If you're a parent dealing with a high-conflict co-parent (HCCP), you know that false accusations can be a common tactic used to get you to react. It can be difficult to know how to respond when they start provoking because most often they try to hit you where it hurts most.
It's important not to take the bait.
Here are a few tips to follow when responding to false accusations:
1. Wait Until You’re Composed
When you are confronted with false accusations, it is important to find composure before responding. While you may instinctually want to hand it right back to them, this only gives them power over your emotional state. The HCCP knows your weaknesses and they play into them on purpose to watch you react. We want to avoid this because emotional reactions will allow the HCCP to derail from what is important and manipulate the situation into avoiding accountability.
Getting composed before you respond is essential. Emotional regulation may look like taking a few deep breaths, going for a walk, or stepping away from the situation altogether to clear your mind so that you can approach the situation more thoughtfully later on. When you are calm, it will allow you to approach the false accusation level-headed and also help keep the situation from escalating.
2. Refrain From Defending Yourself
When faced with false accusations, it can be tempting to immediately launch into a fervent defense of yourself. However, this approach is likely to make matters worse in the long run. By refraining from justifying your behavior, you will not only avoid escalating the situation further but may also have a better chance of uncovering the truth behind their statements.
Additionally, by maintaining a cool and collected demeanor, you will demonstrate that you are confident in your own integrity and credibility, which can shut down your HCCP accusations. Ultimately, while false accusations may feel like a significant personal attack on your reputation and integrity, choosing not to react immediately can help mitigate the potential damage caused by such unfounded claims.
3. Addressing The False Accusation
Staying silent may seem like the easiest route in dealing with false accusations, but it can also hinder your custody case if you end up in court. Staying silent can appear like you are in agreement with their statements and gives an indirect invitation for the HCCP to continue making them. However, when it comes to addressing false accusations, this will require you to stay outside of what is directly being said to avoid entering into a Me vs You power struggle.
For example, They Say: “You never pay for anything for the kids. I’m sick of covering all
the expenses. You’re so cheap.”
“How come I keep hearing you are telling everyone I’m the one
that broke up our family?”
Options You Can Respond: “I will not respond to false accusations.”
“We see this very differently.”
“I’m going to disengage now.”
“This doesn’t seem beneficial to co-parenting.”
We are acknowledging you received their message, but are not going to go around in circles debating information that is simply not true.
4. Put It Back On Them
Now, if you want to take it one step further you can. Rather than engaging in a back-and-forth of blame, it is much more effective to focus on putting the responsibility back onto the HCCP. This can be done by asking a discovery question for evidence that supports their beliefs or accusations. Most likely, since the accusation is false, they won’t be able to provide you with concrete evidence. Or, if they do perhaps it was a one-time isolated incident. When you put it back on the HCCP this can diffuse the situation and establish yourself as the more level-headed party in the conflict.
Options You Can Say:
Emotional accusation: “I will not respond to false accusations. If you find this
to be true, can you please provide supporting documentation?”
Decision making: “We see this very differently. How did you come to this
Hearsay: “This doesn’t seem beneficial to co-parenting. Can we agree not to bring
others into our co-parenting relationship?”
Many times they will not respond when you put it back on them because they don’t have supporting evidence. This is because generally, they are making assumptions or projection their own narrative onto you. Either way, this can shut down the issue. If they choose to keep going with accusations, then they are probably creating a circular conversation until you break and they feel powerful again.
If you find yourself dealing with consistent false accusations and need support, please reach out. While some false accusations are plain annoying others can truly impact the children’s lives and custody. For more information, sign up for a discovery call here.