How Do You Navigate a High Conflict Divorce?
High conflict divorces are just that: High conflict. It’s in the name.
It may seem contradictory to label a divorce “high conflict,” as divorce is arguably full of stressors and conflicts in and of itself. However, high conflict divorces are especially difficult because one spouse is hostile, combative, and toxic towards the other spouse. This spouse has an all-or-nothing mindset, can’t handle their emotions, blames others, and demonstrates extreme behaviors. These qualities make it seem impossible to reach even the simplest agreements on divorce matters. As a result, high conflict divorces can be long, expensive, and emotionally and mentally draining.
7 Ways to Deal with a High Conflict Person
If you’re stuck in a messy divorce, we encourage you to look at the 7 tips below to help you deal with your high conflict spouse:
Maintain effective communication: Communication is always key in serious matters like divorce, but it can be significantly harder when your high conflict spouse fails to communicate properly. That is why it’s your responsibility in the divorce to maintain careful communication. You can choose not to reply to toxic calls or texts from your spouse, tell them they are being disrespectful, and, if you have to respond to your spouse, you can be short and cordial. Try not to entertain your spouse’s hostility and toxicity, as they could feed off of this type of attention.
Recognize the high-conflict traits: It can be difficult to navigate a high-conflict divorce without recognizing the qualities that make your divorce high conflict. Many spouses have lived with their partner’s toxic traits for years and may not realize that they’ve been putting up with a high conflict person all throughout the marriage. That’s why you should reflect on your partner’s qualities that could be “fueling the fire,” because identifying these traits early on will help.
Hire a lawyer: An attorney is crucial in any divorce matter, particularly, a high conflict divorce. Your lawyer will help you handle your spouse’s hostile actions in a way that doesn’t adversely affect you, your kids, or your divorce. Remember, divorce lawyers are experienced and skilled in handling situations like yours, so don’t be afraid to ask them for help.
Take care of yourself: Self-care is the best type of care when dealing with a high-conflict person. This could mean getting therapy, reading a book, cooking your favorite meal, or going on a walk or bike ride. Getting out of the house and away from stressful environments is key to your peace of mind.
Lower your expectations: Of all the times to have expectations of your spouse, divorce is not one of them. If you weren’t dealing with a high conflict person, it would make sense to have minimal expectations. But since you are dealing with your high-conflict spouse, having expectations would only set you up for disappointment.
Lean on loved ones: Having a strong support system is key to your mental and emotional health. Don’t hesitate to reach out to friends and family for support, as you are not alone.
Keep the children out: Your children should not be involved in your divorce proceeding altogether, especially when you’re dealing with a high conflict spouse. Involving your children will do them more harm than good, and you could ultimately escalate tensions for your whole family. As such, do not ask them to be “messengers” or “guilt-trip” them into getting involved in the conflicts between you and your spouse.
What Does a High Conflict Case Look Like?
It can be difficult to identify the start of a high conflict case early on, and unfortunately, this downfall can set the tone for the remainder of the divorce action. To better help you understand what a high conflict divorce may look like, we describe some examples below:
- Having an erratic approach to the divorce and issues concerning finances, children, or both.
- Refusing to engage altogether, followed by intense engagement, which can result in high and unnecessary legal costs
- Attempting to restrict a spouse’s access to money that’s needed to sustain their living and pay their legal fees
- One spouse feeling unable to reach an agreement on even the smallest matters
- Being unwilling to hear or accept the other spouse’s perspective on the history of the relationship and its potential impacts on the future
- Breaching agreements or orders
High Conflict Personality Traits
With all of the tips above in mind, it would benefit you to identify high conflict personality traits sooner rather than later. As we discussed before, however, it can be especially challenging to recognize these harmful qualities if they have persisted in your marriage and you haven’t perceived them as toxic. With this in mind, we list some characteristics of high conflict personalities below, as provided in High Conflict People in Legal Disputes by Bill Eddy:
- 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
Are You Entangled in a Messy Divorce?
Divorce can bring spouses to their breaking points, but with the help of a compassionate and dedicated lawyer, the process can become much more efficient. At Masella Law Firm, P.A., we work tirelessly to help clients achieve a favorable outcome without sacrificing their peace of mind in the process.
To speak with us about your divorce, please contact us at (803) 938-4952!