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Is Co-Parenting with Your Ex an Ongoing Struggle? Co-Parenting Coach, Karen Bonnell, Offers Solutions | Ep 32

Are you struggling to lay down the groundwork for co-parenting with your ex? Is your ex asking for an attorney and refusing a mediator? What are some benefits of working with a mediator that you cannot find in courtrooms? In this podcast episode, I speak with co-parenting coach, Karen Bonnell who offers solutions when co-parenting with your ex is an ongoing struggle.


Karen has over 30 years of experience working with couples and families facing transition, loss, growth, and change. A graduate of the University of Michigan, she served on the faculty of the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University & Seattle Pacific University before beginning full-time private practice in 1984. In 2021, she brought her psychiatric nursing career to a close and now focuses strictly on coaching and mediation. She regularly writes for, speaks to, and trains health care and legal professionals.

Karen’s work as a Collaborative Divorce Coach spurred her determination to write “The Co-Parenting Handbook” “ with Kristin Little, Child Specialist. Parents learn the best ways to support their children, strengthen their co-parenting, and discover the necessary tools to skillfully create a two-home family. “The Parenting Plan Workbook” followed with contributor Felicia Malsby Soleil, JD. Karen and Felicia built a workbook and four-plus hours of coaching seminars (The Parenting Plan Workbook Video Series), which provide valuable access to the mechanics behind writing a strong, child-centered parenting plan.

And most recently, Karen and Patricia Papernow, PhD released the newest handbook for parents ready to date and hoping to one day successfully create a stepfamily, “The Stepfamily Handbook: From Dating to Getting Serious, to Forming a ‘Blended Family’”.

Visit her website. Subscribe to her YouTube channel.



  • Co-planning with an uncooperative ex
  • Facilitator privacy
  • Benefits of working with a co-parenting coach


The ideal situation is that the two of you can sit down at the kitchen table or a coffee shop … or with a skilled mediator who can walk the two of you through so that if you are the organized person, you’re not trying to push your structure on your partner … but rather that the third party is the structuring person that helps the two of you have the conversations. (Karen Bonnell)

Make use of a facilitator. Having a skilled mediator or a family therapist present at the meetings with your ex will be the one who enforces the structure, not you.

You and your ex will discuss your thoughts and feelings about the situation, and the third-party member will be the one who makes sure to gather the ideas as much as possible into a structure that benefits both you, your ex, and your children if any.

Using a mediator or facilitator means that no person in the relationship is “in charge” of the discussion, which therefore cuts out a lot of potential frustration.

If time or finances are concerns, then work through as much of the conversations as you can alone, and if any issues arise, bookmark those to bring up with a mediator.


Some partners struggle to get their ex into a mediator session with a family therapist because their partner is more focused on involving an attorney and fighting out the divorce issues.

Let’s get to the bottom of [this issue] … it’s a private conversation. It’s the same conversation that would be going on in the court system [but] not privately. (Karen Bonnell)

What some people may not realize is that discussing and resolving issues with a mediator in a private session protects the personal interests of the people involved, whereas being in court, everything is placed out in the open.


If you have children with your ex, co-parenting is a given, unless you are in an exceptional circumstance. Working with a co-parenting coach will therefore provide you with invaluable skills that you can utilize to work as a team in raising your children.

These skills and benefits include:

  • Cleaning up unnecessary conflict,
  • Rebalancing their relationship,
  • Created conflict resolution and communication skills.

We’re building those joint decision-making skills, we’re building the communication skills because they’re going to need them for the rest of their lives. (Karen Bonnell)



About your host:

Susan Orenstein, Ph.D.

Dr. Susan Orenstein is a licensed psychologist and relationship expert  with over twenty years of experience. In 2005, she founded Orenstein Solutions, a private counseling practice in North Carolina that serves children, teens, adults and couples. 

She created the After the First Marriage Podcast to support individuals through the significant life transition of divorce. She whole-heartedly believes that “happily ever after” is an option for everyone, and is dedicated to helping divorcées regain the confidence to pursue a fulfilling future after the first marriage. 

Whether you listen to the podcast, join the Facebook community, or follow along on Twitter,  you’re in the right place!

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