High Conflict Situations - Six Top Tips

5 September 2019

Have you ever tried negotiating with your ex to resolve an issue only to be met with your ex failing to acknowledge his or her role in a problem and instead, blaming you for everything?

Or what about your ex going from one extreme to the other – i.e. being very amicable with you one minute and being completely aggravating the next?

If so, you may be dealing with a High Conflict ex / situation.

Here are six (6) tips to assist you when faced with such a predicament:

  1.     Respond briefly and firmly in writing

What do you do when you receive a hostile email, text message or social media message from your ex? Chances are that reading these sorts of communications will be greatly upsetting to you and you might feel like firing one right back. Take a deep breath and pause.

This is the response your ex is looking for – a new reason to continue the ongoing conflict and trade insults back and forth and, by extension, keep in contact with you.

As family lawyers, we see the worst of it and can assure you that anything you write is likely to end up being included in an affidavit and read by a Judge, who is tasked with the role of adjudicating your dispute.

If the communication warrants a response, ensure that your reply is brief, to the point, and firm. Otherwise, if it serves no other purpose, simply ignoring it may turn out to be the best option for you.

  1.     Shift your focus from engaging in the conflict to problem solving

When dealing with a high conflict personality, it can be easy to get caught up in the drama or feel like you need to continuously defend yourself. All that happens from that course of action is that you feel emotionally exhausted.  Dealing with conflict is hard.

Again, if the communication does not serve any purpose or does little to advance a resolution to your issue, then refrain from engaging. Offer up possible solutions to resolve the conflict and don’t take it to heart if all your suggestions are rejected – this may just be your ex’s way of trying to keep fanning the flames of the conflict. It does however, make it extremely difficult to see an end to your matter.

  1.     Don’t identify their own bad behaviour

When you are dealing with a reasonable person, it makes sense to point out an issue that may be contributing to the problem.  Providing some insight in this way may be well received. This is not the case for people with a High Conflict personality.

Chances are that any attempt to help and assist the person with a High Conflict personality will be perceived as an attack.  This is unlikely to resolve the situation. Take heart in the fact that it is likely that your ex will experience conflict with most other people that he or she meets also.  The conflict that you are experiencing is not contained solely to you.

  1.     Limit communication to the bare minimum

The less you engage with your ex, the less chance there is for something new to erupt. If you have kids together, it is likely that you will need to communicate sometimes to figure out parenting arrangements and changeover times etc. – respond only in relation to matters surrounding the kids.

  1.     In a high conflict parenting matter, consider a detailed Parenting Plan / Orders

The more detailed the parenting arrangements are, the less likely that there will be something which arises in the future that sets off another dispute. Of course, when drafting a Parenting Plan / Orders, it is not possible to capture every slight possibility or eventuality that may occur – however, it will help reduce further disputes if you ensure clear provisions are made for things like:-

      • Live with / spend time with arrangements during term time and school holidays;
      • Special occasions such as Easter, birthdays, Father’s Day / Mother’s Day, Christmas;
      • Communication – when a parent can call / FaceTime the child when he or she is not otherwise in that parent’s care;
      • Notification clauses – for example, notifying the other parent if the child is sick or requiring medical treatment etc.; and
      • Travel arrangements – what if one parent wants to go on an overseas holiday with the child at one point in the future? How do you foresee that working?
  1.     Engage a Professional to deal with the situation on your behalf

If all else fails, consider engaging an experienced family lawyer to assist you resolve the dispute. Professionals are generally skilled in dealing with high conflict cases and personality traits and he or she may be the best person to take the heat out of your conflict and redirect the conversation towards workable solutions for the both of you.

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers offer specialist family law advice in St Leonards on Sydney’s North Shore. If you have recently separated or have a Family Law enquiry, please contact us on (02) 9437 0010 or enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au to discuss your matter in complete confidence. We have a team of experienced and caring professional family lawyers available to help you in this difficult time.

These posts are only intended as an overview or comment on current issues that may interest you and are not legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.

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