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How to Co-Parent with a High-Conflict Ex: Lessons from a Parenting Coordinator

Matthew Marcellino
Matthew Marcellino April 22nd, 2024

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When navigating the challenging terrain of co-parenting with a high-conflict ex-partner, seeking guidance from a parenting coordinator can be invaluable.

A Parenting Coordinator is a a licensed mental health or family law professional, with practical experience in high-conflict family cases, who has been specifically trained to assist parents navigate parenting in a high-conflict custody matter. Their role is multifaceted: they assist parents in implementing, modifying, and complying with the parenting plan. Whether appointed by court order or private consent agreement, a parenting coordinator focuses on the well-being of the children involved. They bridge the gap between parents to reduce conflict and work to facilitate smoother co-parenting dynamics. 

You should use a parenting Coordinator in the following scenarios:

Disputes and High Conflict: If you find yourselves locked in ongoing disputes, unable to agree on parenting arrangements, a parenting coordinator can step in. Their expertise helps untangle complex issues and keeps the focus on the children.

Court Orders: Parenting coordinators often work as an adjunct to the court’s efforts. They help enforce court orders, ensuring compliance and minimizing the drain on judicial resources.

Efficient Access to Information: A parenting coordinator can gather, summarize, and present information crucial to a child’s best interests to the court and to both parents.

What if you don’t have a parenting coordinator? Here are some of the most valuable things a Parenting Coordinator may be able to teach parents:

Effective Communication Strategies: Co-parenting with a high-conflict ex requires skillful communication. Two methods stand out:

  1. BIFF Method:
    • Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm: This approach encourages concise, non-inflammatory communication.
    • Keep messages short, stick to facts, avoid emotional triggers, and maintain a respectful tone.
    • Coparenting communication apps like OurFamilyWizard facilitate BIFF-style communication, allowing you to share essential information without escalating conflict. (They can also keep everyone accountable and are easily shared with  attorneys, Parenting Coordinators, therapists and other collaterals who may be interested in how parents communicate.)
  2. Grey Rock Method:
    • Imagine yourself as an uninteresting, gray rock—emotionally neutral and unresponsive.
    • Limit engagement with your high-conflict ex. Respond minimally and avoid getting drawn into arguments.
    • By remaining emotionally detached, you protect yourself and create a boundary against conflict.

Protecting Your Children:

  • Shield your children from the emotional crossfire by
    • Presenting a united front to your children. Avoid discussing adult conflicts in their presence.
    • Using neutral locations for exchanges. Avoid heated confrontations during drop-offs.
    • Sharing age-appropriate details with your children. Reassure them that the conflict is not their fault. (Remember, some details are never appropriate to share with your children).
    • Creating a stable routine. Consistency and predictability provide security. Stick to the parenting plan.
    • Encouraging Encourage open communication with your children. Let them express their feelings without judgment.


In the intricate dance of co-parenting with a high-conflict ex, a parenting coordinator’s guidance, effective communication methods, and unwavering focus on your children’s well-being can pave the way for a healthier co-parenting journey.