The Early Identification and Streaming
of Cases of High Conflict Separation and Divorce: A Review


  • Recommendation 1. Current initiatives in the development of parental education programs for divorcing parents only reach parents who have already made the decision to separate. Public education initiatives would bring the harmful effects of divorce for children to a much wider audience, and would perhaps encourage some parents to make more use of counselling and therapeutic services, which might help reduce the number of divorces.

  • Recommendation 2. Research, using longitudinal data, is needed to compare the long-term adjustment of children in joint custody arrangements to that of children in arrangements where their relationship with both parents is protected but the child spends most of his or her time at one residence.

  • Recommendation 3. Public education initiatives aimed at families that are separating are needed to provide more information about various models of shared parenting beyond traditional ideas that are limited to either joint or sole custody.

  • Recommendation 4. In order to develop an accurate measure of what can be defined as high conflict, further empirical research is required. Such research, using large sample groups, should begin by establishing a baseline measure for the amount of conflict that normally exists in divorcing families as compared to intact families. Once this baseline is established, a second baseline of conflict levels can be determined for families characterized by the external and internal elements described in Section 6.2.

  • Recommendation 5. More research, including studies that investigate long-term outcomes, is needed to determine whether the use of criteria to identify high conflict divorce has any practical application for mental health and legal practitioners in terms of developing parenting plans and alternative services for dispute resolution.

  • Recommendation 6. More research is required concerning certain elements of high conflict divorces, specifically parental alienation, use of false allegations, and access and custody denial, to determine whether legislative initiatives would be a useful response to these situations.

  • Recommendation 7. As part of a public education program designed to raise awareness about the hazards of divorce for children, attention should focus on the specific hazards caused by high conflict situations.
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