How to Navigate Through a High-Conflict Divorce

If you are getting a divorce from an angry, vindictive spouse, then you know that just about every interaction you have will be full of conflict.  While it’s uncomfortable to be the target of your former spouse’s animosity, you should realize that many people with anger issues use anger as a way to deflect other emotions they are unequipped to deal with — and the stress of a divorce only intensifies this reaction.

So how do you deal with a high-conflict ex-spouse when you’re trying to reach an equitable divorce agreement?  Here are some tips:

Stop trying to change him/her.  Give up on any notion that you can control or change your ex-spouse’s behavior and accept that you have to deal with this person as they are. 

Detach.  Detach yourself from the fantasy that you will be able to have an amicable divorce and stop trying to get your ex-spouse to do what you want.  Becoming detached does not mean you have to be a doormat; it simply means that you should not let yourself become invested in your ex-spouse’s emotional turmoil.

Examine your own behavior.  Are you doing anything that feed your ex-spouse’s anger tendencies? Responding to his or her angry emails emotionally?  Letting his or her anger stoke your own so all your interactions are filled with conflict?  By looking for and taking responsibility for any role you may play in fanning the flames, you can identify triggers and stop doing things that increase the drama. 

Establish boundaries.  The only reason you would have to do what your ex-spouse says is if it’s written in a court order.  Beyond that, you should not give your ex-spouse any power over what you do or say.  If your ex-spouse violates a court order, be sure to let your lawyer know about it so you can ensure he or she is held accountable for not respecting established limits or rules.

Keep your end of communications neutral.  If you’re dealing with an angry ex-spouse, you are undoubtedly the recipient of lots of volatile texts and emails.  Don’t give in to a desire to respond in kind.  Instead, let some time pass and your own anger cool before responding.  Make your responses neutral and you are likely to find that the angry communications will lessen once your ex-spouse knows he or she can’t get a rise out of you.

Try parallel parenting.  You will likely not be able to utilize conventional co-parenting strategies with an angry ex-spouse.  In this case, parallel parenting — where you limit contact as much as possible and stop trying to coordinate parenting styles — may work best for your family.

Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to answer your questions about divorce in Nebraska and to advocate for your rights.

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