High Conflict Co-Parenting

In raising your children, never bad mouth the other parent or allow children to be part of the verbal or non-verbal conflict between you and the other parent. Even if you are extremely angry with the other parent, your children DO NOT feel the same way. Here are some tips for helping children develop good relationships with both parents when parents are in high conflict:

1. Find a neutral third person (babysitter, neighbor, relative) to handle exchanges so that you and the other parent have little or no contact.

2. Another method is to have pick-ups and drop-offs occur at the child's school, again reducing the amount of contact between the parents.

3. If exchanges must include contact, find a neutral, public place to exchange the child such as a restaurant, score, or if conflict is extreme, the police department's lobby.

4. Be on time for all drop-offs and pick-ups, have the children prepared for exchanges, and be polite. This will set a good example for your children. Since it may reduce conflict, it will also make exchanges easier on you and your children.

5. Parents can exchange notes instead of speaking. If communication between the parents is hostile, write the note, wait until you are calm, and then reread your note. Now remove all insults and negative statements about the other parent. When the note is neutral and business-like, give it to the other parent in person, if possible or through U.S. mail, E-mail, or a neutral third person. Never use your children to pass on notes from you to the other parent.

6. NEVER USE THE CHILDREN TO PASS VERBAL MESSAGES OR WRITTEN NOTES FROM ONE PARENT TO THE OTHER.

7. Transitions are not easy on children. They respond in many ways, sometimes discussing how great or awful something was at the other parent's house. It is important to just listen, without interrupting or adding your own opinion when your children discuss the other parent. This will tell your children chat whatever they share is OK.

8. Your opinions about the other parent should be kept to yourself. Your opinions are just those, and they could get back to the other parent and that may lead to MORE conflict. Besides, it is never O.K. to let your children hear what you feel towards the other parent - that is an adult issue.

9. You must never pressure the children to talk about their other parent or the time they spent with the other parent. The information will come when they are ready to share.

10. Treat the other parent as a business associate rather than an "ex". In doing so, you will reduce potentially explosive emotional issues. Like it or not, you and the other parent must work together for the best interest of the children - that is your job as co-parents. Ways to be business-like include: communication that is clear, concise and emotionally neutral; keeping records of important transactions; upholding your "contract' by following the parenting plan; checking out facts and verifying them before jumping to conclusions, treating the other parent with respect; and being polite.

Children have he right to a relationship with BOTH parents, regardless of the way parents feel about one another. Withholding children, involving them in parental conflict, and bad-mouthing the other parent will only cause grief for the children. Instead, you must allow your children to have a positive relationship with both of you. Remember it took both of you to bring this wonderful people into this world.

Contact San Jose Family Law Attorney Merrisa L. Coleman-Bishop.