Dr. Ron Stewart wrote in his 2001 article The Early Identification and Streaming Cases of High-Conflict Separation and Divorce that one may identify high-conflict custody disputes with the following conditions.

  • One or both parents have a criminal record;
  • Child protection or police agents have intervened in their dispute;
  • One or both parents have changed attorneys several times;
  • Both parents have needed to make repeated appearances in family court;
  • The case never seems to close and continually drags on;
  • The court has had to issue retraining orders to one or both parents or revoke access to any child;
  • While the former partners were still married, there were occurrences of mental heath problems, depression, anger, withdrawal, or neglect;
  • Either or both parents behaved abusively or violently;
  • Either or both parents habitually malign or demonize anyone siding with the estranged spouse;
  • Unable to set defined and identifiable boundaries between their own needs and those of their child or children;
  • Stubborn in the way they view their relationships or child’s upbringing;
  • Mistrust or even paranoia of others;
  • A habit of insinuating their children in custody or other disputes with the other former spouse;
  • Attempts to turn a child toward one parent and against the other.