Skills Before Decisions

What Is New Ways For Families®

New Ways for Families® is a structured parenting skills method intended to reduce the impact of conflict on the children in potentially high-conflict divorce and separation cases. It can be used whenever a parent or the court believes one parent needs restricted parenting time (supervised, no contact, limited time), at the start of a case or any time a parent requests it–including after the divorce.

This method emphasizes strengthening skills for positive future behavior (new ways), rather than focusing on past negative behavior – while still acknowledging it. It helps to protect children as their families re-organize in new ways after a separation or divorce, by teaching parents skills for long-term co-parenting. It can be used with married or never-married parents.

New Ways for Families is intended to teach parents the skills necessary to put their children first by improving their co-parenting skills and jointly making their parenting decisions out-of-court, which reduces the time the court must spend making decisions for them. When parents make their own parenting decisions, they are more likely to follow the agreements.

This method can be used in family court (as a requirement prior to the court making any decisions), mediation, collaborative divorce, pre-mediation coaching, or even post-divorce with the assistance of a Parenting Coordinator or High Conflict Case Manager.

 Who are High Conflict People? What do they need to succeed? 

How is New Ways Different Than A Parenting Class?


To immunize families against becoming high conflict families in the separation and after the divorce, by teaching parents to avoid common characteristics of high conflict families and to learn or strengthen skills for resiliency.

To help parents teach their children skills for resilience in this time of huge and rapid change in the foundation of their family life. 

To strengthen both parents’ abilities to make parenting decisions, while relying less on experts and the courts to make their decisions for them.

To assist professionals and the courts in assessing each parent’s potential to learn new, positive ways of problem-solving and organizing their family after a separation or divorce. By having both parents participate in the program, it helps professionals and the courts avoid creating an “all-bad parent” and an “all-good parent,” which often escalates the family into high conflict behavior. The focus is always on strengthening skills for future co-parenting.

To give parents a chance to change in court cases of abuse or alienation, before making long-term court orders which may limit their contact with children or require additional treatment (batterers treatment, drug treatment, further counseling, etc.). New Ways still allows for temporary orders when necessary for the health and safety of the children.

How It Works

Getting Started: Parents are court ordered or referred to New Ways at the beginning of the case. 

Learning New Skills in Counseling, Coaching or Online: Parents learn and practice the 4 skills with a counselor, coach or through the online course. By learning small skills in small steps, parents will learn to better communicate, manage their emotions, and make decisions that are in the best interest of their child.

New Ways for Families® teaches both parents the same 4 skills at the same time, thereby eliminating the parenting contest and the tendency to label one parent as the “good parent” and one parent as the “bad parent.” This also decreases the tendency to become defensive, allowing the parents to learn new skills rather than defend old behavior. 

This method is based on the idea that both parents need to learn the exact same skills in order to effectively use the skills in the course of their co-parenting relationship.

Decision Making: After participating in New Ways, parents should immediate work with a New Ways lawyer, coach, mediator or other ADR professional to come to their own agreements, rather than returning to court asking the judge to make decisions for them. 

Legal/ADR professionals play an important role in the program by reinforcing the skills with the parents as the parents are negotiating their agreements. With this support from both mental health and legal/ADR professionals throughout the course of the case, parents are more likely to work together on their agreements, now and in the future.

New ways Skills

Flexible Thinking:

• Acknowledging that there is more than one solution to every problem

• Every concern about the past can be turned into a proposal about the future

• Making and Responding to Proposals

Managed Emotions:

• Controlling your anger, sadness, fear, and anxiety so as to not over-react

• Protecting your children from your extreme emotions

• Calming Yourself with Encouraging Statements

Moderate Behaviors:

• Avoiding extreme actions, language, and parenting requests

• Responding to hostile communications with a BIFF Response: Brief, Informative, Friendly, Firm

Checking Yourself:

• Reminding yourself to use these skills during times of stress.

Program Models

New Ways for Families is currently available in 5 models:

1. Court-Based Counseling

2. Collaborative Divorce

3. Decision Skills Class

4. Pre-Mediation Coaching

5. New Ways Online - Register Here
*Note: the online course does not satisfy a court order in jurisdictions where one of the in-person models is available (see the Find a Professional page for current in-person program locations.)

Each model has been adapted to fit easily into any family law setting, while the skills, goals and purpose are the same in each model: to teach 4 basic relationship and conflict resolution skills before big decisions are made, with the use of a client workbook. New Ways should, ideally, be completed prior to decision making, regardless of which model is used. However, parents can benefit from learning these skills at any time.

In all models, parents are required to complete workbook exercises throughout the course of the program. When participating in any of the in-person models, this will be done with the assistance of a professional. If parents are using the online model, they complete the workbook exercises online individually. The online program does include instructions and commentary from professionals to guide the parent through the curriculum.

* Please Note: There is a specific workbook for each model, so before purchasing materials, please review our program models to determine what materials are needed. Please contact us if you have any questions.

For detailed information about each model, view the Program Models page.

For information on the Research Basis, view the Overview for Professionals page.

Click for more Parent Information

Click for more Professional Information

New Ways for Families® is a new program designed by Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. and is a project of High Conflict Institute. It was developed to help potentially high-conflict families facing separation and divorce learn skills for self-management and successful co-parenting. It is designed to help families avoid getting stuck in a never-ending high-conflict battle that costs huge sums of money, involves multiple professionals, works against the child's best interests and impacts them in both their short-term and long-term well-being.


Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.

Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, mediator and the President of High Conflict Institute. He is the developer of the “New Ways for Families” method of managing potentially high conflict families in and out of family court. He is currently developing a method for managing potentially high conflict employees titled “New Ways for Work.” Bill developed the "High Conflict Personality" theory (HCP Theory) and has become an international expert on managing disputes involving high conflict personalities and personality disorders. He provides training on this subject to lawyers, judges, mediators, managers, human resource professionals, businesspersons, healthcare administrators, college administrators, homeowners’ association managers, ombudspersons, law enforcement, therapists and others. He has been a speaker and trainer in over 25 states, several provinces in Canada, Australia, France and Sweden.

As an attorney, Bill is a Certified Family Law Specialist in California and the Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego. Prior to becoming an attorney in 1992, he was a Licensed Clinical Social worker with twelve years’ experience providing therapy to children, adults, couples and families in psychiatric hospitals and outpatient clinics. He has taught Negotiation and Mediation at the University of San Diego School of Law for six years and he is on the part-time faculty of the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at the Pepperdine University School of Law and the National Judicial College.

He is the author of numerous articles and several books, including:

Don't Alienate the Kids! Raising Resilience Children While Avoiding A High Conflict Divorce

High Conflict People in Legal Disputes

It’s All YOUR Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything

SPLITTING: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder

BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns

See more books by Bill Eddy

Bill Eddy provides seminars and training on managing high conflict families in and out of family court. He is also the developer of the "New Ways for Work" method for managing potentially high conflict employees.


Michelle N. Jensen, MSW, JD


Michelle is the Program Director for New Ways for Families, a project of High Conflict Institute. Michelle is a graduate of California Western School of Law, where she focused her legal education on child and family law. She received her Master of Social Work degree from San Diego State University.

Prior to joining High Conflict Institute, Michelle spent several years working with programs dedicated to providing support and resources to strengthen families, specifically in the context of domestic violence, adoption and child welfare. Michelle spent two years as an Adoption Social Worker and three years as a Lecturer at California State University, San Marcos, teaching the Law & Ethics course to first year MSW students.

During law school, Michelle interned with Bill Eddy at the National Conflict Resolution Center, in San Diego, where she developed conflict resolution skills and techniques for handling high conflict family law disputes. She has been working with Bill Eddy in various positions since 2008.

As Program Director, Michelle assists legal and mental health professionals in implementing the New Ways program in their family court system, mediation practice and/or community counseling organization.


Association of Family & Conciliation Courts

State Bar of California

National Association of Counsel for Children

National Association of Social Workers