There’s one thing that you don’t really think about when you’re in a high conflict marriage and you want to get out. If you have kids chances are if you do “get out” you’ll still be stuck “in” because you’re a parent.
Admittedly, it’s a lot easier to work at it from the outside. If you can get the right mindset and put the right protections in place, ensure that there are barriers between you and your ex, divorce is doable. But it won’t be “done.” It will never be done. Until your kids are old enough to say that they’re done with the conflict, and they’re done with the person causing it. Or, they age out of the family court system. At least, I hope that’s the way it works.
Co-parenting with a high conflict ex means that you’re still attached, especially if you have 50/50 custody. There are still opportunities for your high conflict ex to cause problems. And your role as a co-parent is reduced to putting out the fires.
An example of a high conflict ex:
Recently, I opened the door to discussions about our summer vacation. Regretfully, this is something I didn’t have stitched up in our final divorce agreement. The children were still too young and not in school at the time – and it hadn’t become an issue yet. And when it did become an issue, we had a parenting coordinator to jockey between us.
This is the first year that we haven’t had our parenting coordinator involved but ever hopeful, I thought that perhaps we could do it ourselves. It’s not that hard. There’s really about eight weeks of summer vacation, which means we should each have the children for about four weeks, two weeks at a time.
Based on previous experience, this year, I decided to open with my request for vacation times. (In previous years, although I’ve always offered to be flexible, my ex has always insisted I start the negotiations). By the time the negotiations broke down this year, I had offered to take a week and a half of the four weeks I’d originaly proposed, giving my ex three and a half weeks of the weeks that he had proposed.
To be clear, I presented it to him in exactly that manner. I originally asked for a certain four weeks. I was incredibly clear, unemotional (as they recommend you try to be with a HCP), I cast no aspersions on his character – nothing.
You think he’d jump at the chance! Any reasonably intelligent negotiator would figure out that if they had achieved over three quarters of the result they went into negotiations with, and the other only ended up with just over a quarter, that they’d figure out that they’d “won”.
The problem is, I’m not dealing with a reasonably intelligent negotiator. I’m dealing with a high conflict co-parent. And not just a high conflict ex, but a paranoid one to boot. Because clearly (at least in his mind), if I’m willing to be that flexible, I must be getting one over on him.
The response he came back with was “I generally agree with your proposal.”
Now, I’m no legal eagle, but I know that “general” agreement does not an agreement make. I know that down the road, he can say – well, that part, that was the part I didn’t agree with when I said I generally agree. So when I tried to get him to provide clear agreement, he balked. Because he’s a HCP. And he needs to escalate. Even when he’s “winning”.
This would usually be the part in the DivorcedMoms.com article where someone would offer advice. You know, the whole “These are my five tips on how to negotiate vacation time with a high-conflict ex”.
The problem is, I’m at a loss. Clearly my strategy didn’t work. I’m not willing to go back to the parenting coordinator (for various reasons I’ve touched on in my blog). My ex is threatening to go to his lawyer. I’m not quite sure why, but he is. So at this point, I have no advice to offer you.
What about you guys? Any advice? How do you plan vacations with your high conflict ex? Any general suggestions? I think my fire extinguisher may be out of juice.