I Have a High Conflict Custody Case – What Should I Do?

Despite the oppositional nature of family law, many cases are able to proceed through the court system with little to no conflict between the parties. However, for a variety of reasons, some cases are so high conflict that the parties are consumed by their family law matter. This high conflict case structure is particularly common in disputed custody and visitation matters. In addition to the emotional and mental drain a high conflict case has on both parties (and their child), conflict also drains the financial resources of the parties especially if one or both parties are represented by counsel. If you think your custody matter is high conflict, here are a few tips on how to reduce further tension between you and your co-parent.

Communication is Key: Conflict tends to arise out of frequent negative communication between the parties. This communication could be harassing due to its volume or the tone of the parties’ exchange. If one or both of the parties have “unfinished business” with each other after the break down of their romantic relationship they sometimes try to hold onto that former relationship by attempting to “get to” the other parent through an ongoing custody matter. In order to avoid this type of conflict, limit all communication to e-mail (except in the case of an emergency). Restrict the topic of communication only to matters related to the children and keep a friendly tone with your co-parent.

Stick to the Letter of the Law: In a high conflict case, giving or requesting leniency regarding the current custody/visitation order often leads to increased complications. In these cases, it is best to stick to the exact provisions of your custody/visitation order or agreement. Further, when the court makes custody/visitation orders, make every effort to request that the court be as specific as possible. This same rule applies to any negotiated custody orders. For example, ensure the order specifies the date, place, and manner of transfer for all exchanges. It is also important to limit the child’s exposure to potential domestic conflict or violence and ensure the safety of all people involved.Keep the Kids out of It: Although children present a wealth of information about your co-parent, never discuss the custody matter or any other adult issues with children. Not only are such conversations detrimental to the children, but if discovered, could be used against the parent and result in reduced (or even supervised) visitation time. Further, most custody/visitation orders contain direct prohibitions restricting both parents’ communication with the children about the pending case and any other adult matters. Thus, such conversations may be treated as a direct violation of a court order and could result in sanctions imposed against the offending party.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.


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