6 Tips For Getting Through a High Conflict Divorce
Posted on 21st November 2022
Any divorce or separation is stressful in its own right. This blog has been written to help you manage the situation.
Any divorce or separation is stressful in its own right.
Much of the stress comes from change, which is unavoidable.
Changes in your disposable income, your childcare routines, your priorities in general.
A lucky few are able to spin these changes into a positive. After feeling stuck in a rut for a long time, the opportunity to take control and be the boss of your own new path is exciting.
For divorces involving a lot of conflict, though, it can be a struggle to find any positives at all.
Conflict can arise during divorces for a number of reasons.
The stakes are high - you’re making decisions involving the lives of your children and where you’ll be living.
Sometimes once you see your partner in a different light for the first time, it becomes harder to respect them.
Also, current divorce law often involves someone needing to take the blame for the breakdown of the relationship and this can cause animosity and anger.
To get through a high conflict divorce, focussing on the end result is essential.
Nothing lasts forever and this process won’t either. Making sure that you come out of the process as unscathed as possible is key.
I outline my top pieces of advice for getting through the next few months if your divorce process has turned toxic.
Don’t Automatically Discount Mediation
Mediation is a method of working with a family law professional in order to reach an agreement about financial matters or child arrangements with your ex.
I get it. The thought of sitting down in the same room as your ex and trying to reach an agreement together sounds ridiculous.
It’s become clear that your ex is not thinking rationally and nothing and no one will get them to see things differently.
You might be tempted to take mediation off the table completely.
The problem is, though, that if you’re not able to reach an agreement yourselves or via mediation, you’ll need to apply to the court to ask them to make a decision for you.
When dealing with a high-conflict divorce, the court process could end up leaving you feeling a whole lot worse.
My advice is always to keep court proceedings as a last resort and to really exhaust all other options beforehand.
At mediation, you’re not left to deal with your ex alone.
The job of a mediator is to ensure that neither party takes control. Both views are given equal importance and the opportunity to be explored.
If you can’t be in the same room as your spouse, shuttle mediation is an option. This involves the mediator moving between rooms to relay each parties’ position and their responses.
Don’t be disappointed if mediation doesn’t work out for you, but equally don’t discount it from the start either.
Trust the Process
If mediation or negotiating yourselves isn’t an option for you, you will need to make a court application.
There are many things that I could say about the court process - it can be very slow and quite confusing for those who haven’t had to deal with it before (and quite frankly, who would you have?)
The number one principle that the court must keep in mind is fairness.
Any court order that a Judge imposes will be their ideal fair outcome.
Of course, like beauty, fairness is in the eye of the beholder.
What you or your ex might deem to be fair and what a Judge might deem to be fair could be quite different.
However, the fact remains that the chance of you being left destitute and unable to manage whilst your ex is able to live a life of luxury is nigh-on impossible. Because that just wouldn’t be fair.
No matter how worried or anxious you get, remember that despite the court’s flaws, they will be focussing on fairness throughout.
Keep Your Children Away From Conflict
The law in England and Wales is based on the principle that it is in children’s best interests to have a relationship with both parents.
This isn’t just the law because it sounds like a nice principle - there are numerous studies that demonstrate children become better adults where they have access to both sides of their identity.
No matter what your ex is putting you through, there needs to be a really good reason in order to let this affect the amount of time that the children spend with them.
Nor should your children be made aware of what’s going on inside your divorce. Keep your anger, distress and dismay about your ex’s behaviour outside of their earshot.
I know it sounds easier said than done. But in a few year’s time, you’ll be more than grateful that you managed to keep your cool.
Use the time that the children are with their other parent to focus on some all important self-care.
Stick to Business Like Language
Sadly, when you’re going through the divorce process, ignoring your partner completely is just not an option.
Court forms require signatures, joint bank accounts will need to be closed, the property will need to be valued. All of this requires some level of coordination and cooperation.
Carry out all essential communication in writing - by email is best.
Type out your email and leave it for a few hours.
If you need to put out how you’re really feeling, type the angry email by all means, but delete it before pressing send. It won’t help.
Remove any emotive language or accusations. It doesn’t mean you’re conceding, it means you’re taking the high ground and just trying to get the job done.
If you’re instructing a solicitor to communicate with your ex on your behalf, the same principle applies when you’re dealing with them.
A good solicitor will genuinely care about you and your well-being but remember that they’re also here to help you get the job done and they charge by time spent on your file.
If you send them lots of emotive emails bashing your ex that aren’t relevant, you’re only damaging your bank account and not actually moving matters forward.
Don’t Give Up
Mental health should always come first. Nothing is worth sabotaging that.
I’m not going to tell you otherwise here.
Perhaps you’ve experienced conflict in other areas of your life, such as at work or with another member of your family.
Once you make the decision that enough is enough and that you need to prioritise your mental health, you leave your job or cut the toxic person out of your life and breathe a huge sigh of relief.
It’s understandable to feel the same urge to throw the towel in with your divorce.
However, what I will do is advise you to consider your position very carefully before giving everything up.
Depending on the length of time that you’ve been married, you will have legal rights to share in any pension, savings, investments and property in your ex’s name. A share of those assets may be essential in order for you to meet your needs.
There is no time limit on reaching a financial agreement as part of the divorce.
You can apply for the Decree Absolute (becoming officially divorced) and deal with the finances later.
If you feel that you have to issue court proceedings, take note that court hearings are not issued overnight. There could be around four or five months in between each stage, giving you plenty of time to prepare yourself legally and mentally.
By asking for an agreement on finances as part of your divorce, you’re not being greedy or difficult. You’re simply receiving what you are entitled to, and that should not be given up lightly.
Accept Help - There’s Plenty Out There
Seeking professional help doesn’t mean spending your life savings on a lawyer.
There are loads of free resources online, on my blog and elsewhere. Whilst you shouldn’t take legal advice online for your specific circumstances, when it comes to tips for dealing with conflict, there is no need for you to feel alone.
Resolution’s website should be added to your favourites folder ASAP. They offer free guides on representing yourself, dealing with domestic abuse and children matters.
Resolution lawyers believe that everything works better for everyone if the heat is taken out. That means no overly aggressive emails just for the sake of it.
In terms of dealing with looking after yourself - there are thousands of meditation and mindfulness resources online. When we’re rushing around all the time, we often forget to just stop and take it all in.
Just five minutes of meditation a day can reduce stress and increase positivity.
Free videos on Youtube and free apps are your friend here.
In my Divorce Without Lawyers membership group, we talk about much more than just the procedural aspects of divorce.
Research shows that writing about your emotions when dealing with high conflict scenarios is a successful method of getting through them faster.
I created a free support group on Facebook that anybody can join, to share experiences and just generally check up on people in the same circumstances.
The group is based on honesty and whilst no one will hide the fact that going through a high-conflict divorce won’t be easy, they’ll confirm that yes, you can get through it and be OK on the other side.
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