Navigating the High Conflict Divorce: Protecting Yourself and the Children from Triangulation and Parental Alienation

Understand the tactics of narcissistic parents and avoid becoming an unwitting accomplice

Mark Randall Havens
5 min readJan 31
Discover how to recognize triangulation and parental alienation and how to prevent its devastating impact.
The high conflict divorce is a battleground between warring parents, but the children are the casualties. Photo by cottonbro studio.

The tactics of the narcissistic parent may be familiar to you if you know someone going through a high-conflict divorce. They try to isolate and undermine the other parent by triangulating the community and making false accusations of abuse. Do you know how to protect yourself from becoming an enabler?

A manipulative technique often used by narcissistic individuals, particularly during and after divorce, is triangulation. An attempt to destabilize relationships by leveraging a third party can profoundly impact children and lead to the loss of a relationship between one parent and their child.

As a part of divorce and custody disputes, triangulation can involve false allegations of domestic violence, which can be used to alienate the victim’s parents from their children and their community.

“False allegations of domestic violence are an under-recognized problem in custody disputes and divorce cases,” says Avieli, a criminology researcher at Ariel University, Israel in an article titled: False Allegations of Domestic Violence: A Qualitative Analysis of Ex-Partners’ Narratives. These false allegations can be used to manipulate the legal system, child protective services, health providers, and even whole communities, and are often used to further triangulate the relationship between the victim parent and their children. When these false claims are made, the victim parent may struggle to maintain a relationship with their children and may experience “considerable pain,” as described by Avieli.

In addition to these false allegations, narcissistic individuals may use other tactics to triangulate their relationships with their children, such as enlisting the help of therapists and other health providers. In another article, Avieli argues that “when therapists join with custodial parents as sympathetic allies, they can become involved in a perniciously triangulated relationship. As a loyal advocate, the therapist responds more…



Mark Randall Havens

Join his journey of healing and self-discovery through his work as director of COPARENT and leader of the Dallas Maker Community.

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