A Special Note for Divorced Parents


Since I have been involved in the area of driving contracts and parenting new drivers, one of the most challenging questions I get comes from divorced parents.  The divorced parent I hear from is usually a person who is strongly committed to a safer approach to parenting their teen driver, but the ex-spouse is unwilling to cooperate.  In some cases, the ex-spouse purchases the teen a car without consulting the other parent.  Most often, the ex-spouse is unwilling to cooperate with enforcing the rules of the contract while the teenager is staying with him or her.  Sometimes, of course, this seems like a ploy on the part of the ex:  "I'm the nice parent and your mother/father is mean and unreasonable."

Of course, as with all post-divorce issues, there is typically no easy answer to this kind of problem.  As a divorced parent concerned about safety, you have these options to consider when your ex-spouse is uncooperative.


1.  Communicate with your ex-spouse verbally or in writing about your intention to insist on a driving contract.  Keep him or her fully informed.  Provide copies of the contract, seek the ex's feedback, provide supporting information (from this website, if you wish) about why you think it is important.  Indicate that you think it is a life-or-death issue and you want to work cooperatively to present a united front, at least on this issue, with your ex.


2.  If your ex is not "with the program," enforce the contract when your child is with you.  Tell your child you expect him or her to abide by the rules of the contract even when he or she is not with you, whether or not your ex agrees or will cooperate.  You will be less capable than usual to enforce the contract, but it may be all you can do.


3. Try to anticipate problems.  For example, let your ex know in advance that you not allow your teenager to drive an inappropriate vehicle, inappropriately early.  Warn your teenager about this, too.   If your ex surprises you by buying junior a brand new hot car on his 16th birthday, do not allow him to drive it while he is with you.  If, over time, you find that you can contract with your teenager in a way that makes it acceptable to you to start driving the car, go ahead and enter into that agreement.


4.  You may end up feeling like the "mean parent."  Your teen may certainly want you to feel this way, in hopes you will back off your stance regarding driving.  Don't go there.  Remember what is at stake here.  This is not about how your teenager feels about you.  It is about potentially saving your child's life!

Go back to "Getting Tough"