From High-Conflict to Effective Co-Parenting: Restoring Respect & Trust

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During and after a highly contentious case involving children, achieving a healthy co-parenting relationship can seem like a hopeless undertaking.  Overwhelmed by anger, hurt, and sadness perceived to be caused by the other parent, the thought of respecting and trusting that person ever again seems laughable.  However, respect and trust are the foundations of a successful co-parenting relationship.  In order to move from high conflict to positive co-parenting, parents need to re-establish (or establish) these essential components.


Any healthy, positive co-parenting relationship begins with respect.  Respect is the first prerequisite of successful co-parenting.  Without respect, nothing else can be built.  Respect is a mutual acknowledgement by both parents of the other’s rights, opinions, and boundaries.  Respect is essential in co-parenting for the following reasons:

  1. Increases the Emotional Well-Being of Children. Showing respect for each other creates a safe and stable environment for children. Children obviously benefit from watching their parents interact consistently in a kind and civil way.
  2. Provides Positive Role Modeling. Parents are the leading role models for their children. Showing respect for each other sets a positive example for children and teaches them to engage respectfully with other people. This then leads to healthier personal relationships for them in the future.
  3. Creates Cooperation. Cooperation is crucial in co-parenting. When parents respect each other, they further the feelings of cooperation, making it easier to work together in mutual decision-making regarding their children.
  4. Leads to Productive Conflict Resolution. Respect, and being respectful, during disagreements with the other parent leads to more productive resolutions. Conflict is going to occur, but devolving to disrespect and making cutting comments never leads to a good outcome.


Trust is the connector that allows parents to work together effectively in co-parenting. Trust flows from respect. Without trust, parents will not be able to share information, make joint decisions, or align their parenting.   Trust is essential in co-parenting for the following reasons:

  1. Acceptance of Other Parent’s Reliability. Trusting the other parent means that you feel you can rely on the other parent to satisfy their responsibilities and commitments.  Trust leads to believing that the other parent will do what they should and said they would.
  2. Decreases Stress. This is a natural progression once a parent believes that the other parent is reliable. With trust, co-parents will spend less time worrying about the other’s intentions and ability to fulfill their obligations.  This would obviously then lead to a more positive co-parenting relationship.
  3. Leads to Effective Joint Decision Making. Trust is critical for parents making decisions together. Parents can work together more efficiently for their children’s best interests when they mutually trust each other’s judgment.


In order to re-establish (or, establish) respect and trust, parents can take the following actions:

  1. Support the other parent’s relationship with the children with regular contact (in-person and virtually).
  2. Have the children ready and on-time for the exchange to the other parent.
  3. Not argue or create conflict during the exchanges of the children.
  4. Allow the children to take their favorite things to and from each parent’s homes.
  5. Follow comparable routines at each parent’s home.
  6. Support relationships with other important people in the children’s lives (i.e., grandparents; stepparents; siblings; etc.)
  7. Remain flexible with schedules when the children have special events with the other parent or other parent’s family members.
  8. Give advance notice to the other parent regarding necessary changes in the time-sharing schedule or when special events occur.
  9. Provide recognition to the other parent when they do things better or differently in a positive way in their co-parenting,


Respect and trust are the essential components of positive co-parenting. They create a healthy environment for children to thrive emotionally and make it easier for parents to work together for the benefit of their children.  If, through a high conflict case involving the children, trust and respect have been damaged, these can be repaired.  Ultimately, shifting from a high-conflict relationship to a positive co-parenting one helps everyone involved, especially those that matter the most to both parents—the children.  If you would like to discuss co-parenting issues or any other family law issue, please schedule a consultation today.


*From Martha Kline Pruett, PhD, MSL, ABPP’s presentation “Too Much Conflict, Not Enough Trust and Respect


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