High-Conflict Relationships And Your Children-Episode 1

Episode 1

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Disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only and are not to be considered a substitute for professional legal advice or a consultation with a lawyer.

1. The Inside Track

Is your soon-to-be-ex hiding something? If so, there are a lot of free resources available so you can try to uncover this information. In Arizona, Rule 97 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure contains 15 free forms that you can use in your family law case whether you have an attorney or not.

One of the forms is the “Family Law Uniform Interrogatories.” If you send these interrogatories (questions) to your ex, he or she must answer within 40 days (plus 5 extra days for mailing). The questions delve into all sorts of areas, including safe deposit boxes, life insurance policies, and income taxes.

It is a great way for you to gather relevant info…without having to pay an attorney to do it for you!

2. Penny Davis Rivera, MA, Licensed Associate Counselor, Professional Counseling Associates

Penny was a teacher before becoming a counselor. She worked in an area of Phoenix that had a lot of interesting families, as well as family dysfunction. As a teacher, Penny felt that she could only do so much because there were so many kids in a classroom. Since becoming a counselor, though, Penny is in a position to help children, individuals, families and couples. Her primary focus at the moment is children’s and family counseling.

According to Penny, the type of counseling she does with very young children depends on their developmental level. Normally, when she counsels very young children (aged 3-5), she does it in conjunction with the parents because children of that age do not have the ability to use skills without the help of the parent. In these cases, however, Penny will still see the children alone to observe their behavior, play, anxiety level, etc.

On the topic of high-conflict relationships, Penny usually finds the parents in the middle of legal battles over custody, etc. Unfortunately, the children are often placed into the conflict. In some cases, a Parenting Coordinator or a Custody Evaluator might be involved in the case. (In high-conflict cases, the Parenting Coordinators and Custody Evaluators are usually helpful. They are third parties coming from a different point of view than the parents are.)

According to Penny, during high-conflict cases, typically, the children are directly involved. Parents are not guarding what they say, so the children hear what those parents communicate to friends, family, etc. Children also can sense the tension.

Even very young children like infants and toddlers are affected. These children may have separation anxiety issues, attachment issues, and acting out behaviors. This is because the children do not feel the security that they want and need.

A lot of children who are in the middle of their parent’s conflict are high anxiety children, more withdrawn, experience physical symptoms and act out. Often parents do not pay attention to these things because they (the parents) are so involved in their own drama. The parents are suffering, but they don’t realize just how much suffering they are causing for the children. Additionally, the parents who are involved in high conflict relationships are always in fight or flight mode. As a result, they experience anxiety, depression and other physical symptoms themselves.

When a parent is still married and in a high-conflict relationship, it may be helpful for that person to seek out counseling, especially if s/he wants to try to save the marriage. However, if one of the parties is trying to change, but the other partner is resistant, it can cause difficulty and is a huge risk; Penny believes that once a person starts changing and moving out of the “negative space,” the other person has to change or get out of the relationship. There are, however, situations when one person starts to change and the other partner (who may have been reluctant at first) starts to change his/her behavior.

In cases where divorce has happened, productive co-parenting and communication helps the kids feel safest. The children want routines and structure. Bringing in new partners too soon creates upheaval for children.

While parents are going through divorce, they may be experiencing conflict in a number of areas (property, money, etc.)  To help cope with these issues, Penny recommends a book called Co-Parenting Works. The bottom line is, though, parents should always put the children first. They should never put the kids in the middle or make the kids feel like they have to choose.

Kids are often afraid of hurting one parent’s feelings or the other parent’s feelings. This makes them the caretakers of their parent’s emotions. As a result, the children don’t develop healthy boundaries and aren’t able to take care of their own emotional health.

The good news is that kids are resilient. However, in high-conflict relationship cases, the kids need an outlet. Often, the parents need direction, as well. Without this help, the children may never know what a healthy relationship looks like.

In cases where there is documented domestic violence, a judge usually feels like the children should still have an opportunity to have a relationship with both parents. If there is a domestically violent relationship, the victim has to take care to encourage the relationship. They have to balance this encouragement against the children’s fearfulness because they (the children) have seen the abuse.

In these cases, Penny would recommend the children and the abuser participate in therapy. This would help the children begin to build relationships with the abuser. To do otherwise will create a lot of anxiety for the children.

Bottom line: always put your children first.

There is hope for high conflict relationships!

You can find Penny at 480-730-6222 or online at www.pcaaz.com.

3. Thoughts From the Life Coach

In this episode, Hernandez Family Law’s in-house life coach, James Hoffmaster, shares his thoughts on the topic of hope, followed by Wendy’s own take on the subject.

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