Start to Finish: Divorcing a High-Conflict Spouse
In the last few posts, we’ve addressed some of the particular challenges of divorcing a high-conflict spouse. Since it may be difficult in high-conflict relationships to maintain a perspective that goes beyond the crisis of the day, let’s revisit the main ideas that we’ve covered, and see some of the common themes that have developed along the way.
Cover Your Bases
The first, fundamental consideration has to be your own safety. Protect yourself. Make sure you have a strong emotional support network. Avoid emotional confrontations that might trigger a high-conflict person. Remember, you need to be in a good place for the divorce process to work.
Talk to Someone
You may have felt like you were all on your own during your marriage, but that doesn’t need to be the case during your divorce. Besides hiring a lawyer and other professionals, reach out to find others who understand your experiences—like a support group. Psychology Today hosts a directory of therapist-lead support groups in Manhattan, New Rochelle and Westchester County. Meet-up and Hudson211 also have lists of these groups, and Westchester Family has more local resources.
Consider the Options: Mediation v. Collaborative v. Litigation
Heading to court is only one option in divorce. There are others, including mediation (talking to a neutral third party outside of court) and collaborative divorce (negotiating a settlement outside of court with legal representation). Non-trial options can be less confrontational, offer more wiggle room in the schedule, and have more privacy since nothing’s on the public record.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
According to high-conflict divorce expert and author Bill Eddy, Alternative Dispute Resolution can help diffuse the situation instead of triggering anyone. In our podcast, he discussed easing tension, de-escalating conflict and finding a peaceful resolution, even with reactive, trigger-prone partners.
Protecting Yourself in Mediation
If you choose the path of mediation, self-protection will be paramount. Again, I recommend turning to professionals—both legal and psychological—focusing on the future, and allowing (and asking for) plenty of time.
BIFF: the Key to it All?
Respect and empathy aren’t just good for the spirit. They’re essential to taking on a combative, high-conflict spouse. Expert Bill Eddy advises the BIFF approach, keeping communication between parties Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm.
Those points are essential, but they’re just the start of the process. If you are divorcing a high-conflict spouse, contact us at Westchester Family Law to schedule a confidential consultation.