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How to Prepare for a High Conflict Divorce

How to Prepare for a High Conflict Divorce

By M. Scott Gordon

There are few divorces in the Chicago area that are entirely free of conflict. To be sure, even when couples go through an uncontested divorce and are able to agree on all terms surrounding the dissolution of marriage, there are often still some conflicts that arise—but are resolved—during the process. A high conflict divorce is something different. As an article in Psychology Today explains, high conflict divorce refers to a divorce case in which there is substantial conflict and contentiousness. A high conflict divorce can result from the actions of both parties, or it can result from the actions of just one party alone.

How can you know if you should prepare for a high conflict divorce? And what can you do to get through a particularly contentious divorce? An article in the Huffington Post provides some tips for couples who are considering divorce.

1. Understand How to Recognize a “High Conflict Personality”

When one or both parties in a divorce case has a “high conflict personality,” the chances are good that a high conflict divorce will ensue. How can you tell if someone has a high conflict personality? There are a wide variety of signs that someone has a high conflict personality, but psychologists have identified several key characteristics that might include:

  • Being deceitful, particularly when lies can help to explain or provide evidence for the person’s own feelings or emotions;
  • Blaming other people for problems in one’s own life, including the person’s spouse, children, and sometimes even friends or co-workers;
  • Aggressiveness, and sometimes abusive behavior, toward family members and friends;
  • Manipulative behaviors designed to get attention and to prove that the other spouse is at fault;
  • Refusal to compromise, even on minor issues that could help to move discussions forward in a productive way; and
  • Lack of empathy for others.

2. Learn How to Pick Your Battles

Dealing with a high conflict individual in a divorce can be extremely difficult. One of the best ways to avoid constant conflict is to decide which battles to take on, so to speak. For instance, if your ex-spouse refuses to compromise about parenting time, this may be a battle to engage in. However, if your spouse is picking a fight over a piece of furniture that does not mean much to you, it might make sense in the long run to let it go.

3. Avoid Overreacting If Possible

If you can do it, avoid overreacting—or even reacting to—your ex’s behavior. When you react to a high conflict person’s behavior, your reaction encourages that person to keep up the behavior in order to continue getting attention.

4. Do Not Believe That Your Ex Will Change

It is extremely rare for a person with a high conflict personality to change the way that she or he engages with others. As the article emphasizes, “surrender fantasies that your ex-spouse will fundamentally change” as soon as possible.

5. Ask for Help If You Need It

You should find both a lawyer and a therapist with experience handling high conflict divorces and working with high conflict individuals. Do not be afraid to ask for help handling the situation, and do not feel as though you must manage on your own.

Contact a Chicago Divorce Lawyer

An experienced Chicago divorce lawyer at our firm can get started on your case today. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates for more information about the services we provide to Chicago-area residents.