High Conflict Parenting is a Choice

Your relationship with your spouse is ending. You’re both extremely angry with one another. The best course of action is to “lawyer up”, file a scathing scorched earth pleading with the court, ask for a two-day trial, ask everyone who has ever had contact with you and your spouse to testify at said trial, and get on the witness stand and say every horrible reason why your spouse is a terrible human being. Now go ahead and try to co-parent together for the next 20 years . . .

Sound like a good plan? Not at all.

There are situations that arise in divorce or paternity cases which require more aggressive action and emergency filings. But not every case – and really, every family – should be treated so roughly. Parenting time with your co-parent will be ordered under the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines (“IPTG”) whether you like it or not, in 99% of all cases.  The minimum schedule provided in the IPTG is “not applicable to situations involving family violence, substance abuse, risk of flight with a child, or any other circumstances the court reasonably believes endanger the child’s physical health or safety, or significantly impair the child’s emotional development.” That’s it. If you think your ex is a jerk and you don’t like him and he doesn’t like you, that’s not a reason to fight or try to minimize his relationship with your child.

When a relationship ends, pause. Step back. Go ahead and gather information about the legal side of your situation by consulting with an attorney, but think before you head down a path from which your co-parenting relationship may never recover. If you know your co-parent and you will both have parenting time, start talking about what works best for your child, not necessarily for you. Work with a family therapist with your co-parent to improve your communication, and/or work with your own therapist or counselor to get past your anger at your co-parent to get to a place of at least workable indifference and a business-like relationship. Your attorney will suggest asking for a hearing at least to give you a possible “end” date to the current conflict, but try a lower-conflict alternative such as mediation to come up with a workable parenting plan first. Once the Pandora’s Box of angry words and emotions is unleashed in the courtroom, you cannot get them back and they will be seared into the mind and memory of your co-parent forever. Instead, make the choice to set a better tone for the next 20 years and the rest of your life. Your co-parent and your child will thank you.

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