How to Deal with High Conflict in a Divorce

Navigating Your High Conflict Divorce: Tips & Tricks

Divorce is burdensome as it is, but when you’re dealing with a high conflict spouse, matters can become much worse. High conflict personalities can impact a divorce by prolonging the process, increasing costs and fees, and ultimately, hurting the spouse on the receiving end of these issues. If children are in the mix, a high conflict divorce can sever loving relationships and trust between divorcing parents and their little ones.

Believe it or not, many spouses don’t realize their partner is a high conflict person until they get a divorce. Divorce is notorious for bringing out the worst in people, such as high conflict tendencies. As such, we encourage you to keep the following tips in mind as you navigate your high conflict divorce.

Maintain effective communication: While effective communication is always important, it can be harder to maintain in a divorce, especially when one spouse is being difficult. As the more “level-headed” spouse, you should take appropriate steps to communicate properly and carefully. Avoid “feeding into” your spouse’s hostility and toxicity, as they could feed off of this type of attention. Also, 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.

Recognize the high-conflict traits: Identifying high-conflict personalities sooner rather than later is substantially beneficial in a divorce. 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 throughout the marriage. As such, try to reflect on your partner’s qualities that could be “fueling the fire” as soon as you sense they are becoming adversarial.

Hire a lawyer: An attorney is crucial in any divorce matter, particularly, a high conflict divorce. Your lawyer will help you address your hostile actions without negatively affecting you, your kids, or your divorce. They will have the know-how in handling situations like yours, so don’t be afraid to ask an attorney for help.

Take care of yourself: Self-care is the best care, especially when you’re divorcing a high-conflict person. You could read a book, cook your favorite meal, or go on a walk or bike ride. Getting out of the house and isolating yourself from stressful environments can enhance your peace of mind.

Lower your expectations: When you lower your expectations, you won’t be as disappointed. And of all 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 reasonable expectations. But since you are dealing with your high-conflict spouse, having expectations may only make things worse.

Be with 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 help you to “visualize” a high conflict case, as it can be difficult to see your partner’s detrimental qualities earlier on in the divorce because you have so much on your plate already. To give you a better understanding of what a high conflict divorce looks like, take a look at the 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

What does a high conflict personality look like? While it can be challenging to identify these qualities in your divorce if you haven’t noticed them during your marriage, it’s important to keep in mind the characteristics of high conflict people to better avoid making matters worse. In High Conflict People in Legal Disputes by Bill Eddy, the following personality traits are deemed high conflict:

  • 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 Difficult Spouse? We Can Help.

You have enough on your plate, and putting up with your high conflict spouse could drag you down more than it can lift you up. While you can’t control your spouse, you can, however, control how you respond. Not to mention, a lawyer can significantly ease your burdens and expedite the divorce process, so we encourage you to give our Dutchess County divorce lawyers a call at (845) 605-4330 to learn how we can help!

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