Any divorce can feel rife with conflict. However, some divorces are particularly high-conflict. Perhaps one spouse has a high-conflict personality, or maybe the spouses disagree on the issues involved in the divorce. Everything may feel like an uphill battle.
There are several strategies to protect your and your family’s well-being when dealing with a high-conflict divorce. Some of these strategies involve using legal tools to set boundaries, such as temporary orders and parenting plans. Other methods involve practical steps you can take to protect your emotional and mental health. Below, The Larson Law Office describes some techniques for how to deal with a high-conflict divorce.
What Is a High-Conflict Divorce?
A high-conflict divorce doesn’t have a precise legal definition. However, in everyday usage, it means the spouses have significant disagreements that they cannot or will not work out amicably. This typically is accompanied by negative behaviors from one or both spouses. Such negative behaviors are usually intended to delay or derail the divorce process while inflicting pain on the other spouse. Let’s look at some factors that tend to indicate that your divorce may be high-conflict.
- One or both spouses refuse to compromise,
- One or both spouses push for litigation and refuse to negotiate in good faith,
- Child custody issues are combative,
- One of the spouses has a history of abuse or violence, or
- The spouses are unable to communicate without argument.
These and other factors can lead to a contentious and stressful divorce process.
How to Deal with a High-Conflict Divorce
You may not be able to do anything about whether you and your spouse agree on certain divorce terms. However, there are ways to prioritize your well-being during a contentious divorce.
Apply for Temporary Orders
You can apply to the court for temporary orders that direct specific actions and set boundaries while the divorce is pending. Temporary orders can accomplish the following:
- Create a temporary child custody arrangement;
- Order temporary child or spousal support;
- Limit how the spouses can use community property, including money and other property; and
- Designate who lives in the marital home.
Temporary orders are court-imposed boundaries. If your spouse doesn’t comply with these orders, they’ll have to face the judge for potential consequences.
Don’t Publicize Your Divorce
Using social media to discuss your divorce can exacerbate tensions. Plus, anything you put on social media may be used in court. So it is wise to be mindful of anything you post on social media. A good rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t want to see it used against you in court, don’t post it.
Additionally, seeing your spouse’s posts may stir up your anger, disappointment, or resentment. Consider unfollowing your spouse and ask your family and friends not to post about you or your family during your divorce.
Interactions with your spouse may lead to arguments. So you can set boundaries to restrict your interactions with your spouse. Limit communications to particular methods, like email or text, and don’t respond immediately. Instead, give yourself a certain amount of time before you answer so you can respond calmly.
How to Handle a High-Conflict Divorce to Minimize the Impact on Children
Studies have regularly shown that a child’s exposure to conflict between divorcing parents has a devastating effect on their well-being and ability to adjust. These studies demonstrate that divorcing parents must actively try to keep children out of their relationship struggles. Below are some strategies that can minimize the impact of your high-conflict divorce on your children.
Customize Your Parenting Plan
A parenting plan is a way for divorcing parents to define their ability to make important decisions for their shared children and outline each parent’s scheduled time with the children. Texas courts can create temporary custody orders, including a parenting plan, that the parties need to follow while the divorce is pending. They then issue a final custody order and parenting plan once the divorce is finalized.
Your parenting plan should be precise. It can define things like:
- Who makes certain decisions about the child,
- How decisions should be made,
- The exact time and place of physical exchanges between the parents, and
- When and how contact should be made by one parent when the child is in the other parent’s physical custody.
You and your attorney can discuss other important terms to address in your parenting plan. Once you have a clearly defined parenting plan, stick with it. If you or your ex think it needs to be changed, speak with your attorney.
Create a Custody Exchange Plan
There are ways to minimize the conflict during child custody exchanges. Speak with your attorney about having a third party present to facilitate the exchange. The court can approve a friend, family member, or non-profit organization to supervise the exchanges.
Even without a third-party monitor, there are ways to minimize conflict during your exchange. Keep conversations with your spouse brief and only discuss factual information about the children. If they say something or don’t comply with the parenting plan, document it and discuss it with your attorney. Do not discuss it with them, especially if your children are present.
Don’t Put Children in the Middle
Avoid speaking negatively about your spouse in front of the children. Do not use your children as spies or intermediaries between you and your spouse. Avoid arguing or conflict with your spouse when your children are present. If the conflict is serious, call the police and let them handle it.
How Long Does a High-Conflict Divorce Take?
Unfortunately, a high-conflict divorce can take a lot of time. If the spouses cannot agree on the divorce terms, they must go to trial. Due to the many steps involved in litigation and the court’s often crowded calendar, a high-conflict divorce can take months, a year, or longer.
Contact The Larson Law Office for Help with a High-Conflict Divorce
If you anticipate a high-conflict divorce, you need an aggressive, strong, and compassionate advocate—a lawyer who believes you and your needs are central to any legal strategy. The attorneys at The Larson Law Office are such advocates. Contact us today.