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February 2020

Man seated on expansive courthouse steps with columns behind him

Man seated on expansive courthouse steps with columns behind him

SCU Law Groundbreaking Study into “High-Conflict Personalities” in Divorce Proceedings to be Published in Family Law Quarterly

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Feb. 6, 2020— An article exploring the legal and judicial challenges of “high conflict personalities” in family law has been accepted for publication in the leading family law journal, Family Law Quarterly.

The article stemmed from grant-funded research led by Santa Clara Law Professor Michelle Oberman with Bay Area attorney Esther Rosenfeld and third-year Santa Clara Law students Jordan Bernard and Erika Lee.

Family law professionals have long noted the manner by which high-conflict individuals, such as those with narcissistic personality disorder, impede available resolutions at each stage of family conflict, often motivated by a need to maintain and delay rather than settle conflict.

The article is believed to mark the first academic inquiry into the problems at the heart of protracted family law disputes. The research team began by examining a set of family law cases that lingered for years–cases that practitioners often noted had taken up 90 percent of their time, despite having had objectively simple legal issues at their core.

In addition to a thorough literature review, the research team spoke with numerous experts in the field, identifying patterns in the cases and examining the ways in which the family law system is susceptible to manipulation by those determined to prolong conflicts.

The article concludes with a set of recommendations for training lawyers and judges to help facilitate closure in the long-term conflicts, while honoring the rights and interests of all parties involved in them. Future work is planned for continuing legal education programs designed to empower judges and lawyers to help facilitate resolution in these challenging cases.

Study Contact
Esther Rosenfeld | Rosenfeld Family Law |

Media Contact
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Communications | | 408-554-5121

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