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Managing High Conflict Parents

All of you have been exposed to a high conflict parent- you know the client who has been through several lawyers or the one who tries to send you to court on a monthly basis. He/she tries your patience and wears you out. You will need special care to derive workable parenting plans with these individuals. Here are some suggestions.

First, high conflict divorce couples must have a detailed and tight parenting plan. The idea is to mitigate against any foreseeable sources of conflict. Days of the week, even hours of the day must be taken into account. Summer scheduling and holiday visits must be specifically addressed in detail.

A second suggestion is that contact between two high conflict parents must be kept to a minimum. This might take the form of parallel parenting with decision making going to the parent exercising visitation. Third, communication needs to be exchanged in a neutral way, such as by a computer program, e-mail, or text messaging.

The responsibility to represent your client’s concerns must always be weighed against ethical considerations regarding the best interest of the child. Sometimes you may need to ask your client to reconsider going to court on a given issue.

Parental conflicts chronically played out in court, particularly when children know that they are occurring, damages the child’s post-divorce adjustment. These difficulties can last a lifetime. Conflict affects boys and girls equally. Children of all ages are equally affected. Furthermore, even if the child has a positive relationship with each of the parties in conflict, he/she will still be negatively affected emotionally.


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