Looking After Children in a High-Conflict Divorce

How to best look after children in a high-conflict divorce

Divorce is never an easy situation to experience for any spouse and it’s even worse for the children involved. In the event of a high-conflict divorce, this situation becomes even more devastating for children who are usually left confused and torn between the two warring parents. From the emotional scars to being used as pawns in these situations, the effect of high conflict divorces on children can be long lasting and draining.

This article aims to provide a general overview and some useful tips on how to best look after children in a high-conflict divorce. If you’re interested in understanding the impact of high-conflict divorces on children and how to help the kids cope best with the situation, continue reading.

What’s a high-conflict divorce?

As the name implies, a high-conflict divorce is one that’s characterized by hostile confrontations rather than legal negotiations. In most cases, this occurs when one or both parties is against shared parenting, want to win at all costs or punish the other spouse. Divorces like this have a tendency of going on forever and when minors are involved, custody arrangements and plans can get very messy.

Common Problems Children face in high-conflict divorce

Children are usually the biggest victims in divorce cases as they usually feel the impact a lot harder than their parents. The following are some of the most common challenges kids face when their parents are involved in a high-conflict divorce.

  • Conflicting Loyalties: This occurs when a child has to maintain a positive relationship and disposition with both parents even when he or she is living amid heated battles or confrontations.
  • Parental estrangement and alienation: Estrangement during divorces usually happens when a child rejects a relationship with a parent for a good reason (such as history of abuse). Alienation on the other hand occurs when one parent begins doing things to alienate their child from the other parent without justification. This can occur when a child decides to take sides with one parent for the sake of
  • Relocation: Relocation can have a very dire effect on kids. From changing environment and school to having to make new friends, the impact of relocation on kids can be very devastating when it is not managed properly.
  • Stress: High-conflict divorces can be very demanding and draining on the spouses involved and it’s even worse for children. This stress can eventually have detrimental effects on a child’s academics and social life.

Top tips on how to best look after children in a high-conflict divorce

Some people say that while marriages come and go, high-conflict divorces can last forever as the battle never ends. While this statement may not be entirely correct, the effects of heated divorces can be lifelong for all parties involved including children, especially when they regularly maintain contact between both parents. The following are some useful tips on how to best look after children in such cases.

Avoid litigation where possible

It’s important to understand that spouses who cannot find a way to resolve their differences in divorce without litigation will find it difficult to co-parent. Litigation will most likely lead to a more heated battle and with the children left in the middle, they may be forced to take sides with one parent. Litigation should only be considered where other options have been exhausted.

Seek Co-parenting counseling

Whether you’re still living together as spouses, living separately, or preparing to start living separately, getting help from a third party and neutral co-parenting therapist or counselor should ideally help both parties of the divorce learn how to communicate better not only with themselves but also with their children who have to adjust to the major lifestyle changes.

Keep them informed about changes and new schedules

Many parents make the mistake of failing to be there for their children during the divorce process. While parents are certainly going through their own share of turmoil, in some cases parents resort to using their kids as pawns in the battle either by misinforming them about their other parent or using them to obtain information about their former spouse’s new life. This is wrong and it’s generally best to keep children informed in advance of impending changes and how they are likely to be affected. Doing this will most likely help prepare your children for what’s coming and reduce the likely shock.

On that note, it’s worth mentioning that you should not discuss the details of your case with your children. This often leads to “he said, she said” arguments and can give a child an unrealistic expectation of what’s to come. Update them on things like possible new schools you’ve looked into them attending and stay away from topics such as why you don’t want them spending as much time with their other parent.

Seek solutions instead of arguments

When it comes to issues that affect children, spouses must make conscious attempts to amicably resolve their issues rather than fight over everything. Practical solutions must be sought instead of heated arguments. Heated exchanges can be both physically and emotionally draining for kids so it’s always best to avoid such situations.

Establish clear ground rules for custody arrangements

Custody is usually one of the biggest areas of concern when it comes to high-conflict divorces. Rather than keeping loopholes around essential areas like communication with the child, there should be clear rules to guide how the child should be communicated with while making custody arrangements.

Final Thoughts

It goes without saying that divorce can be very complex, especially when there are kids involved. When two parents are in high conflict with each other however, this can turn from simply a tricky situation to a seemingly impossible one. To avoid creating any lasting damage to your children, they should always be at the center of every decision made. Although children should be allowed to grieve in these situations, they should receive assistance in coping with the demands of a high-conflict divorce as well as the changes it brings.

In addition, you should never attempt to resolve a high-conflict divorce on your own.  While parents who can come to agreements on their own may be able to pursue a divorce resolution without an attorney, high-conflict divorces require a lawyer’s mediation skills and knowledge of the law for the best results for everyone involved, especially your children.


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