Communication Strategies for a High-Conflict Divorce


What is a High-Conflict Divorce?  A High-Conflict Divorce is one hallmarked by constant fighting, where one or both parties fight for the sake of fighting without regard to the effect on the family, particularly the children. There is a lot of overlap between high-conflict divorce and personality disorders or traits such as narcissism, controlling behaviors, and lack of empathy.

When you have children with someone, you will have to communicate with them, no matter how unpleasant it may be. Here are some strategies:

1. Stick to the issue at hand

When you contact the other parent to ask about your son’s baseball game, and they respond with a 10-page email diatribe how none of this would even be happening if you weren’t such a terrible person and terrible parent, do not respond to their attack. A high-conflict person wants you trapped in a power struggle with them and if you engage, they win. Avoid the temptation to defend yourself or reply with your own attacks, and keep the discussion to the baseball game.

2. Get it in Writing

A high-conflict person may often manipulate or twist reality, even to the point of telling outright lies. Whenever possible, communicate in writing to avoid the inevitable “You never told me that,” “I didn’t say that,” or even “You threatened me.” You can use text, email, or a host of the co-parenting apps and websites that are on the market now.

3. Take the High Road

When dealing with the near-constant needling of a high-conflict person, it may be tempting to engage in your own antagonistic behavior because you are tired of feeling bullied, such as bringing your girlfriend to a visitation exchange because you know it will make your ex-wife furious, or refusing to swap visitation days with your ex-husband when his family is visiting simply because you don’t want him to get his way. In the long run, these behaviors only hurt your children. Taken to the extreme, high conflict divorce can even be lethal, like this recent news story from North Alabama.