You do not need me to tell you whether you are in midst of a high conflict custody case. If your co-parenting relationship with your ex is frustrating you on a daily basis, what you do need is a survival guide.
Forget the Good Will Custody Bank
Ordinarily, you can “bank” good will with the other parent. You agree to trade weekends so they can attend a last minute family get together with the kids. Next time you need a trade, they remember the good will you banked and return the favor. In a high conflict custody case, however, memories are short and good will is nonexistent. Instead, when the other parent asks for a trade, agree (within reason), but request something specific in return. Get it in writing. “Yes, you can have the kids 2 hours early on Thanksgiving as long as I get them two hours early on Christmas Day.”
Take the High Road
In the short term, taking the high road is not always easy. In the long run, however, your children will appreciate it. Given that you cannot control your ex’s behavior, adjust your own. Children do not care who was at fault. They love both of their parents and want peace between them. Leave the pettiness and gratuitous comments behind. Instead, make your communications to the point and cordial. Instead of saying “since you forgot to get the prescription filled once again, so of course I had to take care of it AGAIN,” try “I picked up the prescription on my way home and left it in her backpack. The next dose is at 8:00 a.m. Be sure to give it with food.”
Do Not Overreact
Do not fly off the handle and send that angry message or leave that nasty voicemail. If you do, you are raising the temperature of the dispute. I am not saying you do not have the right to be angry. I am encouraging you to take a deep breath and calm down before you act. The last thing you want is to be lumped together with the other parent who is behaving badly. If you escalate, the judge will see you both as bad actors. Stay calm and think about how you want to act. Do not say or write anything you would not be proud to read in open court.
Let the Best Interests of Your Children Prevail
At all costs, never take your eye off the prize. When in doubt, ask yourself whether what you are about to do is in your children’s best interest. Be at your finest for them.