Custody Conflict: What Is It and How to Do to Know What Level You Have

Child custody and visitation is often the most emotional and contentious issue in a divorce. While some parents are able to put aside their differences and focus on the needs of their children, others are not able to see past their own fear and pain. It is important to understand what custody conflict is and where your situation falls on the scale between low level of conflict and high level of conflict because of the effect your conflict will have on your children.

How do I know if have a high level of custody conflict?

A divorce with a medium to high level of custody conflict is one in which the parents, or one of the parents, demonstrate an ongoing pattern of any of the following:

  • Physical aggression or threats of physical aggression
  • Difficulty communicating or lack of communication about the care of the minor children
  • Anger and distrust
  • Ongoing and continuous verbal abuse
  • Using the children as a conduit of parental anger and conflict

Conflict Specific Intervention

Based on various levels of conflict between the parents before and during the divorce process, parenting mediators, parenting coordinators and the Courts may utilize different techniques, methods or appointments of guardian at litem to help the parents and the Courts define parenting plans that are in the best interest of the children.

Low Conflict Moderate Conflict High Conflict

Parents are able to communicate freely and constructively.

Parents can easily prioritize the needs of child versus their own goals and objectives.

Parents have some or little contact and transitions for child are from school, daycare or neutral settings.

Communication log in place, or need to establish
communication rules.

Parents may not have any contact, may have safety issues.

Often courts have been or are currently involved.

General Parenting Plan, Parents can negotiate on their own how to change plans based on the needs of the child.

Parents establish open communication patterns and do not involve the children in parenting.

Detailed and specific structure model of parenting and communication needed.

Structure needed. Detailed and specific parenting plan.

A GAL (guardian at litem for the child/dren) may be in place.

Court Orders or Parenting Coordinator/ Custody Mediation in place.

A very detailed and specific Parenting Plan is needed as a structured model of parenting and communication.

If parents do not comply, may need court orders, (Pendente Lite or post judgment).

Custody may be already or will be monitored by the Court.

Court Monitored Structure

 

What is the impact of HIGH parental conflict on the Children?

High parental conflict has negative consequences for children including:

  • Inaccurate perception and evaluation of situations or future relationships
  • Distrust of others
  • Hyper vigilance – (looking around to see what comes next)
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Parentificaiton (focused on other parent, not on self) Parentification is a form of role reversal, in which a child is inappropriately given the role of meeting the emotional or physical needs of the parent
  • Attempt to simplify and avoid complexity – if situation to hard, avoid or do not make decisions;
  • Enmeshment (To entangle, involve, or catch in or as if in a mesh) - parent and child may need therapy. Parent’s issues becomes the issue of the child
  • Surreal sense of not existing
  • Interference with identity development
  • Direct impact on learning and studying – direct impact on cognitive process is affected
  • They become the OBJECT of fight
  • As the child grows, they become more vulnerable
  • Cycle of fear and anxiety induced and re introduced. Fear and anxiety does not come from actual or real experiences.