Co-Parenting Conflicts: Test Your Conflict Resolution Skills

In my practice, I do a lot of co-parenting counseling. See my previous blog Lessons on Co-Parenting Counseling. Conflicts often arise that challenge my problem-solving skills. It’s time to challenge your problem-solving skills.

Below are presented three real-life co-parenting child custody conflict scenarios. Read each, and then consider: What would you suggest to the co-parents to resolve the conflict without their having to go to court? Next week we will present the solutions to these scenarios and present three new ones. Good luck.

Conflict Scenario 1: Backpack full of Candy Bars

The co-parents have two children, ages 11 and 15. The 11-year old is 40 pounds overweight and his pediatrician has instructed both parents to restrict the child’s consumption of candy and high fat foods. However, in her efforts to gain favor and loyalty from the children, the mother allows the children to each as much candy as they wish. The 15-year old has been alienated from the father and refuses to go to his home. When the 11-year old transitions to the father’s home, the mother loads up his backpack with candy bars. When the child arrives, the father is forced to decide whether to remove and throw away the candy bars, which angers the child (“You’re being mean!”), or let him keep and eat them. Is it possible the mother intentionally put the candy bars into the child’s backpack to force the father into this dilemma as part of her ongoing effort to alienate the children from the father?

How would you resolve the situation?

Conflict Scenario 2: The birthday party

The co-parents have a custody arrangement where the children spend 5 of 7 days/nights with the mother. The father asks the mother if he can have the children come to his house to spend an extra day with him on an upcoming weekend. She agrees, but she schedules the children to go to his house on a day they are scheduled to go their friend’s house for a birthday party. She is aware of the scheduling conflict, she has already told the children about the birthday party, and they are looking forward to going. Two days before the date of the party, she tells them they have to go to their father’s house, and it is because he insisted they come to his house that they cannot go to their friend’s birthday party. This type of situation has happened several times.

How would you resolve the situation?

Conflict Scenario 3: Who’s birthday is it?

The co-parents have a custody arrangement where the children spend equal time at each parent’s home. The father made plans to take their 5-year old on a vacation from San Diego to Chicago to see his favorite baseball team (the Cubs) on his 6th birthday. Unbeknownst to him, the mother scheduled a birthday party for the child with all his friends on same Sunday of their trip to Chicago. Though they intended to communicate with each other about the special event each was planning for their child, neither parent informed the other until after flight tickets and game tickets were purchased and party invitations were sent out. The father thought the son would be with him on his birthday because it is an even number year when he has him. However, the mother thought the son would be with her because his birthday fell on a weekend when he is with her.

How would you resolve the situation?

Often as homework, I ask each co-parent to write their solution in CaseKeepers, an electronic journal that I use for collaborating with my clients. It supports journaling, messaging, monitoring and reporting.


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