Better Communication Between High Conflict Parents: Communication Techniques

Both during and after a divorce with children, child-centered issues can be one of the focuses of intense conflict between some parents. When parents are repeatedly unable to resolve these conflicts without court intervention, they are high conflict parents who can benefit from a special set of communication tools.

Experts recommend a variety of communication techniques to minimize conflict between parents in the exchange of child-related information. One, almost universal, recommendation is that communication between high conflict parents be limited to written communication. Short, polite emails that quickly state the point of the communication, coupled with prompt responses from the receiving parent are effective. Using emails also takes the child out of the role as messenger between the parties, a role that should never be placed on the child. Parenting issues should stay between parents. Email also gives each parent a permanent record of exchanged information that can be referred back to or modified as needed when circumstances change in the child’s or parents’ lives.

Parents are encouraged to think of the emails as business correspondence rather than an opportunity to point the blame or otherwise amplify hostile feelings between the parents. Bullet-point your information to make your email a quick and easy read for the other parent.  If you receive an email from the other parent that includes inappropriate topics and disrespectful language, as well as an important child related issue, carefully limit your response to only the child related issue. This can feel difficult to do, but it is essential to keep a very narrow child-related focus in communications with a high conflict parent.

Also, the email should normally be addressed solely to the other parent, not copied to a stepparent or other third party. Of course, either parent is free to blind copy the email to anyone of their choosing. The subject heading is also critical to each parent’s ability to organize and refer back to particular topics of email discussion. Be specific. For example: “Bobby’s summer camp dates for June, 2015, rather than “Bobby.”

If you need help with a high conflict custody case, contact an experienced family attorney.


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