Navigating Broken Promises in Co-Parenting

A Broken Promise, a Betrayal of Trust: How to Navigate Your Ex’s Breaking Promises to Your Children

Navigating Broken Promises in Co-Parenting in New JerseyMany couples collaborate while settling their divorce to shorten the process and benefit the children.  It is always good if the split can be made with minimal arguing and negativity.  The attitudes displayed by the parents can greatly influence how the children perceive the process.  They are less stressed and more confident when there is less conflict.  When parents collaborate, communicate, and are consistent with rules and boundaries during a divorce, it increases a child’s security. Collaboration during divorce teaches children problem-solving, compromise strategies, and communication skills.

But collaboration is just as important after the divorce is settled.  The divorce process may have taken several months, but your children will be living with divorced parents for the rest of their lives.  The possibility that they will adapt and build healthy relationships with both parents directly depends on the relationship between exes.  Children cannot thrive in an unstable environment where they feel unsafe.  Oftentimes, a divorced parent will vent to the children about how they feel about the other co-parent, painting an unflattering picture as they rail against everything the other person does.  Their zoilism can make the children uncomfortable as they want to please both parents but don’t want to be forced to take sides.

It has been proven time and again that when co-parents provide a stable, positive environment, their children flourish.  When both parents are integral to their lives and are at least civil to each other for the children’s sake, children are more stable and secure.  Studies have shown that when the children of divorce are exposed to arguments, name-calling, and negativity between their parents, they suffer academically, socially, and emotionally.

Trust As the Cornerstone of a Solid Family Relationship

Trust gives a sense of safety and security in a relationship, familial or otherwise.  When you trust someone, you believe they want what is best for you and will treat you the way you want.  In families, trust is fundamental.  It is the building block on which all other relationships are constructed.  If a child cannot trust the person who says they love them the most in the world, how can they trust anyone else?  Every broken promise plants a seed of betrayal, eventually becoming an impassable, thorny thicket of pent-up anger and sadness.  The quickest way to destroy a family is when the ties of trust are broken repeatedly.  Children are given to trust their parents, make excuses for them, and even blame themselves for their parent’s behavior.  Frequently, if enough promises are broken, the damage done is irreparable.

Common Broken Promises and Their Lasting Effect on Children

We have all seen the scenes in movies and television where the child sits on the front step waiting for their parent to arrive.  They wait and wait until it is dark, but their parent never comes.  It is usually a scene that repeats itself several times: no phone call, no text, just silence and loneliness.  The feelings of abandonment created by that situation can have a ripple effect on the child through adulthood.

Some parents promise lavish vacations to amusement parks or fancy cruises.  These are usually offered as a salve for previous emotional injury caused by other promises that were broken.  In the moment, it helps the children to feel better because they are excited about what is to come.  But the parent talks about it less and less.  Vacation time comes and goes, and there are no trips or cruises.

After a divorce, a parent may promise their children they will never have to experience another marriage or break up again, only to find their second engagement announced before the ink has dried on the divorce papers.  The dynamics of a blended family are complicated enough without the children feeling as though they are a tennis ball bouncing back and forth aimlessly.

Sometimes, a parent will offer to buy a pet for their children as a replacement for the lack of involvement the parent has had in their lives after the divorce.  This is a bad idea for two reasons: if the unsuspecting parent disagrees with having a pet, sometimes due to no fault of their own (e.g., allergies or rent agreements), the promise is broken, and they become the villain for saying no.  The other option is that a pet is promised, but not so much as a stuffed animal is purchased.

When a parent promises to attend sports matches, plays, recitals, or other activities, it can be devastating to a child when they don’t come, usually with the excuse that they had to work late, had the wrong date, had car trouble, etc.

Reasons Children From Divorced Families are More Susceptible to Distress with Unfulfilled Promises

Even when parents present a united front during their divorce, are supportive, and never criticize one another in front of the children, divorce is a breach of a child’s trust.  The impact is felt when the separation happens, whether they are two or twelve.  Children worry about what will happen to them and their family. They also internalize their hurt feelings and blame themselves for the split. If a parent doesn’t follow through with visits or makes promises they can’t keep, a child of divorce feels rejection as an absolute breach of trust. There are insecurities about whether they will continue seeing the co-parent’s extended family, such as grandparents and cousins.

Your Child’s Well-Being is at Stake when Parents Break Promises

Several points on the list of New Jersey’s Child’s Best Interests are in danger of being violated by a co-parent’s decision to break their promises.  The children’s interaction and relationship with their parents and brothers and sisters can be affected when visits are inconsistent.  The needs of the child and the extent and quality of the time the co-parent spends with them are also in jeopardy.

Handling Broken Promises of Your Former Spouse to Your Children

You can take three options when the other parent breaks a promise.  You can talk a blue streak of disparagement, criticizing your ex and explaining to your child why their mom or dad is such a loser.  Most children see themselves as one part Mom and the other part Dad, so when you say things in anger, your child may also believe they apply to themselves.  Option two is to gloss over the hurt feelings and broken promises with phrases such as, ”Oh, forget about it!  You didn’t want to spend time with them anyway!” Minimizing your child’s feelings is not a great solution, as it will teach them that you don’t understand what they are experiencing and don’t want to hear about their hurt. Lastly, you can dish out a lot of hugs and encourage them to share what they are feeling without making excuses for your ex.  Honor your child’s feelings and encourage them to talk about those feelings whenever they need to.

Managing Unfulfilled Commitments from Your Ex-Spouse to Your Children in Passaic County, NJEssential Talks to Support Your Broken-Hearted Child in NJ

The most essential conversation you should have with your children is that they are in no way to blame for the broken promises of the other parent.  You should help them come up with ways to manage the disappointment they feel while still respecting the other parent.  It is acceptable to have hurt, angry feelings.  It is unacceptable to insult the other parent or act violently toward them.  If your child is of the age where they can write, encourage them to keep a journal to express themselves.  Assure them they can share as much or as little with you or the co-parent as they feel safe to do.  Younger children can paint or color pictures expressing their feelings and then talk about them if they choose.

Avoid Broken Promises from Your Ex with an Iron Clad Custody and Visitation Agreement in New Jersey

Maybe you need to restructure your parenting schedule.  If your ex isn’t successful with the plan you have, it might be a good idea to have your attorney work on alternative solutions.  It is in your child’s best interest to have a plan that is most beneficial to them and can be followed by the co-parent without difficulty.

Our attorneys at the Montanari Law Group have helped hundreds of families like yours agree on a parenting plan to benefit everyone in Haledon, West Milford, Montvale, Wayne, Verona, Wyckoff, Ridgewood, Woodland Park, and throughout Northern New Jersey.  Our seasoned custody lawyers will map out a schedule and support your desires to do what is best for your family. Our goal is always to make the agreement as rock solid as possible, to avoid disagreements and broken promises that your children should not have to face thereafter.

We can answer your questions about child custody and all other legal needs during a free legal consultation with one of our lawyers. Call today at (973) 233-4396 or contact us online.


To speak with one of our highly knowledgeable attorneys, contact us today at (973)-233-4396 or toll-free at (888)-877-7985. You can also complete the form below to begin your conversation. We are a personalized, boutique-style law firm that offers free initial consultations and flexible appointment options.