Many divorces result in emotional strain and exhaustion, and this is compounded when a divorce is litigated and/or involves high levels of conflict between parties. These divorces are difficult on the entire family, and such conflict can make legal proceedings and determinations take even longer. In a high-conflict divorce, it is important to work with a compassionate and skilled divorce attorney.

Though not all divorces go to court, there are certain reasons why some divorces need to be litigated. This can be an overwhelming process, and it’s important to recognize when you’re in a potentially high-conflict divorce and to effectively care for your own well-being and the health and safety of your family. Entering into a divorce with these strategies could even lower the conflict between you and your spouse and benefit the divorce outcome.

What Makes a Divorce High-Conflict?

There are many different potential definitions for a high-conflict divorce. Typically, you are in a high-conflict divorce when:

  1. You and your spouse are unable to communicate or cooperate. When spouses find themselves consistently arguing, unable to communicate clearly, or refusing to communicate at all, this indicates a high-conflict divorce.
  2. The divorce has multiple court dates and constant court appearances. When no agreement or compromise can be reached, you and your spouse will likely need to attend court often. Your children may also need to be present for some of it.
  3. Disputes over children or finances are lengthy and contentious. Division of property and spousal support are both important aspects of divorce that can lead to financial insecurity and fears from both spouses. This can increase emotions during discussions. Similarly, both spouses want what is beneficial for their children, and this can create conflict when they disagree. These highly emotional discussions only increase the disagreements in a high-conflict setting.
  4. Serious allegations during proceedings. Allegations of child abuse, domestic violence, or other severe actions and crimes can indicate a high-conflict divorce. One spouse and their children may be in danger from the other spouse, and this can increase the conflict. It also increases the legal requirements of a divorce case.

High-conflict divorces are particularly hard for any children who are involved. It also increases the money, time, and energy that spouses must put into the divorce.

Handling a High-Conflict Divorce

It isn’t always possible to ease the anger in a high-conflict divorce, particularly if your spouse is unwilling to cooperate or alter their behavior. However, you may be able to lower or limit the conflict between you two or simply protect your own well-being from these highly emotional proceedings. Some things you can do include:

Set Clear Boundaries

It’s important to have clear boundaries with your ex-spouse, particularly if you are co-parenting with them. These include:

  • Setting a schedule and method for communication between you two that limits conflict
  • Following the advice of attorneys and other professionals in regard to the court orders
  • Determining how conflicts will be resolved before going to court

Depending on the issue, couples should also try to address potential conflicts by agreeing on certain decisions in advance.

Determine Coping Strategies

Discussions with an ex-spouse can be difficult, and conflict makes it harder to reach a finalized divorce or navigate any problems. Coping strategies during and outside of discussions can be helpful. These include remaining open-minded and cooperative as well as being willing to compromise. Remain respectful and civil, and do not retaliate if your spouse refuses to behave civilly. It’s helpful to find healthy ways outside of discussions to work through the negative emotions from a divorce.

Take Care of Your Own Health

Find ways to destress and try to get your mind away from these difficult proceedings. It’s also important to recognize your own emotions and not discount how you feel. A divorce is an incredibly difficult and emotionally painful situation, and trying to ignore that will not help you heal.

Obtain Professional Help

This includes both a mental health professional or support group for people getting divorced and a legal professional to help you more easily handle the divorce itself. It’s important to have a support network to help protect your health and your family’s interests.


Q: How Common Is High-Conflict Divorce?

A: Although it is estimated that 20% of divorces are high-conflict, it is also important how high-conflict divorce is defined. Several factors can be used when determining if a marriage or divorce should be called high-conflict, including:

  • Mental health issues
  • Substance misuse
  • Lack of communication skills
  • Criminal history
  • Emotional and physical abuse
  • The views of each parent on their parental responsibility

Because of these and other very different reasons for high-conflict relationships, it can be difficult to determine when a divorce qualifies as high-conflict.

Q: How Does an Attorney Help With a High-Conflict Divorce?

A: An attorney can help significantly with high-conflict divorces by protecting your rights and interests and using their resources to investigate the claims of either spouse. High-conflict divorces typically are litigated, which can be a stressful and lengthy process. An attorney can help you navigate the court process and prepare for testimony. If your spouse is asking for unreasonable terms, your attorney can advocate for your needs and help you protect yourself and your family.

Q: How Do You Co-Parent With a High-Conflict Ex?

A: To effectively co-parent with a contentious and high-conflict relationship with your ex, you need to have a clear and well-detailed parenting plan. This parenting plan should list:

  • Specific times for pick-up and drop-off
  • Methods of communication
  • How conflict will be resolved out of court
  • When conflict should be taken to court

Depending on your circumstances, co-parenting may not be the right option for your family. Instead, you may want to attempt parallel parenting, which enables both parents to spend significant time with their children without needing to work with the other parent as often.

Q: Who Loses the Most in Divorce?

A: Both spouses in a divorce can be impacted in different ways. According to one study, women tend to suffer more economically, while men tend to suffer more emotionally.

Economic impact on women tends to be related to:

  • Their lower earning capacity when they have children
  • Inadequate child support payments
  • A greater loss of income that isn’t adequately compensated through spousal maintenance
  • The gendered division of labor impact on human capital

The study states that, while some findings demonstrate that men show a mental wellness decrease after divorce, other studies show differently or that there is no gender difference.

Support Your Family

Contact the compassionate attorneys at Stange Law Firm when you face a potentially high-conflict divorce.