5 Ways to Get Through a High-Conflict Divorce


The general consensus on divorce facts is that approximately 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. The CDC confirms this, saying that there are approximately 6.5 marriages per 1,000 total in the general population and approximately 2.9 divorces per 1,000 in the general population.

Divorce is common, and most of the time, the parties don’t want it to get ugly. But when people want it to get ugly because they’re upset that litigation has entered their relationship, the problem becomes a dangerous high-conflict problem. High-conflict divorces are more common than you think. Here’s how to recognize a high-conflict relationship, with tips on how to keep your boundaries close, and your divorce lawyer closer.

Recognizing High-Conflict Relationships

If you are wondering if you are in a high-conflict relationship, you probably are. This is a situation where there is a lot of manipulation, blame, and a kind of thinking that is “all or nothing.” Here are the character traits of a relationship that is high conflict:

  • Always blaming you for nothing. A box of pasta drops on the floor and the night is ruined.
  • When blame doesn’t get rewarded or responded to, verbal or physical attacks result
  • Unpredictable emotions, you feel like you’re always walking on eggshells
  • A “my way or no way” mentality
  • Substance abuse that controls the family

This is a very frustrating way to live, and precisely why you are contacting a divorce lawyer. You don’t have to put up with this, and you don’t have to do this alone.

But what about those times when you can’t call your lawyer? Follow these tips.

Set Up Boundaries

Be very clear with your ex what they can and can’t do. Set rules, set boundaries. They won’t like it. That’s not your problem. Keep away from them, don’t let them trigger you.

Tell them when they can and can’t show up to pick up the kids, if you don’t have an order on that yet. If they don’t comply, that’s a lawyer call.

Disengage from them entirely. Your relationship has changed, and you are in charge of your life.

Stay Six Feet Apart on Social Media

If your divorce lawyer hasn’t told you this already, write it down, or cement it in your brain. Use social media, yes. Talk about your divorce there? Not yet.

Don’t complain online or out loud about your ex, unless you are with safe people. Keep your distance on social media, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out and use it for social support.

Be Rational, Not Emotional

Nobody is saying you are irrational. Just be rational when you are communicating in this high-conflict situation. Use facts and data, not angry words and personal attacks. You look like the bigger person, and you win against them in that battle. High-conflict personalities can’t stand this, because they feel the power shift immediately.

Keep emails and text messages very short when you are working out custody matters. For emails, use fewer than 4 sentences, and for texts, fewer than 4 words if possible. Do not use emotional words at all.

Call a Divorce Lawyer

All of these things are probably advice you would give to a friend in this same crisis. You can’t see that when it’s happening to you though. Document everything that you can, and keep your distance at all times. When things get too much, call your divorce lawyer. When things get too much it’s often harassment. Call your lawyer, it is what they are there for.

Eric Lilly
the authorEric Lilly