What Is a High-Conflict Divorce?
High conflict divorces are those which are marked by more than the usual amount of fighting and animosity. In these cases, the divorcing couple not only struggles to communicate and resolve their issues but can also be reactionary, retaliatory, and generally combative. This makes the divorce process incredibly difficult for everyone involved and often results in their divorce case going to court for litigation. Furthermore, these divorces tend to take significantly longer to resolve, sometimes taking well over a year.
Common causes of high-conflict divorces can include:
- Serial infidelity
- Misappropriation of marital funds
- A significant breach of trust
Divorces involving minor children also have the potential to become high conflict. Parents want what is best for their children, but when they disagree on what this means, things can quickly become ugly. Additionally, disagreements over parenting are an often-cited contributor to the decision to divorce, making it even more likely that the couple in question will struggle to work together.
How Many Divorce Cases Are High-Conflict?
While most divorces are low-conflict, high-conflict divorces still account for a substantial percentage. By some accounts, around 15% of divorces can be considered high-conflict, with others noting that as many as 30% may be high-conflict. The concept of what constitutes high conflict can be somewhat subjective. However, if you are in a situation where you feel like everything is a battle, even small, seemingly inconsequential things, you are likely in a high-conflict situation.
How to Deal with a High-Conflict Divorce
Going through a divorce is never simple, and it is always painful. That being said, high-conflict divorces are particularly agonizing. It is not uncommon for people going through an acrimonious divorce to feel isolated and overwhelmed. We know how difficult it can be to get through and how it may feel like it will never end. If this is something you are experiencing, you are not alone.
At the Law Firm of Johnson & Gaskill PLLC, we have helped many clients deal with high-conflict divorce cases. Below we've provided a few tips on how to get through a high-conflict divorce. Keep reading to learn more.
Tip #1: Hire an Attorney ASAP
If you are in a high-conflict situation, the best thing you can do for yourself is to secure experienced legal representation from a divorce lawyer you feel confident in. A strong lawyer is crucial to ensuring that your rights and best interests are protected. Furthermore, your lawyer will be able to use their resources to help you throughout the process.
Common issues associated with high-conflict divorces include:
- Hidden assets
- Misappropriation of assets
- Dissipation of assets
- Custody battles
- Conflict over property division
- Arguments over spousal support
High-conflict divorces are often marked by problems, not the least of which is the need to litigate your divorce settlement in court. Having an attorney by your side, advocating for you, and litigating on your behalf can help you feel more confident and bring you the support you need during this difficult time.
Tip #2: Focus on What You Can Control
A common feeling many clients report when going through a high-conflict divorce is having no control over what is happening to them. This can be incredibly unsettling, especially when all you want to do is move on. Whether you're struggling with the idea of having a judge determine your property division settlement or you keep getting blindsided by your former partner, there will be many things that are out of your control.
Though it can be difficult, try to stay focused on what you can control: your own behavior and response to things that happen. Work with your attorney to develop a divorce strategy that you feel comfortable with and confident in. Do your best not to respond to your ex's antagonism, and discuss things with your lawyer before responding. Never react to something in the heat of the moment if you can avoid it.
Tip #3: Minimize the Contact You Have with Your Former Partner
Hand in hand with Tip #2 is Tip #3: reduce the amount of direct contact you must have with your spouse. Often high-conflict divorces become that way because one of the spouses is overly confrontational or hostile. These types of people may try to goad you into a reaction and will push your buttons any chance they get. If you are dealing with an adversarial ex, only communicate through your attorneys as much as possible. An intermediary can help keep things calm and focused on the matters at hand. Talk with your attorney about other ways to potentially limit how they can contact you or if a restraining order is appropriate (such as in cases where one spouse is harassing or intimidating the other).
Tip #4: Take Care of Your Mental Health
Your mental health matters. As we have mentioned, high-conflict divorces can take a toll on your mental (and even physical) well-being. If you are going through a high-conflict situation, you may wish to work with a therapist or family counselor to help you through the process. Whether you are struggling emotionally or just want some extra support, therapy can be invaluable to those working through such high-stress, emotional situations.
Relatedly, if you have minor children, you may wish to have them meet with a family therapist to help them process your divorce. Even when parents do their best to shield their children from their divorce, the children can still feel unsettled. Regularly check in with your kids to see how they are doing and determine if working with a therapist is a good choice.
Review our blog here for tips on co-parenting after a high-conflict divorce.
Are you going through a difficult divorce? Reach out to our law firm for help. We know what you are going through and we are prepared to bring you the legal resources you need to get through it.