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How to Deal With a High-Conflict Co-Parent

Young couple having difficulties at parenting together

Parenting is a complex and strenuous task at the best of times. After a divorce, parenting is even more complicated. When your co-parent is unreasonable, narcissistic, or otherwise high-conflict, it can feel nearly impossible to bear. Below, our New Jersey child custody and divorce attorneys offer some tips for dealing with high conflict co-parents that we have learned in our years of dealing with the fallout from divorce.

Avoid Getting Your Kids Involved

It can be extremely challenging when your co-parent tries to start a fight with you and stir up trouble when your kids are around. For the sake of your kids’ health and your legal rights, do your best to avoid getting dragged into the mud. Do not fight with your ex in front of your kids, do not use your kids as a go-between to send messages to one another, and do not bad mouth your co-parent to your children. If they are putting your child’s mental health in danger by doing these sorts of things, you might be able to get the court to restrict your co-parent’s custody rights until they start behaving.

Talk to Your Kids in an Age-Appropriate Manner

Although you should not trash your ex to your children, it may be important to talk to them about what is happening. You can acknowledge to your children that you and your ex have conflicts; if they sense a problem and you ignore it, your children may be left even more confused and anxious. Give them limited information, such as acknowledging that your ex is angry with you, but do not give them the full run-down. If they are older, you can share more information as necessary. You can teach older children to think critically whenever your ex bad mouths you, such as by reminding them that when your ex says something mean about you, that is an expression of their feelings, not facts.

When They Go Low, You Go High

One of the most difficult things to do when presented with a high-conflict co-parent is simply not to engage. Be cordial and polite, and refuse to fight with them. Set boundaries for yourself, stick to them and respect any boundaries set by your co-parent. If they are constantly shifting from friendly to angry, just stay polite and calm through both types of encounters. Try to be low-conflict in the way in which you communicate: Do not use sarcasm or insults, try to avoid being defensive, angry, or teary. Stick to the facts. If they try to berate you into changing the parenting schedule, simply remind them of the requirements set in the court order.

If a Legal Conflict Arises, Go Through the Proper Channels

If your ex is violating the court’s orders by, for example, refusing to pay child support or alimony, it is important to go through the proper channels to resolve the issue. Do not take matters into your own hands by, for example, withholding parenting time until they pay what they owe. They are violating a court order by refusing to pay, but if you withhold their court-ordered parenting time, you are now violating a court order yourself. Suddenly, you are both subject to penalties, and you could even lose custody rights. You are much better off trying to resolve the issue through mediation with the help of your attorney. Failing that, you can go to court.

Help With Your New Jersey Child Custody Dispute

If you need effective legal help with child custody, divorce, child support, alimony, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102.

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