Many sources agree that up to one-third of divorces these days are high-conflict. This means that one or both parties are stuck in fighting over something – usually the children – for years.
There are repeated court hearings about extreme behaviors: substance abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, lying, hiding money, false allegations of abuse and parental alienation. There is lots of blame, without positive change. Families are caught in a spin cycle of high conflict behavior.
In high conflict divorce, emotions are high and often increase over time. For some parents, simmering anger turns into yelling rages at parenting exchanges, anger at family members, anger at professionals, and yelling or running out of court hearings. There’s angry emails, angry voicemails, taping phone conversations, videotaping “bad” behavior – even going on YouTube and the news to prove how bad the other parent is. Of course, these actions make things worse, not better.
These emotions are also contagious, as family members, professionals, news reporters, and even children get swept up in emotionally taking sides – bitterly questioning the intelligence, sanity, morality, ethics and competence of the other parent and professionals involved in the case. Of course, you’ve known about high conflict divorce for years. You probably thought it was just an unavoidable fact of modern life. But if you’re considering a separation or divorce, you probably think you are going to avoid this. I want to help you do that, but you need to have your eyes wide open to the many little ways that you can accidently create a high conflict divorce.
Over the past decade, sources from the Wall Street Journal to family court judges say that high conflict divorces have increased. Well-known family law researcher, Janet Johnston, and colleagues (2009) said: “About one fourth to one third of divorcing couples report high degrees of hostility and discord over the daily care of their children many years after separation… For about one tenth of all divorcing couples, the unremitting animosity will shadow the entire growing-up years of the children… [O]ver a span of two decades, more than five million children will be affected by ongoing parental conflict; for two million children, this condition may well be permanent.”
The long-term effects of high-conflict divorce are becoming obvious when the children become adults. Suddenly, this isn’t just a problem we can ignore any more while other families go through it. The children of high-conflict divorce are having problems that will eventually affect everyone. Something must be done, and it must be done soon.
Excerpt from Don’t Alienate the Kids! Raising Resilient Children While Avoiding High-Conflict Divorce. By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. Published by HCI Press www.hcipress.com