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How To Deal With a High Conflict Co-Parent

Unhappy young people fighting

Divorce can be a stressful process at the best of times. When there are children involved, both the divorce itself and finding a new normal afterward can be difficult. When dealing with a co-parent who is especially volatile and conflict-driven, the whole situation can become that much tougher. Continue reading for tips on how to deal with a high conflict co-parent, and call a seasoned Englewood child custody and parental rights attorney for help with a New Jersey family law matter.

Low-Conflict Communication

High conflict people thrive on conflict. The less opportunity you give them to fight, the less they will be able to engage with you. If you strike a neutral, professional tone and speak only as much as necessary to get your point across about scheduling or other matters, you strip them of the conflict they crave. It can be difficult to listen to mean things said in writing or to your face without reacting in kind, but if you are able to keep it simple and then walk away, you will deflate your co-parent and reduce the conflict.

Remind Them of the Negative Effects of Badmouthing

If you are dealing with a co-parent who verbally trashes you with your children present, there is a chance that they are letting their emotions get the best of them and are not considering the damage that such behavior does to your kids. There are good co-parenting educational resources that discuss the harm caused when one parent badmouths the other. If they persist even after being informed of the damage they are doing, then you will need to move on to other tactics.

Don’t Take it Personally

The best way to handle a high-conflict co-parent is to disengage. Your ex is likely projecting their own issues onto you. What they are saying to you or about you is not true; their view of reality when it comes to your relationship is skewed. You may simply have to accept that you cannot change their perception of you. When you accept that, and that their version of reality is skewed, it is easier to avoid getting wounded by what they say. Talk to people you trust–friends, family, therapists, etc.–to remind yourself of the kind of person and the kind of parent you truly are.

Tailor Your Communication With Your Kids Based on Their Age

High conflict co-parents may badmouth you to your children and may try to drag your children into the conflict. “Getting even” by trash-talking your ex to your kids is likely to cause even more emotional harm. However, saying nothing at all may not be the best policy. Children pick up on what’s happening around them, and if they see a lot of angry language and behavior, they may be confused when a parent tries to deny reality. Give as limited information to your children as you can, but still acknowledge the situation.

For example: “When mommy/daddy is angry, they may say things they don’t mean. They may say things that only show their side of things.” If your children are older, you may be able to be a bit more advanced, teaching them how to separate facts from feelings and stating that while your co-parent’s feelings may be valid, that doesn’t mean that what they are saying is true. Be cognizant of your children’s age and level of social comprehension, and explain the situation as you feel they are able to handle it.

Trusted Advice and Effective Representation for New Jersey Child Custody Matters

If you are considering divorce in New Jersey or dealing with child support, child custody, property division, or other family law issues, contact the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at 201-440-6300.

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