Attempting to co-parent with your narcissistic, personality disordered, or other generally “high conflict” ex-spouse can feel like a never-ending nightmare. If you thought the divorce was bad, trying to raise your children with a high-conflict prone individual will be far worse, although not completely impossible. It is important to recognize if you are divorcing an individual who qualifies as a high-conflict personality, so you can prepare to take the necessary steps to handle what will be coming.
The usual time-sharing plans and shared parental responsibility guidelines will likely not apply to your case. Instead, you will likely need to design a (very) detailed parenting plan describing every aspect of child custody and visitation.
Below are definitions and recommendations to consider when creating your parenting plan. Keep in mind your narcissistic or high-conflict ex-spouse will probably disagree with many aspects but at least you will have a starting point for when the time to negotiate approaches.
*It is important to note that some of the terms used below may not be terms still used in or by Florida courts, but they provide a clear understanding of your intent when creating your detailed parenting plan.
Provisions To Consider In A High-Conflict Parenting Plan
- Legal Custody*: Which parent (it can be both) makes the “big” decisions for their child such as their religion, their education, and their medical care.
- Residential Custody*: The primary residence of your child. This is usually the address where the child stays for the majority of the time and is used for school zoning purposes.
- Visitation*/Time Sharing: You will need to be a specific as possible in this section when dealing with a high-conflict or narcissistic ex. Detail which days, what times, and with whom the child should be with. Do not forget to consider pickup and drop off at school, early release or school holidays, sporting events, or other extracurricular activities that may interfere with the traditional times set. Also included in this section any instructions for exchanging the children with the other parent.
- Cancellations/ Emergencies/ Make Up Time: Decide how late of a notice one parent can cancel or alternate pick up or drop off time. It is not recommended to offer make up time if your ex-spouse cancels since it will cut into your own time. The time-sharing plan should continue its regular schedule as if the cancellation never occurred.
- Right of First Refusal*: This means that if you or your ex-spouse need a someone to watch your kids for any reason you should first look to each other as an option before asking family or hiring a babysitter. It is up to you if you wish to include this clause. Keep in mind that although you may stick to the rules of Right of First Refusal, your high-conflict ex-spouse may not.
- Parenting Styles: There are some things you may be able to encourage across both homes such as safety-proofing the home for younger kids, levels of discipline, curfew, allowance, cell phone or electronic usage, or if the child is old enough to be left home alone and for how long.
- Opposite Parent Contact: Set terms and rules for when you can call and speak to your child while they are at the other parent’s house and vice versa. You can also include to have both parents informed of the child’s school or extracurricular activity schedules so both parties have the opportunity to attend, even when it is not their scheduled time.
- Relocation: If one parent wishes to move, how should the situation be handled—if the moving parent needs permission to relocate outside a particular geographical location or how time-sharing will be modified to adjust for the distance. Keep in mind these guidelines should be fair and not meant to punish the moving parent; you wouldn’t want them to interfere with your own potential career advancement or improvement of living situation.
- Out of Town Vacations: You will have to decide how you feel about either parent taking the child out of town, city, state, or country.
- Parental Communication: Communicating with your high-conflict ex-spouse about issues regarding your children may be difficult. If this is the case, you can propose to only communicate via certain means or to use a shared calendar to ensure everyone is properly informed of the child’s schedule with minimal verbal or face to face contact. There are websites that allow you to create and share schedules and communicate online with the other parent. Many of them also track and record messages.
- Child Well-Being: If the welfare of the child is of concern, then special requirements can be included. You can also add a clause about the types of people you and your ex-spouse can have around your child—eliminating those with felonies, drug history, abuse charges, etc.
- Parental Well-Being: Address issues of communication harassment (e.g. ex-spouse calling, texting, or emailing to berate you for your parenting skills), showing up unannounced to each other’s home, or how interaction between parents will occur if a protective order is in place but visitation is still allowed.
- Child Support: Use Florida’s Child Support Guidelines to determine how much support is owed by you or your ex-spouse.
You need to know
It can be difficult to deal with an ex-spouse, especially if there is a lot of conflict. You may need to get a family lawyer to help you deal with the situation. If you have children, you will also need to think about their well-being. It is important to try to resolve the conflict so that everyone can move on.
If you are dealing with a high-conflict ex-spouse, there are some things you can do to try to resolve the situation. You can try to communicate with your ex-spouse and see if there is a way to resolve the conflict. You can also try to get family counseling or mediation.
These topics, along with any others you can think of, should be written so the intent is clear and understandable, even to an outsider. It may seem like a lot of work but detailing everything can help you to ensure your child is cared for and raised by similar patterns in each home. Detailed parenting plans are stabilizing, which is important when you are attempting to co-parent with a high-conflict ex-spouse. A detailed plan can also help justify any actions you took while following the parenting plan if your ex-spouse attempts to take you back to court.
Myrthil’s Law, P.A. can help you create a detailed parenting plan and file it with the court. We are well experienced with high-conflict divorces and modification requests. Contact us today to discuss your family law needs.