My ex is using childcare arrangements to control me

If you think your ex partner may be using childcare arrangements to control you, it’s important to get help. Controlling behaviour can take place within a partnership or marriage. But it can also happen once you’ve separated from your partner.

When someone uses a pattern of behaviour to exert power over you, this is coercive control. It may affect your self worth or your independence.

If you’re worried someone might see that you’ve visited this page, Stop Domestic Abuse explains how to cover your tracks online.

Partner coercive control - child looking serious

What coercive control looks like

It’s not always easy to spot the signs of control. A person may try to tell you how to behave or what to think, or take away your independence. They might use your money or time for their own benefit rather than yours. You may feel scared, worried, humiliated or isolated. The behaviour can also sometimes include assault. 

Some signs your ex may be using childcare to control you include:

  • Not allowing you any contact with your child. Or preventing contact unless you do something they’ve asked you to do.
  • Failing to respect boundaries when you’re spending time with your child. They might regularly text or call the child while they’re in your care.
  • Failing to collect your child from your care at the arranged time, to inconvenience you.
  • Refusing to care for your child when they know you have important plans.
  • Trying to discourage your child from spending time with you. They may say bad things about you. This is sometimes called parental alienation.
  • Refusing to enforce rules like bedtime or normal routines. This can make it harder for you when your child is in your care.
  • Saying they don’t want you to leave the children in the care of anybody else, like family or friends. This can make you more reliant on them, meaning they have more control.
  • Making threats to take you to court for custody of the children.

Protecting yourself and your children

Sometimes disagreements will happen for other reasons other than control. Always try to speak to your ex about what’s worrying you. See if you can come up with a solution together, and try to keep to any arrangements you made.

If you feel at all worried about how your ex is behaving, make sure you speak to someone. You can also take some steps to protect yourself and your child:

  • Reduce communication with your ex. Stick to what’s needed to make child arrangements.
  • Keep a log of all communication with the other parent, and include when you’ve had contact with your child
  • If possible, have someone else present at handovers. Ask a friend or family member to oversee meetings. Or ask a trusted person to act as a go-between.
  • Shift communication to an app to reduce opportunities for conflict. Try App Close, Our Family Wizard, or 2 Houses.
  • If your ex has blocked your contact with your child, try to remain calm. Get legal advice as soon as possible. Don’t harass them, threaten them, or try take the child by force.
  • Keep or record abusive texts, calls or threats, and report them to the police by calling 101. This helps establish a trail of evidence. Dial 999 if you’re in immediate danger.

Where to get help

Coercive control is a form of abuse. You can get support from the following places:

  • Women’s Aid offers a live chat service and a forum. It also has an online search for local domestic abuse services.
  • Respect provides support for male victims of domestic abuse. Call the advice line on 0808 8010327, email or use web chat (available Wednesday, Thursday and Friday).
  • Galop offers support on LGBT+ domestic abuse. The charity is trans inclusive and for anyone from the LGBT+ community. Call the helpline on 0800 999 5428, email or visit the forum. The site also has a chatbot service to help those at risk navigate their options.
  • Refuge has a 24-hour helpline. Call 0808 2000 247 or use web chat.
  • Supportline runs a 24-hour helpline and web chat. Call on 0808 1689 111 or visit the chat page.
  • National Family Mediation provides support for conversations with your ex.
  • Child Law Advice offers information on how to protect you and your child from abuse.
Go back

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Dealing with feelings of anger in separation or divorce


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