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Common Challenges of High-Conflict Co-Parenting Relationships

Co-Parenting Is Never Easy

Divorcing or separating when you have children is a difficult process. After the divorce or separation is finalized, you and your former partner will have to learn how to work together as parents. In high-conflict situations, this is easier said than done. Divorces are highly emotional, and when a settlement is hard to reach, coming together after the fact can feel impossible.

Parents who go through an acrimonious divorce or separation face many challenges when it comes to co-parenting. At Hope Law Firm, we believe parents deserve support, especially during these challenging times. Keep reading to learn about a few common challenges families face in high-conflict situations and some tips on how to deal with them.


Perhaps the number one challenge in high-conflict situations is effective communication. It may be difficult to be in the same room as your former partner, let alone have a productive conversation with them. However, when parenting, communicating is necessary. In-person and phone conversations can quickly devolve into a fight, and many people experience anxiety when they see a surprise phone call from a former partner.

When looking for ways to communicate more effectively, it is recommended that you start by setting some ground rules or boundaries. For example, some couples find it beneficial to isolate their communication to a written format. If you require greater structure, you can also relegate your communication to a single method, such as email or through an app like Our Family Wizard or Custody X Change. Email or app-based communication can help keep conversations from escalating into a fight, and you have control over when you engage with your former spouse. This can give both parties the space to cool off.

Custody & Visitation Schedules

While you and your co-parent are legally bound to adhere to your custody agreement, there will be times when there are scheduling issues. For example, if one parent wants to take the children on a vacation that overlaps the other parent’s time. Alternatively, one parent may have a business trip and need the other parent to take the children when they ordinarily wouldn’t have them.

Typically, high-conflict co-parenting relationships do better when a strict schedule is adhered to. So, changes, especially those that are unexpected, can create more conflict. It is worth discussing how you will handle schedule changes when making your initial parenting plan. However, if this is not something you have already made provisions for, do your best to remain calm, and try to be flexible when possible. If you or your former partner must give up time with the kids to accommodate a schedule change, look for ways for that parent to make up the time at a later date.

Parenting Expenses

Financial disputes are one of the most common problems parents face. While your custody and support agreements will outline how parenting expenses will be shared, finances may be an ongoing issue post-divorce. In addition to feelings of resentment, parents may also disagree with costs as they arise.

Common financial issues that parents often disagree about are:

  • Doctors bills and other medical fees
  • Educational expenses
  • Extracurricular activity costs
  • Clothing expenses

Your custody agreement may stipulate that certain expenses be shared or the responsibility of one specific parent. However, this does not stop problems from arising. One parent will often disagree about whether an expense was necessary or will have issues with a purchase that the other parent made.

When these types of disputes arise, try to keep a cool head. If you can, discuss large expenses with your co-parent before making the purchase. Additionally, keep track of all of your parenting-related costs, and hold onto receipts. You also want to keep track of all child support payments made and received. If you have a dispute that involves returning to court, these records will be very helpful.