The “Low Conflict” Child Custody Case (or another blog about getting along)

Let’s be honest shall we? I am a custody attorney, and there is only one kind of custody case that I take to trial; the high conflict custody case. (Okay…To be fair I take other custody cases to trial that are not “high conflict”, but those are generally move away cases that almost always require a trial.)

But just as a robbery detective does not do his job because he loves theft, as a custody lawyer I do not do my job because I love high conflict cases. Quite the opposite is true. My favorite case is the “low conflict” custody case. The problem is those cases do not get talked about.

I want to get this out of the way right at the beginning. Being embroiled in a high conflict custody case is not always a reflection on you as a parent or a person. Sometimes they are unavoidable no matter what you do. This is especially true when the other parent is the source of the conflict; left with no other choice but to fight the situation often snowballs out of control. It reminds me of the conflict surrounding the children’s pool in La Jolla between the pro-seal advocates and the mixed use advocates. (Local San Diegans will know what I’m taking about, for all others a quick Google search is in order) Both parties were certain they were right, both sides only wanted to support an issue that was important to them and all of the actions were done with the absolute best of intentions…at least in the beginning. And so it goes with custody cases – the road to high conflict custody cases is truly paved in good intentions.

Okay now back to the low conflict case. I worry that people look at a low conflict custody case the same way they look at Pintrest; “Sounds Good, Not True.” I disagree for one simple reason. There will always be common ground for parents. That is that the love they have for their children. (Quick note, the use of “always” was for inflection and not because I am naïve. I know that parents do not always love their children.)

I have blogged extensively about ways to co-parent and get along with the other parent. There are many examples you can read by searching the blog. But those are just tools and suggestions. What I am talking about now is the reason why those tools are important. It’s because your kids are important.

You would never allow them to survive on cookies and fruit snacks alone, you wouldn’t refuse to take them to the doctor if they were sick and you certainly wouldn’t allow them to skip school because you did not feel like taking them. You wouldn’t allow these things because you love them and want to make sure they are healthy and taken care. However, parents will allow their children to become embroiled in a fight that pits them between the two most significant people in their lives for the same reason; love and protection. The irony of this is never lost on me. And never forget your children will model your behavior; good or bad. So if you are in conflict with the other parent, they will be in conflict with the other parent. While your child aligning with you may bring a level of satisfaction in the short term, the long term effects can be devastating.

The low conflict case is a result of denying this from ever happening. It will require self-reflection, sacrifice, and a conviction that you will always put the needs of the children before you own. And the best part is you never get to ask for credit for doing these things. (Remember the road being paved in good intentions…) You see you have to accept that you and the other parent are different people who will choose to raise the children in different ways. You will have different outlooks on life, you will have different priorities, and even if they are similar you will likely rank them differently. You will eventually have to accept that there are parts of the children’s lives (i.e. the time they are with the other parent) that you have no control over. You cannot change the other parent and it is too late to go back and make a different choice. The two of you chose to have a child together, and for better or worse, you will be connected for the rest of your lives because of your children.

How that time is spent is entirely up to you. Enough for now, I am getting off my soap box and going back to trying high conflict cases.

We understand that this is a sensitive situation that could greatly affect your family and your relationship with your children, and our team can provide you with the caring and outstanding legal counsel you need and deserve. If you would like to discuss your rights under California’s child custody laws, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible.

Feel free to 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 Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). 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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