"Family law attorneys and judges alike would benefit from thoughtful education aimed at deepening their understanding of personality disorders and learning effective ways to communicate and work with such individuals."
While most divorce cases are settled out-of-court in less than two years, high-conflict cases typically last two to five years and can involve scores of filings, endless delays, tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and a high rate of attorney turnover. Worst of all, children become collateral damage and often wind up developing a wide range of mental-health issues (see ACEs).
This empirical study focuses on family law cases that involve a litigant with a personality disorder and that drag on for years despite reasonable options for resolution. Informed by the relatively sparse literature on high-conflict personalities in the family law system, Professor Oberman and her co-authors interviewed experienced family law practitioners, family law judges, and a seasoned custody evaluator with the goal of increasing knowledge about the harms associated with high-conflict personalities in the family law system, the forces that perpetuate these protracted disputes, and possible means to ameliorate the problem. Professor Oberman and her colleagues report on the major themes that emerged from their interviews with family law experts and propose a series of reforms suggested by these findings.
“The optimal means for resolving these cases lies in recognizing that the high-conflict party is drawn to the conflict, rather than to settlement, and devising effective means of disengaging and de-escalating the dispute.” To that end, “family law attorneys and judges alike would benefit from thoughtful education aimed at deepening their understanding of personality disorders and learning effective ways to communicate and work with such individuals.”