Legal Tips for Navigating a High Conflict Divorce in NJ

Divorce can be a stressful process even when the parties are on the same page and are agreed on how to settle their matter. In cases where one personality is naturally combative, things can be even more exhausting. These cases are often referred to as “high conflict divorce” cases, although Psychology Today recently wrote that they are often more accurately deemed cases of “post-separation legal abuse.” A hostile former partner can create so much chaos that you end up reacting and unknowingly creating more drama. This pattern can continue for years and drain you financially and emotionally. High-conflict divorces can be explosive situations that involve extreme behavior and uncontrolled emotions.

What is a high conflict divorce?

In modern divorce, couples generally have the opportunity to agree on the terms of their divorce, be it custody and parenting time, division of assets, etc. These proposed settlements can then be presented to the court, approved, and ratified in the divorce decree.

Unfortunately, reaching that agreement is not always easy. Sometimes there are legitimate differences, such as in parenting style or how much money each party needs to live. Other times, there can be issues (either real or emotional) that the parties simply cannot agree upon that leads to the conflict – i.e., if one party wants to relocate or if there was infidelity in the marriage. Then, there is the “posts-separation legal abuse” – cases where one spouse is trying to gain some kind of unreasonable advantage over the other.

Psychology Today describes “post-separation legal abuse” as a situation where the underlying relationship was one of abuse and control. Faced with the threat of an end to that control, the abusive spouse hangs on even more tightly. They may refuse to disclose assets, insist on custody and parenting time agreements they can never exercise, agree to only provide nominal support to the other party, attempt to involve multiple professionals to drive up court costs, and more. The reason this should not be called a “high-conflict divorce,” per Psychology Today, is that the term high-conflict divorce “suggests symmetrical and parallel escalation from both parties.” That’s not actually what is happening in these cases – instead, one party is actually drawn toward conflict, and that party exerts power by dragging their ex into court repeatedly.

Unfortunately, it is not easy dealing with a high-conflict divorce or post separation legal abuse situation. We all hope that in an ideal world, partners would be able to be collaborative throughout their relationship, even when different goals and paths in life mean that the best path for the couple is a separation. But as the cliche goes, “it takes two to tango” – if one party is not actually interested in settlement, the case won’t settle until they realize the financial and emotional cost is too great.

To minimize the impact these high-conflict cases can have on you and your family, the following tips can help you better understand a high conflict divorce in New Jersey and how to stand your ground in your case.

Don’t try to win the hostile email battle

Conflicting personalities love to drag you into drama by bombarding you with invective, patronizing, and threatening electronic communications. Your impulse may be to defend yourself, appeal to reason, or respond with equal force. Doing any of these things won’t make them back off, it will only invite more chaos, which is exactly what your spouse is trying to achieve. Your best response is to deflect hostility by sticking to short, factual messages.

Hire an appropriate attorney

If you are getting divorced from your conflicting spouse, or if you are heading into litigation, it is highly recommended that you hire a distinguished and highly trained New Jersey divorce attorney. Mediation only works when both people are able to reach a compromise (exes who have a lot of conflicts usually aren’t), so be prepared for the possibility of litigation. You don’t have to know and handle it all, you can rely on the support of a professional and well-qualified divorce attorney to present the variety of options when it comes to a high-conflict divorce. There are some methods you can implement to ease your anxiety when things seem to go wrong. Find an attorney who understands high-conflict personalities and is confident in the courtroom.

Don’t try to win the “favorite parent” battle

If your co-parent is a hyper-competitive mom or dad, he may be afraid that his kids will reject him instead of the “funny dad.” Fear of losing your children’s love can lead you to doubt your parenting instincts or your value in your children’s lives. However, trying to beat your former partner in the favorite parenting game will only put your kids in the middle – the last thing any parent should do. So stop worrying about what your ex is doing and focus on giving your children what they really need: unconditional love and healthy boundaries.

Negotiate the best financial settlement you can

Your former partner can rant and rant all they want, but you are entitled to your share of the community property, as well as what the law states for spousal and child support. Consider consulting with a certified divorce financial analyst to help you make complex financial decisions that will affect you and your children for the rest of your lives.

Don’t fight for more custody time than you’re likely to get

While you may feel like your ex’s parenting flaws are obvious, the judge may not agree. Family court wants children to have equal access to both parents, so listen to your attorney’s advice. Unless your children are truly unsafe in the care of their co-parent, fighting for more custody time, especially if it is minimal, may not be worth the financial and psychological expense.

Fight for custody when necessary

Fighting for an extra few days a year isn’t necessary; advocating to remove your child from an unsafe environment is. If your former partner has a poorly managed mental illness or addiction, or lacks sufficient parenting skills to provide your child with the basics, then you must hire the best legal team you can and protect your children.

Let our Family Law Team assist you in your divorce

In these high-conflict divorces, both parties will have the opportunity to present arguments and evidence in court about what they believe the terms of the disputed divorce should be. At Daly & Associates, we are not only familiar with this litigation process, we have also stepped in in the middle of a divorce to help clients deal with their high-conflict divorce and affirm their involvement in a fair and equitable resolution. Don’t let a high conflict former partner derail your divorce. Our team of certified and trained attorneys can help you know your rights and protect yourself. Protect your future and get in touch to schedule your initial consultation with Morris County’s trusted family law attorney. Get started today and give us a call at 973-292-9222.

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