Dealing with a High-Conflict Divorce

A divorce is one of the most stressful things a person can experience. In some cases, spouses can amicably work out and settle their differences. But in far too many others, one spouse is determined to make the process as painful as possible. These are some tips for making it through a high-conflict divorce.

Minimize Contact

Bullies crave attention, and it’s no less true in the divorce setting. Your goal, therefore, should be to limit contact as much as you can. Some contact with the other spouse will be necessary for custody and other obligations, so consult your attorney about where to draw the line. Otherwise avoid the other spouse as much as you can, and try to limit contact to written form (e.g. emails and texts). This has the added bonus of creating a written record that can be useful to you later in court.

Don’t React

In many high conflict divorce cases, one spouse will say or do things to intentionally trigger an angry reaction by the other. Don’t fall for this. It’s easy to react when the other spouse has said or done something hurtful, but reacting only fuels the conflict. You may even end up saying something that can be used against you later.

Treat Divorce Like a Financial Transaction

If you’re certain there’s no hope of rescuing your marriage, you have to view it in cold, strictly economic terms. Only in this way can you maintain your peace while keeping an objective eye on your goals. Remove the emotions and handle the divorce as you would a business deal.

Set Firm Boundaries

Let your soon-to-be ex know up front what you will and will not tolerate – and stick to it. Setting boundaries is only as useful as maintaining them is, so don’t allow the other spouse to cross the line. When he or she does, be prepared to walk away.

Don’t Use Your Children as Weapons

Many high-conflict spouses use their children to get information or attempt to gain leverage with the other party. If custody is an issue between you and your spouse, this could come back to haunt the guilty party. Judges do not want to see children weaponized in divorce cases. A good way to keep your children out of it is to let your lawyer manage custody problems.

Involve Law Enforcement if Necessary

There’s conflict, and then there’s criminal behavior. If your spouse’s animosity towards you has devolved into stalking, harassment, threats, or physical violence, don’t be afraid to call the police. You should also let your attorney know so that protections can be put into place.

Remember What You Can and Cannot Control

At the end of the day, you are only responsible for your actions. A person who is determined to be hostile can only be managed, not changed. Instead of letting yourself get pulled into a fruitless argument with the other spouse, be mindful of the things that are in your power to change.