone. When is it too much? I am really concerned about my 6 year old daughter when she has a weekend with her Dad. He calls me and screams obscenities at me and this is with her present. There is a lot of violence in his home between his wife and him. When is it too much?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Holly
April, 14 2013 at 10:53 am

It is too much when you can prove it to the authorities. Sometimes life just sucks, and this situation is one of those life-sucking ones. You can talk to the counselors at your daughter's school so they know what happens on the weekends. Be very honest with them about your concerns for your daughter. If the school notices any bruises on her (God forbid) they will have an idea of where to start investigating when they call DSS.
Talk to your daughter about the violence. Ask her how she feels when dad and step-mom yell at each other. Ask her what she does to stay safe. Let her know that her feelings are important and that you know her father makes her say things that aren't true. Ask her if daddy makes her feel. Teach her about bullies and bullying without implicating her father. She has to know that this bad behavior can happen outside the home too, and it isn't okay when it happens there, either. Plus, she'll begin seeing dad as a bully and using some to the same strategies to detach herself from his abuse.

February, 12 2013 at 4:25 pm

I left my abuser 9 years ago. I was a stay at home mother with 3 young children at the time. Get support and help for you first. Alternative for Battered women is a support group i received help from. Search for some in your area. You do not deserve to be abused by anyone. I did not have a job or any money. There is support all over if you do your research. Above all, know that you are not alone. You can get out of your situation. Just get help for yourself first. My children and I are so much better off that I got them out of that situation.

January, 6 2013 at 6:44 pm

How can i leave my abuser?
I feel i can not survive (financially) on my own.
I don't make enough money to support myself and my son.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 20 2018 at 5:06 am

I left but not before it drove me to a mental breakdown. 4 months later I left, I finally found the courage. It took about 2 months to find a job and support myself but I did it. Absolutely the best decision. It's been over 7 years now, my daughter is 13 and I'm seeing the signs of emotional abuse taking a toll on her from her father. It's hard. This article is on time for me.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

July, 17 2018 at 12:06 am

Go to your local department of human services and ask to speak with a case worker. They can tell you what aid you can qualify for and also provide you with resources on how to get put of an abusive situation.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 9 2018 at 11:28 pm

Hi Judy,
Apply for EBT food, section 8 housing, housing for single mothers etc. There are a lot of resources out there funded by our tax dollars. That’s what it’s for. Wish you the best

Vivian Holliday
December, 18 2012 at 6:46 pm

My son is only 23 months old and my (soon to be) ex has yelled at him a few times when he woke up crying for a bottle. One of my biggest fears in leaving my husband is that he will verbally abuse my son during his visitation hours and I will not be there to rescue my baby (I used to take him on long drives until my husband fell asleep and we could sneak back in).
My husband was beaten and mentally abused by his father, Steve, as a child. When my husband was 10, Steve even made my husband kill their pet dog because it was a bad hunter. I want any nugget of advice I can get to protect my son from the cycle of abuse in my husband's family. I truly appreciate your post and would be so grateful if you returned to the topic of protecting your kids from your ex's potential abuse in the future.
Whoever posted that they were offended by this article should be ashamed because though it may not be applicable in her situation, this advice is definitely pertinent in several readers' situations, including my own.
Thanks for posting, Kellie. I'm so glad I found your blog!
- V

December, 7 2012 at 1:32 pm

So by ex whom are we speaking of? I read that as though you are saying that the fathe will abuse their own (your) children. How very narrow minded. Obviously this is your circumstance but a bit to general to be advising everybody about.
Just because YOUR ex abused your children doesn't mean everybody else's would. I am quite offended by your article and I imagine a huge amount of other people will be to. I do not condone domestic violence and have been a victim of it myself in the past but I do not think you can generalise such a matter as mother are equally if not more vicious than men after a relationship fails.

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