Child Custody With a High Conflict Ex

High Conflict Custody Dispute versus High Conflict Personality:

The courts generally recognize what is called a “high conflict custody dispute,” but in general lacks the lens it would need to identify a custody dispute involving a high conflict personality.

Thus, courts typically operate from the premise, which is generally true, that “it takes two to tango.”

When the legal system holds that both sides are equally responsible for conflict and fails to recognize when high conflict individuals are involved, justice and conflict resolution are impeded.

While it is possible for two high conflict people to marry and divorce this is not a typical dynamic.

A person with high conflict behaviors increases conflict rather than reducing or resolving it and interrupts problem solving. They blame others, exhibit all or nothing thinking and have unmanaged emotions and extreme behaviors. They may spread rumors or lies, obsessively contact their ex,  and persist in efforts to control or dominate.  

Need for Strategy

If a lawyer, judge, mediator or therapist can be aware that the situation involves a high conflict individual, they can proactively set a strategy, which is particularly important where children are involved. Evidence may  include but is not limited to:  a  persistent pattern of  hostile communication and patterns of blaming, police contact,  failure of mediation, violations of boundaries and court orders, disruption of the visitation schedule, or engaging in acts that place children in the middle.

Blaming the Victim

When the courts— lawyers, judges and other legal and court agents—consider both sides equally responsible for the conflict, they presume that both parties are “people  who can’t set aside their hurt feelings to just  cooperate and  put their  children’s needs first.”

Since the fundamental nature of a high conflict individual is to not cooperate, and instead to challenge expectations and escalate conflict, mediators, lawyers and judges  do not understand why cooperation and compromise doesn’t just “happen.”

Oftentimes, when there is a divorce from a high conflict individual, there has been a history of domestic violence and identifying the divorce or custody battle itself as “high conflict” can mask the DV history. This is particularly problematic when the abuse has been non-physical and has involved coercive control which may have included incessant verbal abuse and threats, stalking/cyber-stalking, withholding and controlling financial resources and a general sense of intrusion that’s psychologically destabilizing.  When the victim has been beaten down such that they can endure no more and decides to leave, they are then thrust into a legal system that tells them that they are half of the problem.  The victim, now attempting to protect their children and move into a survivor role, is told that they are failing to co-parent, failing to put their children’s needs first, and are putting their children in the middle by allowing the conflict to continue.

The Double Bind

When the survivor attempts to describe the situation, they are in a double-bind. If they are emotionally unstable/traumatized/reactive, then they are considered a liability for parenting their children. If the survivor is emotionally functional, then the abuse couldn’t have been that bad, and likely did not occur at all. The survivor’s credibility is further undermined if the ex has charisma, charm, and “flying monkeys” around who give the illusion of the “wonderful and impressive” person.  

What’s true is that with a high conflict individual in the mix, conflict will ebb and flow, but it will never stop. The law often fails to recognize when a person is dancing by themselves, and when the high conflict individual is acknowledged, the law is not well-equipped to stop the music.

Divorcing a high conflict individual can lead us to feel more powerless and out of control, more judged and misunderstood.

Private Child Custody Consultation with Dr Jenna

I specialize in what the courts call “high-conflict divorce” and have effectively used a hybrid model of custody evaluation and conflict resolution to help adversaries reach agreements without having to go to court, saving time, money, and reducing distress.

I make the distinction between high conflict custody disputes and high conflict personalities.  

As a psychiatrist, I also have the clinical expertise to help you set boundaries and cope with the distress of a custody dispute with a high conflict personality.  Together we can help you:

  • Learn to navigate your custody dispute with a high conflict ex.

  • Overcome your ex’s games and manipulations to act in your children’s best interests than reacting to your ex.

  • Prepare your best legal argument for custody.

  • Stop obsessing about your case, so that you can focus on what is most important; your child(ren).

  • As a child and adolescent psychiatrist I will  provide developmentally informed guidance to ensure you are acting in your child(ren)’s best interest.

  • As a neutral third party I am able to provide an objective perspective,  improve your effectiveness and reduce your overall legal expenses.

Dr Jenna’s Goals for You

To empower you to maintain a parenting mindset throughout your custody dispute that empowers you to advocate for the best interest of your children—even if your ex has other priorities.

To identify ambiguities, orders or missing details in agreements that a coercively controlling party may exploit to exert their power, and correct them before the agreements are finalized.

Explore proposals for parenting that may be a better fit than “co-parenting” if the dynamics between you and your ex make co-parenting impossible.

To help you nurture resilience and optimism in your  children, who are deeply affected by this process.

I want to be with you every step of the way in your child custody battle and, when you have broken free from this process, I want to help you move through the process of healing, releasing anger and resentment, and reconnecting with the whole person that is a combination now of who you were before this whole thing started, and the strengths and wisdom that brought you through it.

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Jenna Saul, MD @ChildsBestInterest

© 2022 @ChildsBestInterest

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