Strategies for Surviving a High-Conflict Divorce

Strategies for Surviving a High-Conflict Divorce

Getting divorced is an unpleasant process for most people. When you reach the end of a marriage, you and your spouse might disagree about how to divide your property and debts, how to address child custody, or how child support or alimony should be handled. Trying to reach an agreement with your spouse while divorcing can be difficult under normal circumstances, but when you are going through a high-conflict divorce, it may seem impossible.

A high-conflict divorce lawyer in N.J. at Ziegler Law Group, LLC can facilitate all negotiations with your spouse to alleviate some of the tension and help to resolve the outstanding issues you might have to address. There are also strategies you can use when you are going through a high-conflict divorce.

What is Considered a High-Conflict Divorce?

High-conflict divorce is not legally defined. In common parlance, however, it refers to situations in which the disagreements between divorcing spouses are so significant that they refuse to work out their issues amicably. This typically is accompanied by negative behaviors and dialogue from one or both spouses. There are times when a spouse might be motivated to pursue divorce proceedings in an attempt to get revenge against the other spouse, rather than attempting to negotiate a fair agreement that protects their interests.

Indicators of a High-Conflict Divorce

High-conflict divorces are characterized by formidable, extensive difficulties. Some of the indicators that you might be involved in a high-conflict divorce include the following:


A pattern of dishonesty by one spouse during a divorce can greatly increase conflict. Spouses that lie during divorces are more likely to be dishonest about their assets and might take steps to conceal them.

Argumentative Behavior

Some people argue about everything and always feel the need to have the last word. If your spouse tends to start arguments for the sake of creating animosity, they might try to increase conflict by sending frequent, disparaging text messages or emails and become hostile whenever you meet. This type of behavior might make you feel unsafe when trying to reach decisions about your divorce issues.

Motivated by Revenge

In some cases, one or both spouses will try to get revenge on the other spouse instead of trying to reach an amicable resolution. In a high-conflict divorce, one or both spouses might try to damage the other person as much as they can, even if doing so will ruin their own finances.

Inability to Reach a Compromise

Some spouses are unwilling to compromise during a divorce. In this type of situation, a spouse might refuse to agree to anything, no matter how minor they are. A spouse might think that any compromise means they have lost, and even if an agreement is reached, the spouse might try to manipulate details to make the compromise meaningless.

Constant Blaming

In most divorces, both parties will share the blame. In a high-conflict divorce, however, one spouse will not take responsibility for their contributions and will instead focus on everything the other spouse has ever done wrong in the relationship or as a parent.

Violating Court Orders

At the beginning of your case, the court will likely issue temporary orders in regard to who will remain in the marital home, temporary alimony, child support, and how custody and visitation will be handled until the final decree is issued. In a high-conflict divorce, one spouse might immediately begin violating the court's orders and will likely ignore any orders the court might issue throughout the process and long after the divorce is final.

Specific Mental Disorders

There are certain personality disorders, including narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, or antisocial personality disorder, can greatly increase the chance of a high-conflict divorce.

Tendency to Undermine the Other Spouse

In some cases, one spouse will constantly try to undermine the other spouse during a divorce involving children. In those situations, the spouse might talk badly about the other spouse to the children and in an attempt to convince them that the other parent doesn't care about or want them. This type of behavior sometimes can become parental interference and form the basis of a custody modification later.

Controlling Behaviors

Another characteristic of a high-conflict divorce is when one spouse constantly tries to exert control over the other and their children. This can include lashing out when certain expectations of the divorce are not met. They might demand the other parent do things a specific way, raise their children exactly as told, or try to control other aspects of their former spouse's life. This type of behavior can lead to stalking, assaults, and other potentially dangerous situations and can make co-parenting appear impossible.

Strategies for Surviving a High-Conflict Divorce

If you're involved in a high-conflict divorce, our high-conflict family law attorneys in NJ recommend you implement the following strategies:

1. Speak with a High Conflict Divorce Lawyer in NJ

The first step you should make is to speak to an N.J. high-conflict divorce attorney. This should be someone who is experienced in divorce litigation. While an attorney might be able to steer your case to a settlement, many high-conflict cases will go to go to trial if one spouse is simply intransigent.

Ask prospective divorce lawyers about their trial experience and whether they have dealt with high-conflict cases. While someone who doesn't have significant trial experience might be an excellent negotiator, hiring an experienced trial lawyer will be the only way to resolve your case.

2. Set Boundaries with Your Ex-Spouse

If your estranged spouse is trying to create as much conflict as possible during your divorce, and you do not share children, you may never need to contact them after settlement. Even if you think you need to remain connected, remember there is a reason you want to get divorced. Set boundaries with your estranged spouse, and don't think that they will change. If you run into them in public in the future, you can be civil, but avoid the expectation that they will also treat you with respect.

Navigate all communication through your attorney, and avoid responding to emails, text messages, or phone calls from your soon-to-be ex-spouse. If you do share children, limit emails, text messages, and phone calls to your children and avoid talking about anything else.

3. Prioritize Your Emotional Health and Well-Being

Dealing with the emotional fallout of a divorce can be draining physically and emotionally draining for anyone. Take time for yourself during your divorce, and prioritize both your emotional and physical health. Consider seeing an individual therapist to deal with any negative emotions you might experience. If you have children, make sure to protect their emotional health as well.

4. Safeguard Your Finances and Assets

When a spouse wants to damage the other person, they will often do so financially. Be sure to protect your assets and finances before and during your divorce to minimize any damage your high-conflict spouse might otherwise try to cause. Opening a bank account in your name only before you file, and changing your direct deposit information with your employer can help alleviate financial retaliation.

Take an inventory of all assets before you file, and copy all deeds and titles. Keep copies of retirement account statements, bank account statements, income tax returns, deeds, titles, and your inventory list in a safe place away from your house.

5. Do Not Broadcast Your Divorce

Don't post about your divorce on social media or share intimate details with others about what is happening. Doing this can greatly increase the conflict in your divorce. You can tell people that you are going through a divorce, but avoid going into the details. It is best to avoid social media altogether during your divorce if you can.

6. Do Not Disparage Your Spouse

Avoid speaking badly about your spouse to your family, friends, children or in their presence. For children especially, this can negatively harm their emotional and mental well-being. Children should never be drawn into conflict by their parents, and negative comments will only make the situation more difficult for them. The same philosophy goes for your family and friends, particularly those you do not trust to keep the information to themselves.

7. After the Divorce, Limit Contact

If you don't have children, you might never have to see your former spouse again after your divorce is final, and that is absolutely okay. If you do share children, limit communication with your former spouse to what is necessary for the sake of your children. If your ex continually tries to create conflict, consider asking the court for an order to limit communication to a digital platform designed for dialogue between parents in cases involving high conflict.

Get Help From a High Conflict Divorce Lawyer in NJ

If you are already embroiled in a high-conflict divorce or believe that your spouse will likely engage in significantly negative behaviors after you file, you should speak with the NJ high-conflict divorce attorneys at Ziegler Law Group, LLC. We can evaluate your situation and advise you on the approach to take. Call us today at (973) 533-1100 to schedule a consultation.

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