What to Do if You’re in a High-Conflict Divorce?

A high-conflict divorce is one characterized by intense and prolonged antagonism between the spouses. They are racked with strong negative emotions that prevent them from reaching amicable resolutions of such issues as child custody, visitation rights, division of assets and spousal support. The level of animosity often becomes elevated as the divorce case proceeds, sometimes leading to disruptive behavior that can further prolong the dispute.

It’s important to recognize the earmarks of a high-conflict divorce in order to take steps to surmount the problems. These are the most common indicators:

  • Emotional intensity — Emotions run high in these divorces. Anger, resentment, and hostility are often prevalent, making it challenging for the parties to communicate and cooperate.
  • Difficulty in co-parenting — Co-parenting becomes extremely challenging. Disputes over child custody, visitation schedules, and parenting decisions can escalate, negatively impacting the well-being of the children involved.
  • Communication breakdown — Normal interaction ends and the divorcing parties may resort to hostile or non-productive communication patterns. This can hinder the resolution of even minor issues.
  • Use of manipulative tactics — One or both parties may attempt to control the divorce process or each other. They can use tactics such as spreading false information, withholding financial resources or making false accusations.
  • Escalation of conflict over minor issues — Even seemingly trivial matters can escalate into major disputes. This may be indicative of deep-seated animosity and an unwillingness to compromise.
  • Extended duration — These divorces typically involve frequent court appearances, since agreements on various issues are difficult to reach. The constant legal battles and disputes can prolong the divorce process.
  • Financial strain — The financial cost of a divorce can escalate significantly in high-conflict situations. Legal fees, court costs and other expenses may accumulate due to the prolonged length of the divorce.
  • Continued hostility post-divorce — In some cases, the conflict may persist even after the divorce is finalized. Ongoing disputes over issues like child support, visitation, or other post-divorce arrangements can continue to strain the relationship between ex-spouses.

Individuals facing a high-conflict divorce should consider available alternative dispute resolution methods. The most common one is mediation, by which a neutral third party helps facilitate communication between the spouses and assists them in reaching agreements on disputed matters.

Spouses might also contact mental health professionals, such as therapists or counselors, to help them manage their emotions and communicate more effectively. To make sure the children of the marriage are not adversely affected by the high-conflict divorce, the court can appoint a parenting coordinator to whom the spouses can turn for guidance on child-focused issues. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to issue restraining orders and other protections to ensure the well-being of all parties involved.

At Clark & Schloss Family Law, P.C. in Scottsdale, Arizona, our attorneys provide compassionate counsel for spouses going through high-conflict divorces. Call 602-789-3497 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.