Are you experiencing signs of high-conflict divorce? In a typical divorce, conflict gradually subsides as the divorce process reaches a close. In a high-conflict divorce, tension and conflict unfortunately rage on, often becoming more acrimonious as time goes on. Vitriol and tension can reign even years after the final judgment.
If you are stuck in a contentious divorce that just doesn’t seem to be getting any better, read on for 5 common symptoms of high-conflict divorce – and what you can do to protect and empower yourself.
Symptom: Hostile communication. Your stomach churns at the sight of a new email from your former spouse. You’re sick of being on the receiving end of angry, threatening electronic correspondence. Try as you might, you often respond defensively, or return fire with fire. Your difficulty communicating makes it difficult to negotiate even the most basic co-parenting logistics.
Rx: Pretend you’re a reporter and detach emotionally from your ex’s hostility. Adopt a low-conflict communication protocol: be concise, relay facts (no opinions, feelings, advice), watch your tone (no sarcasm or self-righteousness), and be firm (set a boundary and stick to it). When you stop taking the bait (which just invites more conflict) and correspond strategically, you’ll feel more empowered.
Symptom: Mediation fails. Your attempts to mediate have blown up. Your spouse won’t budge on any point, becomes volatile during mediation, won’t listen to the mediator, and even storms out of the session.
Rx: Mediation is a wonderful tool for lowering the cost and time it takes to divorce, and here is something you need to know: mediation CAN work when one spouse is high-conflict as long as you have a mediator who provides a structured process. Look for an attorney mediator who has experience with high-conflict divorce and can explain how the process will work and how conflict will be managed.
Symptom: Co-parenting feels impossible. You and your spouse can’t seem to agree on anything related to the kids. You haggled forever on your parenting plan (maybe you’re still haggling)! You don’t see eye to eye on parenting philosophies. You struggle to coordinate simple logistics. Your kids feel trapped in the middle and repeat lies your ex has told about you.
Rx: Since conflict emerges from attempts to co-parent, try parallel parenting instead. That means that you parent independently from each other as much as possible. Don’t try to make agreements on house rules. Throw separate birthday parties (the kids probably get anxious seeing you together anyway) and attend separate parent-teacher conferences if the school permits. Arrange drop-offs for the children to occur at the curbside or at school. Essentially, you do you and let your ex do your ex.
Symptom: Boundary violations. Your ex doesn’t acknowledge your rights. They don’t follow the court order. They play games with the visitation schedule and child support. They try to dictate how you run your house. They send messages through the children.
Rx: You can’t change your ex’s behavior, but you can set your boundaries to establish what’s unacceptable. If your ex is violating the court order, contact your attorney. Politely thank your ex for their parenting advice, and assure them you have things handled in your house. Direct your children to come to you with concerns, instead of using their other parent to run interference. And if you’re guilty of violating your ex’s boundaries, get honest with yourself and stay in your own lane.
Symptom: Bad-mouthing. Your ex trashes you to your kids, your children’s school community, your friends, the babysitter, and anyone who will listen. You feel as if people are starting to look at you with suspicion. You may have even lost friends who took your ex’s side. Most important, you worry that all this bad-mouthing will permanently damage your relationship with your kids.
Rx: Don’t engage in what your ex is saying about you and focus on being the most consistent, level-headed person you can be. When you talk to your kids, refrain from bashing your ex; say what you know to be true and teach your children critical thinking skills so they learn to trust their own feelings and perceptions. In some situations, it is a good idea to insist on a non-disparagement agreement in your divorce to provide you with recourse for malicious gossip. If your ex’s behavior crosses the line into parental alienation, and your kids resist seeing you, the courts can help you to enforce parenting time and even order reunification therapy for you and your children to repair your relationships.
If you’ve got a high-conflict divorce, don’t despair! Even if your ex is fueling most of the fight, there are steps you can take to minimize divorce drama.
Have questions about divorce? Want to learn about legal methods to keep conflict to a minimum? Get answers to all your questions by scheduling a consultation with one of our highly skilled family law attorneys. Start safeguarding your future today. Call us at 888-888-0191, or please click the button below