Parenting and Abusive Divorce

Your wonderful charming partner has turned into an incomprehensible angry opponent. You went through disbelief that Jekyll has turned to Hyde.  You’ve read about borderline and narcissistic personalities.  You have realized that you are dealing with someone very different from you. 

WARNING:  You may know already that a personality disorder drives incomprehensible behavior.  Divorce enrages and inflames personality disorders. Do not expect a “fair fight.” Expect your ex to lie without consequences and also to set elaborate traps to enrage or dysregulate you in order to claim “how unsafe you are.”  GET HELP NOW.  Change all passwords, protect your financial accounts, start documenting everything, save all emails, get used to the idea of “no contact.”

The “just world” hypothesis frames institutions and systems as good, benevolent, and helpful.  Many people without experience with biased systems will expect fairness, compassion, and intelligence from BOULDER Child Protective Services, Police Department, and Judicial District Family Court.  DO NOT EXPECT TO BE BELIEVED.  DO NOT EXPECT FAIRNESS.  DO NOT EXPECT JUSTICE. 

MARCH 2016.  WARNING.  Local Parenting Responsibility Evaluators have produced Parental Responsibility Evaluations that have excluded facts that don’t support their biased narrative.  TAPE ALL CALLS WITH PREs.  Ask all collateral contacts to tape calls. Be prepared to PURCHASE a “supplemental PRE” or to put the PRE author on the stand in a hearing to challenge shoddy work.  Important paper on Ethics of Custody Evaluations.  IT IS UNETHICAL FOR PREs to RECOMMEND CUSTODY ARRANGEMENTS.

APRIL 2016.  WARNING.  The City and County of Boulder Police departments HAVE JAILED parents for not complying with divorce orders.  Be scrupulous in compliance.   For instance “other parent must be notified of doctors visits” does not mean a phone call.  Use a method that can be verified like email or texts.

MAY 2016.   WARNING.  Without convincing evidence such as multiple witnesses, non-aligned witnesses, photographs, or medical reports, if you or your children have been hurt, physically, sexually, or emotionally, DO NOT CALL Child Protective Services in BOULDER COUNTY until you have consulted with a divorce attorney. DO NOT DISCLOSE ABUSE TO MANDATED REPORTERS MULTIPLE TIMES.   BOULDER CPS IS KNOWN TO DISPARAGE THE REPORTER AS “OVERSENSITIVE”.  CPS has also gone as far to say that reporters are “emotionally abusive” for reporting.  A parent accused of child abuse will immediately claim “alienation” which will HARM your chances to keep your child safe.  You may be able to gain parenting time without ever involving CPS.   

MANDATED REPORTERS : You must report as is your duty.  If you are aware that the incident has already been reported DO NOT “PILE ON” as BOULDER CPS will use “numerous reports” as an excuse to screen-out reports.  Boulder CPS has constructed narratives that portray reporting parents as “inflexible in the face of facts” and other opinions that unfortunately can be used against you in court.

Abusive Divorce is enormously stressful and painful for children involved.  This website offers resources, education, referral, and support for parents, advocates, and professionals.

“Abusive Divorce” is a more accurate term than “High Conflict” as conflict implies that there are two parties contributing equally to a conflict.  When one parent uses the court system to control the other parent unnecessarily, induce emotional pain, and create financial hardship, the legal standard for abuse is met.  Beyond simple harassment and stalking, and new laws to address internet stalking, the crime of emotional abuse has never been prosecuted however.  Do not expect justice. Typically with disordered personalities, these behaviors are on-going and can continue even after the children are no longer involved.

Inability to regulate strong emotions, a life history of trauma, and early attachment challenges all create dynamics that perpetuate misunderstandings, strong reactions, lack of long-term thinking, and reduced empathy for the children and ex-spouse.  Reasons for this dynamic could be addiction to either substances or behaviors (gambling, sex addiction), personality disorders, complex PTSD, PTSD, or developmental trauma disorder (DTD).

Another source of conflict is the adversarial nature of the current Family Court system, including attorneys and other professionals that can motivate a vulnerable person to continue filing motions or contracting for expensive evaluations for the professional’s enrichment.  Even though domestic violence and child abuse laws exist, the lack of enforcement of crimes of emotional abuse is almost complete.  Given an environment where crimes are not prosecuted, the crimes continue.

In some cases (more than most people anticipate) personality disorders unfortunately play a large roll in sustaining high conflict dynamics.  “Cluster B” is a term from the Diagnostic and Statistics Manuals (DSM) referring to PERSONALITY DISORDERS of the histrionic, narcissistic, antisocial, and borderline types.  Understanding the nature of these types can reduce the confusion in response to confounding behavior.

The isolation, hopelessness, fear, anger, and other emotions that parents and professionals can feel in this dynamic is extraordinary compared to normal life.  As a community we can support each other to step out of denial, offer comfort in grief, share knowledge, grow through the challenges, and celebrate victories.

See Groups for how to get support or get involved.


Boulder Parent Support is a project of Boulder Emotional Wellness, an affordable psychotherapy intern training site.

For more information call Andrew Rose, Director, Boulder Emotional Wellness 303 225 2708 x100 or email