*The author of this Blog is a family law attorney and a child of a high conflict divorce, who was generous and brave in her contribution of this blog. She is “Katie.”
I recently had dinner with an old friend, whom I will refer to as Katie. Katie, now twenty-nine years old, shared her experiences about what her family life was like (and still is like) growing up with divorced parents after a high conflict divorce. Katie’s experiences exemplify how a high conflict divorce can impact a child’s life many, many years after the divorce is over.
Katie’s parents divorced when she was about six years old, and she is the middle of three children. Growing up, Katie thought her parents’ disdain towards each other was normal. Luckily, her parents managed to keep the children out of the conflict. However, based on the years of disparaging remarks said in both households, it was obvious how much her parents hated each other. Katie’s exposure to her parent’s extreme hatred for each other, both as a child and as an adult, negatively affected Katie for the rest of her life.
During dinner, Katie told me that she was looking into having a will prepared. Knowing Katie has very few assets, I asked her why she wanted a will done. Katie, nonchalantly, told me that her sole reason for wanting a will is so she can express who would be responsible for her funeral costs in the event of her death. Katie wants her parents to equally share the costs, and a will outlining her wishes was the only way that she could do this without the inevitable disagreement among her parents of who pays for what. Her response made me speechless.
Unfortunately, stories like Katie’s are not uncommon. Parents that got through a high conflict divorce often do not realize that their behavior towards one another post-divorce directly impacts their children’s psychological and emotional development indefinitely. As an adult, Katie shuts down at the first sight of conflict within her personal life which she now understands is due to the psychological impact growing up in the middle of such high level of conflict between her parents had on her. If parents can put their personal feelings towards each other aside and focus on what’s best for their children, they can prevent their children from having to experience what Katie went through with her parents.