By Casey Wilson
There is a presumption by many family law professionals that if there is moderate to high conflict it is impossible parents share parental duties including time sharing as well as decision making. This seems reasonable, but these professionals really need to look more closely at WHY these parents are not getting along. Custodial Parents as well as their attorneys often perpetuate conflict by using a certain set of behaviors which actually create conflict in the coparenting relationship and due to the presumption of conflict in the coparenting relationship, can keep the noncustodial parent from having more time and decision making.
Some have termed this Hostile Aggressive Parenting:
Many of these behaviors that intentionally create conflict are:
1) Refuse to promote the most effective communication between parents. Hostile parents will often not talk to their former spouse and try to find ways to thwart any means of communication. Such parents may refuse to get fax machines (even when they can afford it) or divulge their E mail address. Hostile parents generally do not want to have a paper trail which may show that they are being uncooperative with the other parent.
2)Always wait until the last minute to settle summer vacation or holiday periods. Hostile parents always are trying to find ways to frustrate the other parent. Often the only time that a hostile parent may cooperate is when they are threatened with imminent court
action or other third party intervention.
3) Not inform the other parent of upcoming school activities, events, or holidays when the child may be off from school.
4) Keep the other parent off the school emergency contact list or advise the school that the other parent should be the last one called, even though that parent may be the one most available to come to the school in the event of an emergency.
5) Choose daycare providers who are their own friends and know will side with them or bend the truth in their favor to help them make things difficult for the other parent.
6) Choose daycare workers who they know will not get “involved” to help resolve problems or to keep silent about irregularities involving the children. When a daycare provider does try to do what is right or to expose problem, then the hostile parent will switch to another babysitter without notice to the other parent.
7) Select daycare providers that only they have had the chance to talk to without any consultation or involvement with the other parent.
8) Not ask the other parent to care for the child when the child is sick but instead prefer to take the child to daycare providers outside of the children’s own family members.
9) Not giving the other parent the chance to provide care for the child when the other parent is more than willing and able.
10) Tell the other parent that the children are too sick to come for their regularly scheduled access visit or to be late because of illness.
11) Create difficulties for the children to see the other parent on special occasions such as birthdays, father’s or mother’s day, special family gatherings, etc.
12) Make the children feel guilty about seeing the other parent.
13) Insist that the non-custodial parent return the children precisely on time while the custodial parent enjoy flexibility and is able to set their own times.
14) Refuse to have a third party act as a mediator, coordinator, or have any other professional involved in helping the parents co-parent effectively.
15) Take the children to counselors or other professionals to get letters of support in a custody dispute but do not want those counselors to meet or to obtain any input from the other parent. (Referred to in the industry as recommendation letters for sale)
16) Refuse to participate in mediation or any kind of assessment program, which involves the participation of all the members of the family.
17) Unwilling to consider any kind of fair and equal parenting arrangement for the children when such an arrangement is desired by the other parent and were circumstances would permit such an arrangement.
18) Always exhibiting anger towards the other parent, months or years after the separation.
19) Practice parental alienation techniques designed to keep the children and step children from seeing the other parent.
20) Afraid to permit the non custodial parent to take the child to any kind of counseling or other third party professional in case the child may reveal something that they do not want the non custodial parent to find out about.
21) Refuse to disclose important and relevant information from the non custodial parent which may be relevant to effective parenting of the child, such as refusing to disclose place of employment, phone numbers, contact numbers, health card information, etc., when there is no valid reason to keep this information secret.
22) Make it difficult for the non-custodial parent to communicate with such as having the answering machine always on or having others pick up and screen calls, etc., etc.
23) Encourage the children to lie and to hide about what is happening in their home.
24) change an agreement without the other parents knowledge
25) refuse to answer phone calls from the other parent
The answer to these problems is to remove the leverage position one parent is in regards to the other parent. The children are harmed in this scenario. Shared and equal parenting should be implemented immediately if any of these behaviors are exhibited. There should be tools established within the order to decrease conflict. These may include but are not limited to:
1) mandatory email contact only
2) web based parenting program such as Our Family Wizard for scheduling
3) the use of EFFECTIVE parenting coordinators and sometimes mediation in any case with moderate to high conflict
4) the use of Parallel Parenting Plans
5) minimize parental contact and exchanges
6) reduce leverage by putting both parents on equal ground at the onset of divorce and separation thus reducing leverage
Both parents and children have a right to be equally involved in each other’s lives. One parent creating conflict because he or she abuses their position should not be a reason to minimize the other parent. But that is the current arrangement
Sources are quoted as well as Family Assistance And Parenting Program