Kay Rhodenizer – November 2015
A large body of social science exists to establish that family conflict harms children as they try to deal with their parents’ separation/divorce. Family law judges see this played out in the cases that come before them and are well aware of the literature. In some cases this conflict is so severe that judges will restrict or eliminate one parent’s contact with his/her children to lessen the conflict. This is consistent with the over-riding principle in Canadian family law, i.e., that decisions about parenting and parental contact are to be based only on the child’s best interests.
Recently in Nova Scotia, one judge noted that the parents were obviously locked in a war waged in the name of their child, going on to say that the real victim of the ongoing conflict and parental “one-upmanship” was the child, as well as other third parties (such as school officials) who were doing their best to avoid being drawn into the parental drama. 
Parents also sometimes unnecessarily decide to involve other public resources such as the Department of Community Services and/or the police in parental disputes. Two Nova Scotia judges have made pointed comments about this in 2015. One noted that neither complaints to the police nor reports to Community Services led to any action on the complaints and said it might be this parent was merely attempting to “build a case” against the other.  Another said involving the police when there was confusion or disagreement about access should “never be encouraged” and found on the facts of the case that doing so demonstrated a lack of parental judgment .
Parents should give careful consideration (and in non-emergency situations get legal advice) before they involve third party agencies in their family situation.
Parents should also be aware that our Courts may consider texts, emails and social media such as Facebook postings as evidence of parental conflict and/or bad parental judgment. This is not always limited to materials produced by the parents, although it is not uncommon for one or both parents to ask the Court to review reams of emails between them to show the conflict.
We encourage and assist parents to find tools to minimize conflict. Even if one parent persists in confrontation instead of constructive dialogue it can be useful to obtain personal counselling to develop appropriate responses to defuse tense situations and clarify expectations and parenting approaches. Although it is impossible to list all the available resources, a good starting point is to consider the content of your emails in response to hostile comments. You may want to preview a video for the “B.I.F.F.” response to inflammatory emails (brief, informative, factual, friendly) at www.HighConflictInstitute.com.
Remember, every email you send has the potential to lessen or worsen conflict and may at some point be read by a judge. It’s in your family’s best interests to think before you hit “send.”
Cases cited in this article are publicly available at httpps://www.canlii.org
 2013 NSSC 308.
 2015 NSSC 282, para. 57
 2015 NSFC 6, para. 118.