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In Part 1 of this discussion, I shared some common traits and tactics of high-conflict coparents, who frequently have traits in common with narcissists and cause chaos in the lives of their exes and children. Does having a high-conflict coparent mean a life of turmoil? No. Five ways to minimize drama and chaos when dealing with a high-conflict coparent are outlined below.

Five Ways to Minimize Drama

  1. Set Boundaries and Stick to Them: Although firm boundaries are the best defense against a high-conflict coparent, maintaining those boundaries is easier said than done. High-conflict coparents, like narcissists, often act out in response to boundaries, and it can be tempting to try to find peace by going along with their demands. However, for a narcissistic or high-conflict coparent, nothing is ever enough; giving in often makes things worse.

Boundaries won’t change a high-conflict coparent’s behavior, but they can limit a toxic coparent’s ability to cause chaos. A few helpful boundaries when dealing with a high-conflict coparent include:

• “I will not deviate from the court order, except in an emergency.”

• “I will not communicate with my coparent outside the coparenting app, except in an emergency.”

• “I will not share any personal information with my coparent.”

  1. Have and Follow a Court-Ordered Parenting Plan: A clear, comprehensive parenting plan provides court-ordered boundaries and minimizes conflict by leaving nothing for later negotiation. It should include, at a minimum, a precise schedule of each parent’s time with the children, specific rules for pick-up and drop-off, clear guidelines for making child-related decisions, and detailed requirements for communication.

An experienced family law attorney can help design a parenting plan that addresses common issues before they arise. For example, high-conflict coparents frequently play communication games, vacillating between not communicating and inundating the other parent with calls, texts, emails, and messages. A parenting plan can require coparents to provide certain information within a specified time, limit communication to a coparenting app like Our Family Wizard, and/or prohibit harassing communication.

  1. Communicate Deliberately: While no communication method will change a high-conflict coparent (or a narcissist), a couple that may help minimize conflict are:

> BIFF Communication – BIFF stands for brief, informative, friendly, firm.

Brief communication is short and to the point, which minimizes back-and-forth and leaves less to be criticized.

Informative communication provides straight information, avoiding opinions, arguments, critiques, or defenses.

Friendly communication, in this context, is polite and professional. Polite communication includes words like please and thank you and does not include criticism, demands, sarcasm, or other comments that could fuel animosity.

Firm communications clearly state the relevant information and the writer’s position on an issue without inviting more discussion.

> Grey Rock Communication – grey rock communication is modeled after a grey rock – boring, unresponsive, and unmoving. Grey rocking means disengaging in response to toxic tactics and being emotionally nonresponsive. Grey rocking can be a useful way to respond to a high-conflict coparent’s attempts to start an argument.

  1. Consider Parallel Parenting: Understandably, most parents are concerned divorce will harm their children, and many believe an amicable, cooperative coparenting relationship will prevent such harm. As a result, well-meaning parents sometimes try to force a coparenting relationship with high-conflict exes, even when their attempts to collaborate, align on rules, and communicate frequently are met with unreasonable demands, manipulation, and other toxic tactics that make conflict inevitable.

Research suggests minimizing parental conflict is the best way to decrease the negative effects of divorce on children,1 so when attempting to coparent is only causing more conflict, parallel parenting might be a good alternative. In a parallel parenting model, each parent makes the rules for their home, day-to-day decisions are made independently, in-person contact is minimized, and communications are business-like and in writing. By minimizing direct communication and giving both parents autonomy, parallel parenting can significantly reduce harmful conflict between divorced parents.

Parallel parenting does not have to last forever, and many families can move toward a coparenting model over time. Some folks who believe their exes are narcissists might be surprised to find that, when the dust settles and both parties move forward in their own lives, coparenting is attainable.

  1. Consider Professional Intervention: A parent coordinator (“PC”), parent facilitator (“PF”), or coparenting coach can help minimize children’s exposure to harmful parental conflict. A PC or PF is a court-appointed professional whose statutorily defined role includes helping identify disputed issues, reduce misunderstandings, develop methods of collaboration, settle disputes, and comply with court orders. The difference between a PC and a PF is a PC’s process is confidential, whereas a PF can be called to testify in court. A coparenting coach is a more informal role, where a licensed counselor works with parents to address the issues leading to frequent conflict.

  1. Aurelie M.C. Lange, et al., Parental Conflict and Posttraumatic Stress of Children in High-Conflict Divorce Families, J. CHILD & ADOLESC. TRAUMA (2022) (available at; High-conflict Separation and Divorce: Options for Consideration, available at (2004);


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Claire James is a trial lawyer whose practice focuses on helping businesses and individuals protect their most valued assets. As a seasoned commercial litigator, Claire frequently assists companies seeking to protect their trade secrets, uphold their employment agreements, and maintain their competitive edge. Claire is particularly proficient at obtaining and resisting temporary restraining orders and temporary injunctions and obtaining and resisting summary judgment. Claire also represents clients in all types of family matters, including divorces, custody disputes, enforcement cases, and modifications. A former Child Protective Services worker, Claire understands the financial and emotional cost of litigation — especially when children are involved.