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Ex-etiquette: Talk to ex before making plans to trade scheduled time with son

Jann Blackstone, Tribune News Service on

Published in Family Living

Q. My ex and I barely get along, and it’s because of things like this … I bought tickets a month in advance to go to a special venue on Friday the 13th with my son. It happens to be on the weekend my son is scheduled to be with his dad. (Dad sees Derek every other weekend.) I thought a month would be enough time to secure a trade, but when I asked to trade weekends, his father said no. These tickets are nonrefundable! My son is very upset — and rightfully so! It’s impossible to co-parent with this man! What’s good ex-etiquette?

A. You’re not going to like this. That was terrible ex-etiquette, and here’s why:

It’s not “my” son, it’s “our” son.

When you would like to trade scheduled time with your co-parent, ask first. If they say yes, then discuss the specifics of the trade — when will they pick up the child, etc., and then you buy the tickets. You don’t buy the tickets, ask to trade, find out it’s a no, then blame your co-parent for being unreasonable.

You also don’t tell the child about an outing until everything is in place. Telling him prior to Dad giving the OK disappoints the child and makes Dad look like the bad guy. So you set his father up for failure, and you look like the rock star who was trying to cooperate and do something special.

If this is how you co-parent, it's no wonder you and your ex barely get along. He probably feels you are trying to sabotage Derek’s time with him. And when that happens, you are going to find that your co-parent is not willing to negotiate because they feel manipulated and resentful.


In the future, ask Dad first and respect it if he declines. You have no idea why he said no — and it could be for a very good reason. He may have plans already in place. He may have other children on the same schedule and have plans for all of them that weekend. But if you haven’t laid the groundwork to work together, it’s unlikely you are going to get a “yes” in the near future.

My suggestion is to decide among yourselves how much lead time you will need when you want to trade time. Sometimes things come up at the last minute, and that’s hard to predict, but if you respect each other and stick to your agreement, both of you will be more open to being flexible if something comes up.

Ideally, if you and Dad were really co-parenting and making decisions in Derek’s best interests, you would have called Dad up a month ago and told him you had a great idea for Derek’s weekend with him. You could have explained what it is and told him where to buy the tickets. Then the two of you could have talked openly about the special outing. Derek would see how well his parents work together, and that would set the stage in the future for positive negotiations.

My suggestion at this point is, since you have the tickets, ask Dad if he would like to take Derek. Maybe he will reimburse you. That’s good ex-etiquette.

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