– By Par Sandhu, Paralegal

Typically, having a child with another person means that you will have a relationship with that person for the rest of your life.  In some cases, this relationship can be very strained as you may be facing a high conflict parenting situation.  High conflict relationships can be incredibly difficult to manage and can leave both parents and children feeling stressed and drained.  Ideally, parents should work together to decrease family conflict and co-parent effectively, but if you’re caught in a high-conflict parenting situation, here are some tips that my be helpful.

Pickup and Drop Off Services

In some family law cases, the exchange of the children can lead to conflicts between the parties which may turn into he said/she said accusations.  There are both informal and more formal pick-up and drop-off services that can be explored in order to avoid this conflict after separation.  One option is to meet each other in a public place, with the hope that this will keep any conflict from escalating.  Some people chose to make that public place their local police station.  In extreme cases, a third party can facilitate the exchange. This third party can be a mutual friend or family member, or if required, a professional agency.  Limiting time actually spent with the other parent (even during exchanges) can help alleviate some of the stress associated with dealing with a high conflict parenting situation.

Our Family Wizard or Other Communication Tools

In most family law cases, limiting communication between parties to text or email decreases accusations and hostility.  But in high conflict parenting situations, communicating only in writing may not be enough. Sometimes using technology such as Our Family Wizard can be helpful.  Programs such as this have features that can help the parties self-edit their communications to ensure they are appropriate and encourage respectful communication.  These types of programs also have features that allow third parties to monitor the communication and suggest ways for the parties to improve their communication skills and work together for the benefit of the children after separation or divorce.

Mediated Agreements

It can be difficult to reach a mediated settlement in family law, but the research shows that parents are usually happier with an agreement they came to themselves, as opposed to one imposed by the Court. Judges are given the power to make decisions, however, they do not know all of the details of the family or children involved in any given case.  Parents are in a much better position to negotiate a settlement that will work in the best interests of their children than a third party decision maker.  For this reason mediation can be a great option, not only for efficient settlement of family law issues, but also because the parties can come to an agreement that works for their particular family circumstances, based on both of their needs and the needs of the children.  Having a mediated agreement can potentially decrease conflict.

Please Keep the Children Out of It

First and foremost, when dealing with a high conflict co-parent remember to keep the children out of any arguments or disagreements. Research shows that involving children in the conflict between their parents leads to long-term emotional damage. Children should never be used as the messengers or sounding boards for their parents. The Courts highly frown upon parents who show signs of involving children in any type of conflict and it doesn’t take them much time to pick up on whether a child is involved in their parents’ battles.