Going through a divorce is never easy, but a high-conflict divorce can be even more challenging and stressful for the parties as well as any of their children involved. What is a high conflict divorce?
A high-conflict divorce often results from individuals with high conflict personalities. High conflict personalities are characterized by people who tend to be more dramatic, emotional, or erratic and yet can be quite indecisive in their decision-making.
These characteristics make it difficult to settle a divorce case amicably. Most high-conflict divorces will end up going to Trial instead of settling out of Court because one of the parties will never agree on all issues.
If you’re dealing with a high-conflict divorce situation, there are tools and remedies put into place by the Court to assist you with navigating through this difficult and trying time.
First, let’s look at the signs that your divorce may be a high conflict one.
10 Signs Of A High-Conflict Divorce:
1. Drug or Alcohol Abuse
If your spouse is using drugs or alcohol, or battling addiction, that will affect his or her ability to parent. You may worry that your spouse will be under the influence when they have the children or may even drive with the children in the car when they’re intoxicated.
The Courts take substance abuse very seriously and could order that he or she undergo random drug or alcohol testing before being allowed to have the children. The Courts may also order supervised parenting time if the spouse is unable to stop using drugs or alcohol.
Many people suspect that their spouse is being deceitful by hiding assets or lying about their income. If this is the case, everything they say must be thoroughly investigated. Your attorney will need to subpoena bank records and potentially your spouse’s employer and any other sources of income to determine what the spouse is actually earning.
There is always a lot of blame during a divorce. In a high-conflict divorce, the blame and finger-pointing can often lead to depression and frustration. If you continue to blame the other person, you are preventing yourself from finding the happiness that you deserve.
When possible, avoid fighting with your spouse and seek the assistance of your family law attorney. The goal is to focus on the divorce case so that you may move on with your life and find the happiness you deserve.
Some couples are able to accept that the marriage has ended and move on. For others, a spouse’s goal may be to seek revenge for feeling or being wronged during the marriage. The revenge they seek may be emotional, financial, or both, and they seek to air out their grievances during the process.
If your spouse has to have the last word on everything and constantly engages with you to create animosity and strife, they will continue to cause ongoing conflict. This spouse will go out of their way to find reasons to argue and engage the other spouse via text or email until you respond, only elevating the divorce into a high conflict situation, making it impossible to come to any decisions or resolutions.
6. Mental Illness
A recent study shows that almost 20% of Americans are experiencing mental illness. Of course, that’s nothing to be ashamed of and many people seek successful treatment. However, certain types of mental illnesses can contribute to a high conflict divorce. Many people believe their spouse is a narcissist. Narcissism is a personality disorder found more commonly in men and is when a person has an inflated sense of self-importance. Symptoms include an excessive need for admiration, disregard for others’ feelings, an inability to handle any criticism, and a sense of entitlement.
When dealing with a person like this, it is difficult to negotiate a settlement because normal reason simply doesn’t apply. If mental illness is suspected, the Court may order that one or both parties submit to a psychological examination. A psychological examination can be a lengthy and expensive process, but it may eventually assist the Judge in determining which spouse is awarded custody of the children, or if supervised visitation is in the best interest of the children.
7. Inability to Compromise
No matter how complex the divorce, there are generally at least a few things most couples can agree on. In a high-conflict divorce, your spouse refuses to come to an agreement on even the simplest, most reasonable items.
They believe that compromising on anything is a loss to them and will choose to make the divorce process more difficult. They believe that by being difficult and refusing to compromise, they are causing the other spouse to suffer. In the end, both parties will suffer by enduring a damaging high conflict divorce.
8. Undermining Behavior
If you have children together, your spouse may try to convince the children you don’t want them or don’t care about them. This can be done with an outright statement or it can be subtle attacks. This is a dangerous behavior that can elevate things to a high-conflict divorce. The Courts do not approve of this type of behavior.
It is very detrimental to drive a wedge between a parent and their children and the Court will often order that neither of the parents says anything disparaging about the other parent in front of the children. Additionally, the Courts may order that one of the parents or both parents participate in a high conflict divorce parenting class to prevent such behavior and tactics.
If your spouse is threatening your physical safety or is being verbally abusive, those are signs that your divorce is going to be highly contentious. In some instances, an Order of Protection may be necessary to ensure your safety. An abusive spouse is a controlling spouse. That type of person is unable to rationally work through divorce matters.
Manipulative people are like close cousins of narcissists. A manipulative person is a control freak. Controlling and manipulative behavior toward the spouse or children is very difficult and dangerous to children, especially at a young age when they are not capable of processing the truth of the situation.
Manipulative and controlling behavior is a leading cause of family therapy. People who use manipulative behavior in relationships often come from dysfunctional families. Divorcing a manipulative person will quickly turn to high conflict as they realize they’re no longer in control.
If any or several of these signs describe the divorce you’re going through, you will most likely require the services of a family law attorney with experience in dealing with high-conflict divorce. High-conflict divorce is not something you can manage on your own. An experienced family law attorney is necessary to guide you through the process and protect your rights and your children.
Tools for Navigating a High Conflict Divorce
• Court ordered mandatory use of family law communication software
• Drug testing
• Alcohol testing
• Psychological evaluation
• Parenting classes
• High conflict parenting classes
• Forensic Accounting
If you or someone you know needs assistance in a high conflict divorce, the Scottsdale family law attorneys at Owens & Perkins have the experience and skills to help guide you through this process. Please call or text our offices at 480.994.8824 to schedule a complimentary thirty (30) minute consultation.