Child Custody Disputes in High-Conflict Divorce

Help for Nashville clients who have difficulties working together with their spouses

In divorces that involve minor children there is almost always some level of dispute about child custody. One spouse might object to some aspect of the parenting plan, or have a difference of opinion with the other parent. However, these disputes usually work themselves out in the end when they crop up between reasonable people who have put their child’s needs above their own. At the law office of Miller Upshaw Family Law, PLLC we have experience helping our clients resolve disputes. We know how to manage high conflict divorce disputes and help our clients find a workable solution.

Dealing with high conflict personalities

According to Dr. William A. Eddy, LCSW, JD, “. . . personalities drive conflicts.” In his course, “It’s All Your Fault!” — Working with High Conflict Personalities, Dr. Eddy describes high conflict personalities as people who have:

  • Exaggerated emotions
  • Repeatedly inappropriate behavior
  • A penchant for turning minor problems into major disputes
  • A need to always have someone to blame

When you are going through a divorce with a spouse who has a high conflict personality you will have to develop strategies for communicating effectively with that person in a way that does not give them the opportunity to raise the level of conflict.

Establishing ground rules for the communication required for shared custody arrangements

When you know that you are dealing with a person who is prone to instigate conflict, your first instinct might be to avoid contact with that person altogether; however, when you are sharing custody with such a person that is not an option. Here are some tips that you can both agree to use to set the ground rules for communication:

  • Limit your interactions to written communication, with the exception of any kind of emergency that involves the child.
  • No use of degrading language, name calling, criticism or profanity under any circumstances
  • No placing blame
  • Deal only with present situations
  • Once the parenting time schedule has been agreed upon, avoid making any changes to it
  • Make child custody exchanges in a neutral, public place to diminish the opportunity for creating a dramatic scene

Realize that you will have to set personal boundaries when it comes to dealing with a high conflict person, and you will have to help your child learn how to manage their relationship with their other parent without disparagement or criticism. Your child identifies with your former spouse as much as they do with you. When you speak ill of your child’s other parent they can take it personally and it can have deleterious effect on their self-esteem.

Rather than investing your energy in trying to win the battle with your former spouse, try to focus your attention on making sure you are meeting your child’s needs. Be open and available when they want to talk and take the time to listen when they speak.

Do not use your child as a messenger to carry messages back and forth between the two households, and do not pump them for information about what is going on in your former spouse’s new household. Working on your own emotional healing and looking after the needs of your child should be paramount if you want to establish an effective relationship when you are co-parenting with your former spouse. It takes two to have a conflict and if one party chooses to disengage the other party will have no one with whom to do battle.

Get experienced legal help for your contested divorce today

Do not try to deal with your high conflict divorce on your own. At the law firm of Miller Upshaw Family Law, PLLC our goal is to find constructive ways to lower the level of conflict for our clients during divorce and other family law disputes in the Nashville area. Call us today at 615-391-4200 or contact us online to schedule an in-person or video consultation with an experienced lawyer. When it comes to working through custody arrangements and creating a workable parenting plan, one of our Nashville family law attorneys can help you.