In an ideal world, co-parenting would be harmonious, but the reality is this doesn’t happen for everyone.   

If you’ve found yourself dealing with a high-conflict parenting situation that is emotionally volatile or just gets tiring, we’ve put together some ideas that may make life easier.

First of all, what is high-conflict co-parenting?

High-conflict co-parenting is characterised by the inability of one, or both parties, to get along and peacefully manage parenting.  Ongoing conflict may create additional challenges to the task of co-parenting and may require third party support or alternative strategies to be addressed properly. Conflict may have been apparent prior to a separation, or may arise during co-parenting.

A high-conflict co-parent may show the following traits:

  • Difficult behaviour, for no apparent reason
  • Inability to reach agreements, even when matters are simple
  • Ongoing conflict, which isn’t able to be resolved in a reasonable way 

How do you respond to a high-conflict co-parent?

The best way? Don’t, unless it’s essential. Refrain from hitting send or answering a call when you are feeling upset, triggered, tired or emotional. Keep your actions aligned with parenting orders.

There are many methods available to deal with a difficult co-parenting situation, which may be worth exploring to see if they are helpful to your situation. Minimising contact where possible and refraining from reacting unless crucial are key to many methods.

Strategies to minimise the effects of high conflict parenting include:

  • Having formal parenting plans in place with clear clauses on communication
  • Adopting parallel parenting techniques
  • Using an app dedicated to co-parenting for all communications
  • Working with a lawyer or mediation specialist to reach agreements 
  • Limiting contact to email only and keeping a record of all communications
  • Having a third party present during conversations 
  • Minimising contact and communication unless essential to your children's wellbeing

Most importantly, staying focused on the best interests of your children is important, as is support for yourself if things are difficult. 

How do you deal with a high-conflict co-parent?

Dealing with a co-parent who presents challenging behaviour isn’t always easy. It can be helpful to seek legal and emotional support.

 Some other techniques that can be effective include: 

  • Letting go of trying to change the behaviour of the other party
  • Keeping children out of the conflict wherever possible 
  • Keeping firm boundaries, and having legal orders in place
  • Keeping it as simple as possible - if it isn’t vital, let it be.
  • Discharging emotion before engaging in communications, and asking, ‘Is it necessary for me to respond to this’?
  • Ignoring any communications that are not child focused
  • Keeping a record of communications, and giving a copy of these to your lawyer
  • Seeking additional help from a counsellor or psychologist for support to and learn new techniques
  • Prioritising self care, and that of your children

How do you set boundaries with high conflict ex?

Maintaining boundaries while managing a difficult co-parent is essential. Parallel parenting is often a last resort, which requires letting go of ‘shared routines’ and expectations of healthy communication. It means that while children are in either home, parents ‘parent’ their own way, and communication only occurs if vital. 

We can discuss your legal options to assist you while co-parenting. Please reach out to our team if you’d like further advice.