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How Do You Deal with High Conflict in a Divorce?

High Conflict Divorces

Divorce is complicated and emotional enough, but when it turns into a high conflict divorce, a challenging situation can become substantially worse. High-conflict spouses often possess narcissistic and reckless personality traits that can be difficult to address. These behaviors may have been contributing factors in your divorce or may have developed as a result of the divorce.

In either case, it is important to recognize high-conflict personality traits and handle them appropriately so you can move forward more smoothly. If children are involved, it is particularly imperative to handle your high-conflict spouse carefully. That said, navigating your divorce can become overwhelmingly burdensome with a high-conflict partner, but the information below can help provide clarity and restore some peace of mind.

If you have any questions, our lawyer is just a phone call away at (704) 343-8811!

What Does a High Conflict Case Look Like?

High-conflict divorces are not just about fighting back and forth. They are more than that. You should have a clear understanding of what high conflict divorces look like so that you can detect and deter this behavior as soon as you feel it coming. That said, we help you “visualize” a high-conflict divorce with the examples below:

  • Acting erratically during the divorce and towards issues concerning finances, children, or both.
  • Refusing to engage in the divorce process at first but then transitioning to full-on engagement to increase the legal costs and attorney’s fees
  • Attempting to restrict a spouse’s access to funds needed to sustain their living and pay their legal fees
  • Making one spouse feel like they are unable to reach an agreement on even the smallest matters
  • Being unwilling to listen to or understand the other spouse’s perspective on the divorce and its potential impacts on the future
  • Breaching legal agreements or court orders intentionally

Tips to Navigate a High Conflict Divorce

High conflict divorces are just that — high conflict. For this reason, it is important to protect the best interests of you and your children as you proceed with your divorce. With so many burdens on your shoulders already, the last thing you need is for your high-conflict spouse to make matters worse for the sole purpose of satisfying their personal agenda against you.

That said, we lay out 7 tips below to help you navigate your high conflict divorce:

Maintain effective communication: As the more “level-headed” spouse, you are more capable of maintaining effective communication with your not-so-level-headed spouse. Don’t be fooled, however, as “effective communication” does not mean constant communication. Effective communication can look like avoiding your spouse’s hostile and toxic tactics, not responding to their harassing calls and texts, and calling them out for crossing the line if circumstances call for it. Ultimately, you are in control of your situation and know what’s best for you and the kids, but focus on communicating effectively throughout the process.

Recognize the high-conflict traits: Many spouses do not realize that their high-conflict spouse is being just that. Maybe these spouses have had their “blinders” on during the marriage and never considered their spouse to be problematic, or maybe they’re in denial that their spouse is toxic. Whatever the case may be, identifying high-conflict personalities sooner rather than later is critical in a divorce. We encourage you to take the time to reflect on your partner’s high-conflict personality traits that could be “fueling the fire” so you can tackle the issue accordingly.

Hire a lawyer: One of the best decisions you can make in your divorce is hiring an attorney. An experienced and knowledgeable lawyer is particularly critical to help you resolve a divorce that is high conflict, as they have the know-how and resources to help you navigate your divorce without letting your hostile spouse interfere. You are not alone in your situation and a lawyer can significantly help ease your burdens.

Take care of yourself: Getting caught up in the chaos of divorce makes it easy to forget about treating yourself well. Self-care is the best care, especially in a divorce. High-conflict divorces are all the reason more to take the time you need to restore some peace of mind. Consider reading that book you always wanted to pick up, cooking a delicious meal, or going outside for a walk or bike ride. Distancing yourself from the stressors at home and work can make a world’s difference in this difficult time.

Lower your expectations: When it comes to having expectations of others, less is more. In a divorce, it’s important to safeguard your wellbeing by maintaining low standards of your soon-to-be-ex-spouse, as they can be unpredictable in your divorce. If your spouse is a high-conflict person, it is especially imperative to expect the worst but hope for the best, as you may only become more disappointed if you have high expectations of them. Now, we wouldn’t offer this tip for an uncontested divorce involving amicable spouses because it would be fair to have reasonable expectations of one another. But in a high conflict divorce, circumstances are much different.

Be with loved ones: Surround yourself with friends and family who you love and trust. As alone as you may feel right now, remember that more people than you may think have been in your shoes before and can support you during this emotional time. Even if they haven’t gone through a divorce themselves, your loved ones can help you navigate this overwhelming time. Don’t isolate yourself from your nearest and dearest — they have your back!

Keep the children out: Divorces involving children are especially complicated and traumatic because it can easily feel as though the family is crumbling apart. But remember, despite your spouse being a high-conflict person, the children’s wellbeing comes first and foremost. As such, do not get your little ones involved, such as by venting to them about your spouse, making them serve as “messengers” between you and your spouse, or guilt-tripping them into picking one side over the other. Your kids are already struggling enough as it is, and the last thing they need is to bear more weight from their parents’ divorce.

High Conflict Personality Traits

As we mentioned before, it’s important to recognize high-conflict personality traits so you can take the necessary steps to minimize their impacts on your divorce. It can be difficult for those who are married to high-conflict spouses to identify these personality traits and behaviors during divorce because they’ve endured them for so long. With so much at stake in a divorce, however, it is vital to be aware of high conflict traits sooner rather than later.

As such, author Billy Eddy outlines the following high conflict personality traits in his publication, High Conflict People in Legal Disputes:

  • Lying if they feel desperate
  • Trying to get others to solve their problems
  • Punishing those guilty of “hurting” them
  • Focusing intensely on others’ past behavior
  • Speaking in dramatic, emotional extremes
  • Aggressively seeking allies in their cause
  • Always seeking attention and sympathy
  • All-or-nothing thinking
  • Avoiding taking responsibility
  • Blaming others throughout their lives

Dealing with a High-Conflict Spouse? Let’s Talk About It.

Divorce is challenging enough, but throw a high-conflict spouse into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. However, not all hope is lost if you have a skilled and experienced attorney in your corner. Our lead attorney is a Board Certified Family Law Specialist who has distinct expertise in helping people like you start a new, happier chapter in their lives.

Wait no longer to learn how we can make a difference in your life by contacting us at (704) 343-8811!