When High Conflict Families Go Adrift – A Seminar at AFCC Toronto 2014

I just finished attending the AFCC’s 41st conference in Toronto, Canada.  The last session of the last day was about things that can be done to ease tension in High Conflict Families. Conflict is the single best predictor of a bad outcome for children in divorce.  The seminar was from the point of view of Parent Coordinators, but had valuable information for anyone who is in or comes in contact with a High Conflict Family after the parents separate.

Here are some tips.

Some items that steer parents off course:

  • Parents focus on resolution of marriage issues instead of the business of co-parenting.
  • When one parent is left with nothing to lose (in negotiations), they are forced to go to court, which creates more conflict.
  • Always trusting the truthfulness of the other parent’s statements
  • Always trusting the truthfulness of the child’s statements

Some things that can reduce high conflict situations:

  • You can never underestimate the value of education for both parents.  Education can help the parents understand the toxic cycle they are in and possibly show them the way out.  There are on-line courses that can be taken in addition to sessions with counselors.
  • Communication is extremely important.  All people do not communicate on the same level.  Sometimes it seems like the parents are speaking different languages, each understanding something different from the same words. Both parents usually want what is best for the child, but sometimes communicate this in different ways.  Sometimes they need another person who can understand both parents and a person who can “translate” the message so the other person understands.

Some reasons why things don’t succeed:

  • Unreasonable expectations
  • Endless attempts to “discover the truth.” — Parties must move on.
  • Focusing on regrets and the “what ifs”
  • Blaming, criticism and retaliation
  • Lack of ability to identify and overcome obstacles
  • Fear
  • Background people – grandparents, step-parents, advice from others that have divorced, boyfriends, girlfriends.

Parties must set goals. But keep this in mind:

  • Not too big and not too many
  • They must be written, specific and have a time table.

Parties must ask themselves if they want to “wear the badge” of being a high conflict family.

They must ask themselves, “How do you want your children to remember you?” They must also remember these things:

“Sometimes you must take a leap of faith to reach change.”

“Don’t expect to see a change if you don’t make one.”


This seminar was put on by Ann Marie Termini, EdS, MS and Bradley S. Craig. LMS-IPR, CFLE

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