What Are the Hallmarks of a High Conflict Custody Case?

What Are the Hallmarks of a High Conflict Custody Case?

In any custody case there are disagreements over child rearing issues and parenting time schedules that require court intervention. In these cases, the court will set a hearing, lasting anywhere from an hour to half a day, where it can hear evidence and make a ruling resolving all issues. Then there are what is termed “high conflict” custody cases. These cases differ in several ways. This blog explores the hallmarks of a high-conflict custody case.  

The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines briefly discuss high conflict custody cases by defining high conflict parties.“’High conflict parties’ are parties who have had ongoing disagreements and conflict. The disagreements and conflict center on the parties’ inability to communicate and resolve issues regarding the care of the child, a parenting time schedule, or any other issues that have adversely affected the child.” This inability to communicate to work out disagreements over the child’s care can be a result of many things including, hurt feelings over the divorce or separation, mental illness, or substance abuse of one or both parties.  

While most separating parents prefer to work out parenting plans on their own, without the involvement of the court, ongoing disagreements in high conflict custody cases require court intervention. These cases are marked by disagreement on many, if not all, issues related to the child and multiple hearings and court filings. High conflict custody cases can drag on for months or even years and consume much of the courts and the party’s time and resources.  

Divorce, or separation from your child’s other parent, may be one of the most traumatic things a person can experience. This trauma can trigger an acute reaction to stress known as the fight or flight response, causing a person to become agitated and confrontational. The courtroom then becomes a battleground and compromise on even the smallest of issues is out of the question. This win-lose mentality is a hallmark of a high conflict custody case. Custody is no longer about the children or what is best for them; it is about winning. Trauma, however, is not the only thing that causes a separating parent to use the court system as a means to wage war against the other.  

In some high conflict custody cases, one of the parties is suffering from a mental illness or personality disorder, which may cause them to jump to conclusions and then look for the evidence to support that conclusion. This is called “confirmation bias”. This may lead to unreasonable behavior out of court and false allegations in court. This type of mental illness can be difficult for the court and attorneys to manage, as parties suffering from it do not always appear to be mentally ill. So, the unreasonableness and false allegations are then seen as conceivably reasonable and true. Because the mentally ill party is often lucid and charming, it can be easy to believe them. When the other party is forced to defend themselves against false allegations from a person, they know to be unreasonable, they might become frustrated and angry enough that they begin to appear as if they are the unreasonable party and the allegations against them may then be easier to believe.  

Another cause of high conflict custody cases is substance abuse by one or both parties. Substance abuse issues many times lead to requests for no parenting time or supervised parenting time based on the party who is abusing a substance being violent, abusive, unreliable, or unable to properly care for the children. Conversely, the party with the substance abuse issue may experience a distorted view of reality, causing them to claim that it is the other parent who is neglectful and abusive. Just as with mental illness, substance abuse may not be easily recognizable. That being said, if a party requests drug testing, the judge will most likely order both parties to undergo testing and may require the requesting party to pay for both tests or each party to pay for their own.  

No matter the cause, high conflict custody cases may not only involve many court filings and hearing, but can result in CPS involvement, the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem, custody and mental health evaluations, and a parenting time coordinator.  

If you are involved in a high conflict custody case, the attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. can help you present the best evidence to protect your rights as a parent. This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. It is for general educational purposes. The blog is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice. This is an advertisement. 



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