Every divorce represents a decision by one or both partners that the marriage can’t be saved, and that realization can carry guilt, shame, or anger with it. Sometimes, couples can put these feelings aside and politely work through dividing their assets and negotiating child custody and support arrangements. When they can’t, however, the divorce process can become complicated quickly, especially when one party is being aggressive and confrontational. A contentious divorce, unfortunately, can’t be handled like an ordinary no-fault divorce where both sides are willing to be reasonable in working out their differences, and you shouldn’t try to go it alone. The experienced family law attorneys at Hoover Krepelka can help you with:
- Strategies for Surviving a Contentious Divorce
- Child Custody in a Contentious Divorce
- How to Prioritize Well-Being During a Contentious Divorce
3 Strategies for Surviving a Contentious Divorce
Even when both parties are trying to cooperate, divorce tends to be a difficult and emotionally wrenching process. However, when a spouse with a high-conflict personality is involved, the dissolution of a marriage is anything but amicable. For someone dealing with an ex determined to blame them for everything and wield the legal system against them, it’s best to have no illusions about what’s ahead. There are strategies that can help you get through a high-conflict divorce without escalating the drama more than necessary.
1. The first thing to acknowledge is that you have no control over your spouse’s behavior. Your actions should be focused on the practical steps you need to protect yourself legally and emotionally. Start by retaining legal counsel experienced in contentious divorces. They will be able to advise you on your rights, guide you through the legal proceedings, and vigorously advocate for you in matters such as child custody and financial arrangements.
2. Next, recognize that your ex will not scruple to use what you say and do against you. Minimize contact to the extent possible to avoid confrontations, and communicate in writing. If you have texts, emails, or letters to back you up in the event of a disagreement, it is much harder for them to misrepresent what you said in court. Don’t vent about your ex or the divorce on social media, either, as anything you say online will almost certainly get back to them regardless of your privacy settings.
3. Finally, establish and maintain healthy boundaries. In addition to limiting and controlling your contact, this means sticking to the financial and custody arrangements that have been agreed on in court and not allowing your ex’s behavior to provoke you into retaliating or blindly reacting. Over time, consistency and calm on your part will help reduce potential conflicts.
Child Custody in a Contentious Divorce
In high-conflict divorces, child custody can almost inevitably become another vicious battleground. Child custody is most often shared, unless one parent is ruled unfit to provide care due to a history of violence, mental illness, or substance abuse; even then, depending on the circumstances, they may still be granted supervised visitation. Shared custody means not only ongoing contact with an ex-spouse, but also ongoing potential for friction over shared parental responsibilities.
It is possible to protect and shield your children from the high emotions and acrimony that accompany a high-conflict divorce, although it is not realistic to hope that you can fully hide the tension from them. Recognize that they too are experiencing difficult emotions around the divorce; take the high road and avoid disparaging your ex around them or putting them in the middle of disagreements.
Have a specific, written parenting plan that spells out expectations and responsibilities, negotiated in court with the assistance of your attorney if necessary. It can be highly unlikely to establish a true co-parenting relationship that consistently puts the children’s needs first in this type of divorce, so don’t waste time hoping for selfless cooperation from your ex if it is not forthcoming. Focus on being a consistent role model for healthy emotional regulation, and mature behavior for your children instead.
How to Prioritize Well-Being During a Contentious Divorce
Divorce is a stressful and emotional process that can take a significant toll on your physical and mental health. While the details of navigating a high-conflict divorce may absorb your time and energy, you will ultimately weather the storm and its aftermath better if you can reserve some attention for self-care.
Start with your physical health. Eating well, getting plenty of sleep, and making time for exercise will benefit your emotional health as well as supporting your body. Try to avoid drowning or numbing your emotions with alcohol or other substances, which will erode your health in the long term. Enlist positive emotional support from friends, family, support groups, and/or a therapist. A mental health professional can provide a safe space to express complicated emotions as well as providing guidance on how to cope with the impact of a difficult divorce.
Taking up or renewing hobbies and activities that bring you joy can help reduce stress and anxiety and keep you focused on the present. Most of all, recognize that it will take time to adjust to the upheaval in your life that divorce causes. Be gentle and patient with yourself as you become accustomed to the new direction of your life, form new goals, and create a new vision for your future.
Protecting Yourself and Your Children in Divorce
Obtaining a fair resolution in a high-conflict divorce while safeguarding your well-being and that of your children is no easy task. Your well-being matters and the family law experts at Hoover Krepelka can provide the legal support and guidance you need to safeguard your rights in court. Fill our the form below to reach our to our attorneys today.