Failing to Agree With a High Conflict Opponent

May 23, 2018




First off, what is a “high-conflict” opponent? The term isn’t specifically anywhere, but is more a catchall term for a person who attaches their identity to a conflict. It usually, but not always, is associated with divorce and child custody proceedings. Because the conflict defines a part of who they are, they cling to it to survive. Eliminating the conflict is treated as an existential threat, so they obsessively cultivate and foster it. Because the motive of this person is too strongly devoted to continuing the conflict, you cannot expect that any normal communication methods will be sincerely considered by the person in solving problems that arise in the case.


Dealing With It


Outside of the court system, there is little you can do to force the person to agree. Luckily, if you’re here, you are in the court system, and you can use the court and the law’s coercive power to force certain outcomes, you need only embrace it. Too often, people will bend over backwards to find some way to settle a case, or solve a conflict; there’s nothing wrong with this when dealing with a reasonable opponent, and sometimes in a typical money case the best you can do is cut your losses, but with a high-conflict opponent in a child custody case, this usually involves accepting one-sided deals and the price is exceptionally high, because your child will suffer the consequences as much as you will.


Embracing the system means planning ahead of time, or setting your expectations, in a way that you expect litigation. You take actions outside of court, that build your case for when you end up back in court. Rather than continue back and forth with emails, texts, Our Family Wizard (or similar software) messages, even in-person arguments, you send a single message, articulating your request. If they respond argumentatively, you’re done, bring the issue back to court. This sounds harsh, but this is the only way one can reach reasonable outcomes on any important issues. It amounts to reaching the conclusion that your opponent’s mind doesn’t matter, only the judge’s mind does.


- Alex



Alexander Falconi is a contributing member of Pro Se Pros, LLC.  Reach out to Alex at



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