IT DOESN'T NECESSARILY TAKE TWO!
Family law cases are often designated "High Conflict" because of repetitive litigation and a chronic state of seemingly high tension between the co-parents. Unfortunately, many judges assume that both parents are equally responsible for the conflict. This is not the case when one of the parent's anger is fueled by revenge, maladaptive mourning, and/or a personality disorder. In such cases, the source of the conflict exists within just one of the co-parents rather than between them. In these case, the unmitigated negativity in that one parent gives the entire case/family the "feel" of a high conflict situation. Thus, one parent may continually be swept along in the tumultuous currents of emotion and tension generated solely by the other parent.
How do you know if this is happening to you? The Honorable Donna J. Martinson is a Judge in British Columbia who advocates a change in the overall system to provide High Conflict cases and the children in them the attention they deserve. While Judge Martinson is focused on changes in the judicial approach, some of the ideas she raises are important for each coparent to seriously consider as well.
Sit down with someone who is mature, neutral, intelligent, AND uninvolved and talk with them about your answers to a series of questions. You will notice that these questions focus on your behavior, not the behavior of the other coparent. Be honest and answer these questions as directly and straightforwardly, factually, as possible without explanation or defense.
- Has your court case becomes the major focus of your life?
- Are you in battle mode most of the time?
- Do you blame the other parent, view the other parent with contempt, and see yourself as a victim?
- Do you want to control the other parent and control what happens when the child is with them?
- Are you focused on the past, using inflammatory, blaming language in affidavits and/or testimony
- Are the facts often distorted, either minimized or exaggerated, and your anger palpable?
- Are the children encouraged to support you in a number of ways including showing them court material, encouraging them to contact the court to support your position, and even bringing them to court?
- Have you recruited friends and relatives to join in the mudslinging?
- Do you attempt to delay the proceedings by changing lawyers or deciding late in the proceedings to be self-represented, filing last minute materials, coming late to court, or deliberately being unprepared?
- Are there highly charged, emotional proceedings in the courtroom, with allegations made, with your supporters gathered to cheer you on?
- Do you attempt to dominate the process and to treat the other person with contempt?
- Do you attempt to sabotage professional assessments or interventions by undermining the credibility of the professional(s) by unilaterally involving other professionals and by not cooperating or making accusations?
- Do you involve the police and/or child welfare authorities when there is no danger?
- Do you make unjustified complaints about the conduct of the professionals involved,including the opposing lawyer, the assessor, and the judge, to their professional disciplinary bodies?
- Do you try to involve the media in support of your "cause.”
If you find that you are engaging in these behaviors then you are probably a High Conflict person yourself. On the other hand, if you are the one getting hooked, overwhelmed and swept along, then get some help and support to ground yourself and find some equilibrium. It is critical to stop reacting, maintain calm, and respond only when and to what is necessary in terms of coparenting children.
Each coparent can only control his or her own behavior with the child, with the court and toward the other coparent. So get the focus on yourself and your behavior and make the changes you need to disengage from the conflict.
Hannah's House has FREE support groups for Moms and Dads who are co-parenting 2-home children. Child care is provided. Dad's Group is Wednesday night from 6-7 pm and Mom's Group is Friday night from 530-7 pm. The groups are open to any Mom or Dad with 2-home kids!