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Navigating the Storm: Understanding High-Conflict Custody Battles

What are the dynamics of a high-conflict custody case?

When it comes to your children, you would like to be able to say that you have matters under control when it comes to your ability to spend as much time as possible with your children and be a positive influence in their lives. However, due to the nature of your relationship with your co-parent that might not be possible. Whether you are going through a divorce or a child custody case, you need to be confident that the decisions you make regarding your children are aligned with their best interests. You also need to act in a way that is tailored towards minimizing conflict and maximizing positive results for your little one.

When it comes to a divorce or child custody case there are many reasons why the case could become known as a high conflict situation. Many times, this is an inescapable reality given the problems in the home and the needs of your child. For instance, if your child has a special need or is otherwise going through difficulties when it comes to their physical or mental well-being then there may not be much just stop the case from spiraling out of control when it comes to the level of conflict. If you find yourself in that kind of case right now then the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to help you.

We are going to perform a deep dive into the world of Texas family law and high-conflict child custody cases. Like snowflakes, there are no two family law cases that are exactly alike. Therefore, we need to be honest with ourselves about how we can assess these types of cases and then make decisions to move forward when it comes to doing what is best for our children even during difficult circumstances. While a high-conflict child custody case is not necessarily fun to engage in it is undoubtedly true that your child can benefit from you having the resolve necessary to make decisions and press forward even in the face of adversity.

Assessing the status of your relationship with the co-parent

When we talk about high-conflict circumstances in the area of co-parenting, we are most certainly referencing issues that you and your co-parent may have together when it comes to raising your children. To be sure, there is a level of conflict in every parenting situation. Even if you and your co-parent were on good terms with one another and we’re not going through a child custody or divorce case it will be nearly impossible to not run into some degree of conflict at various points in time. I can speak from experience when I tell you that my wife and I do not always see eye to eye when we are working on solutions to issues that affect our four children. Sometimes, we just must agree to disagree and move towards a resolution that may not make either of us completely happy but will serve our child well, nonetheless.

However, it is more likely that if you are going through a family law case currently you and your co-parent cannot communicate well together when it comes to raising your children. On the contrary, the two of you may find yourself in a situation where you have never been able to communicate well together and as a result find yourself at odds when it comes to the most basic of circumstances in raising your children. When you consider that the two of you should be working together on matters related to your child’s education, physical health, emotional development and so much more it is a huge issue when you and your co-parent cannot communicate well together.

In many cases, parents who go through either a child custody or divorce case believe that their relationship with the co-parent is essentially coming to an end because of the case. This is especially true in a divorce situation where parents believe that because the marriage is coming to an end their need to communicate with their co-parent has ended. However, this will be a mistaken assumption.

Rather, your relationship with your co-parent is now even more important, as you will no longer live in the same household and must raise a child together despite not seeing each other regularly. As much as we may think that separating yourself from your co-parent could serve a lot of good it may hurt you when it comes to communication with one another. Having to rely upon text messages, sporadic phone calls and even using your children as intermediaries is a recipe for difficult circumstances.

If nothing else, your family law case should impress upon you the need to be able to communicate as well as possible with your co-parent. Again, nobody is necessarily thinking that the two of you are going to become best friends and be able to share every detail of your parenting experiences with the other person. This will be simply unrealistic. However, what is not unrealistic is the expectation that the two of you can set aside your differences and parent your child as best as possible to see to it that he or she can have the best life possible even if mom and dad do not always agree with one another.

To me, this starts and stops with communication. You and your co-parent need to be able to have an honest discussion about how the two of you envision being able to communicate with one another. For some families, this will be a tremendous struggle. The fact is that none of us are born good communicators. Rather, this is a skill that we need to develop over time. However, various factors can work against us when it comes to building those communication skills. You and your spouse may have never been good communicators, frankly. Different spouses communicate in different ways but if the two of you have never communicated well together it is unlikely that you are going to be able to start doing that without a great deal of help now that you are going through a divorce.

The key to this discussion is being able to work with your co-parent as closely as possible when it comes to communicating. What we at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan talked to our clients about regularly is trying to work with our families on figuring out how the two of you can communicate most effectively. That could look like regular phone calls on a specific day of the week. Some of you may do better with in-person communication where you can see the person’s face and assess their temperament and opinions on a subject that way. Or you may choose to utilize a co-parenting website where your conversations can be documented in a more civil tone can be observed.

In any event, structure your communication with your co-parent to prioritize your child’s well-being above all. Parents often struggle with communication largely because they don’t commit to acting in their children’s best interests. Instead, many parents choose to make decisions that serve their interests, seeking a superior position in negotiations or other matters. Honest and clear communication with your co-parent as often as possible usually sets your family up for success.

Communication can become especially difficult when you have a co-parent who is not willing to communicate respectfully with you. You may have experienced this before where your co-parent simply will not respect boundaries and instead will push and push you towards emotions like anger and resentment. For instance, if your co-parent simply will not listen to you and instead talks at you constantly then you may lose your willingness to even try to facilitate discussion with him or her about your child. This is a shame because when parents can work together it is usually the case where they can arrive at a better outcome for their child than when they feel like they must go it alone when it comes to parenting.

Being able to stand up for yourself means that you are also able to stand up for your child. You need to determine where the line is when it comes to being spoken to disrespectfully and communicating with your co-parent. When a co-parent continually disrespects you, those conversations accomplish nothing. Instead, you are harming yourself on an emotional level and not helping your child at the same time this truly is a double whammy.

When you find yourself in a situation where you are not making any progress in the area of communication with your co-parent and feel like you have no options left then that is a great time to consider contacting the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys understand what you are going through and are here to help you resolve the situation. We have worked with thousands of parents who have found themselves in your exact situation. We can provide you with the legal knowledge and situational advice that you need to pull yourself out of a rut when it comes to an inability to co-parent. At the same time, we can help you to understand what your options are through the courts, if necessary.

What does a high-conflict child custody case look like on a practical level?

So far in today’s blog post, we have been discussing high-conflict child custody and divorce cases on a more theoretical level. We have been discussing the subject matter in a way that provides general guidelines and viewpoints that you may be able to use to your advantage. However, to close out today’s blog post we would like to provide you with a hypothetical situation to better illustrate the points that we have made thus far in today’s blog post. Hopefully, by seeing how these situations can play out on a practical level you may be better equipped to know how to move forward in your case and to determine whether legal representation needs to be sought on behalf of you and your children.

Suppose that you and your co-parent are going through a divorce together. The two of you have two young children together who are in school. Unfortunately, despite both of you trying to do what is best for your children you often run into problems when it comes to communication on the important issues regarding your kids. Your son has a medical issue that requires weekly visits to a doctor’s office. The two of you cannot seem to get on the same page when it comes to dividing up the costs associated with these visits. Additionally, your daughter receives speech therapy from a private speech therapist and the cost of that as well as the scheduling of transportation back and forth from visits are often time is a source of contention for the two of you.

What is this hypothetical family’s list of options when it comes to how to proceed? Obviously, with two young children in the family, it is not as if these two parents are simply going to be able to ignore each other for the next couple of years until the children are out of the house. Rather, in this situation, the parents of two young children will need to figure out a solution to their communication issues. For many families, this may look like trying to see the case from the other parent’s perspective possibly for the first time. If we are being honest with ourselves, then it is normal to approach most situations from the vantage point of defending our interests and trying to do what we think is best. However, in those types of situations, our ego could get in the way and as a result, we may run into problems when it comes to managing our expectations and balancing what is best for our children.

Instead, these parents could choose to walk in the other person’s shoes for a short period to learn more about how the other person is looking at the situation. Both parents may have valid points to make about raising their children considering their specific needs and circumstances. However, whatever the realities are it would be difficult for the parents to come to this conclusion unless they set aside their differences and choose to be fair with one another. To improve their communication, or even establish communication for the first time, it may be necessary to not only look at the case from the other person’s perspective but to completely do away with any preconceived notions about that other person. Allow the case to start fresh and not go into it with preconceived notions.

This all sounds good and well, but I know many of you are shaking your head saying that it is almost impossible to approach a case like this when there is so much negative history between the parents. If you and your co-parent are so ingrained in your thinking that you have little ability to see eye to eye with the other person on anything, then you may need to seek outside help. For instance, when it comes to it contentious family law case you may need to seek counseling or mediation from an experienced family law mediator. This mediator can help you discover resources and outcomes that could help your family now and in the future. This would be as opposed to going through with a new family law case every time the other parent upsets you.

However, if all these options fail then you may need to consider the filing of a modification or enforcement case. The modification case involves modifying your existing court orders if any material and substantial changes occurred in the circumstances of you, your co-parent, or one of your children since the last time you were in court. An enforcement case seeks to enforce the terms of your court order if a parent has violated those orders previously. In any event, when you find yourself in this situation it is best to have the advice of an experienced family law attorney to help guide you.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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