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Navigating Your Illinois Divorce When You Have a Contentious Spouse

Posted on in Divorce

IL divorce lawyerIt is a bittersweet and painful situation to be in when you make the personal decision to end your marriage. Once you have made the decision that you no longer want to be married to or in a relationship with your significant other, it is likely that there have been issues present in your marriage for months or even years that were never resolved. Even just working up the courage to finally bring up or ask for a divorce can be a huge step for some people.

There is almost always going to be some degree of resistance from the other spouse when the topic of divorce is brought up; this is one of the real-life situations that Hollywood actually gets right most times. Think of all of the films and television shows you have seen that involve a breakup or a divorce. Do you ever remember seeing a scene where one spouse says, “I think we should get a divorce,” while the other one responds, “Yes, I agree with you,” in a level-headed manner? The chances of that are slim to none.

In reality, the non-asking spouse is likely to put up some sort of resistance to the suggestion of divorce. However, not everyone reacts to this type of rejection in the same way. Contention from a spouse can manifest in a variety of ways, from typical sadness and reluctance to fighting tooth and nail and being difficult for the sake of being difficult. Whatever the situation, divorcing a contentious spouse can be an extremely draining process that affects the entire family and can even affect you even after the fact. Hiring a divorce attorney who is trained to handle high-conflict divorces can be extremely beneficial throughout your divorce.

Identifying a High-Conflict Spouse

Most of the time, you probably will have a good idea of whether or not your spouse is going to be contentious during the divorce because these people also tend to have contentious personalities. A person who has a high-conflict personality is likely more dramatic, emotional, and unpredictable than a person who does not have a high conflict personality. Some common traits and behaviors of high-conflict individuals include:

  • Constantly placing the blame on others
  • A manifestation of that blame in the form of verbal, physical or other form of personal attack
  • Uncontrolled emotions
  • A lot of all-or-nothing thinking
  • Specific traits and/or fully developed personality disorders, such as narcissism
  • Highly controlling and manipulative
  • Unable and/or unwilling to accept reality

Tips for Keeping the Divorce Low-Conflict

One of the goals of your divorce should be to try to keep the tensions running as low and as smoothly as possible. When you are involved in a high-conflict divorce, tensions are almost always running high and affecting the outcome of the divorce and your future. A high-conflict divorce can be difficult to deal with, which is why keeping the conflict small whenever possible is preferable. Here are some tips that you can use to help you keep your divorce conflicts small:

Minimize Contact With Your Soon-to-Be-Ex

First, you should cut back on all unnecessary contact with your spouse. If your spouse has a high-conflict personality and just causes issues, there will be nothing gained if you feed into the drama. Your spouse likely thrives off of all of the hostility, tension, and conflict that he or she causes, which is why you should do your best not to feed into it. Even if your spouse says provocative things, you have to try to be the bigger person and maintain a sense of peace.

Try to Maintain a Stoic Front

People with high-conflict personalities are usually not nice people. If you show them any signs of weakness, they will take that and use it against you when it benefits them the most. They will try many tactics to elicit an emotional response out of you, but it is important that you do your best not to let it affect you. Defending yourself is a natural response, but your high-conflict ex does not care what you have to say in response. High-conflict people can be draining, however, so it can be beneficial to seek therapy or counseling to help you work through some of these feelings and emotions that your high-conflict ex may be causing.

Do Not Bring Past Issues into a Current Conflict

This is an issue that is not unique to just high-conflict individuals or relationships, but it can contribute greatly to rising tensions during a discussion. When you are trying to find a solution to an issue with your soon-to-be-ex, you should be sure to focus specifically on that one topic without bringing up instances from the past or other issues. Bringing up past issues from the marriage will not do anybody any good and will likely escalate the conversation to a full-on argument without solving anything.

Plan For the Worst, Hope For the Best

Though it may sound pessimistic, plan for the worst possible divorce situation you can think of. High-conflict spouses are often unpredictable and will do things that do not make sense just to make everyone else’s lives more difficult. They may try to lie or fabricate things to make you look bad. They may even try to hide things from you during the divorce process, especially when it comes time for you to divide your property. Document anything and everything related to your divorce and make sure you have copies and backups of everything. Hiring a good divorce attorney can help take some of the uncertainty out of a high-conflict divorce because a lawyer who has dealt with these types of divorces before knows how to mitigate conflict as much as possible while still protecting your rights every step of the way.

High-Conflict Divorce and Asset Division

In the state of Illinois, marital property is subject to division during a divorce, while nonmarital property is not. As the name suggests, marital property is any property that either spouse acquired after they were married and before a petition for divorce or legal separation is filed. Nonmarital property is any property that was acquired prior to the marriage, though certain property acquired during the marriage can also be considered nonmarital property in certain circumstances.

Many people think that property and debts are divided 50/50 in a divorce, but in Illinois, that is not true. Illinois operates under a principle of equitable division rather than equal division. This means that there is nothing requiring the judge to give each spouse exactly half of the marital estate, rather the judge is to allocate a fair or equitable portion of the marital estate to each spouse based on a variety of factors. Many things can affect the allocation of a couple’s property and debts, including a spouse’s tendency for conflict.

Property division can be difficult enough, but adding in a spouse whose main goal during the divorce is to make everything even more complicated can drag the entire process out. In many cases, a high-conflict spouse will have exerted a majority of, if not all control over the marital finances, making it harder for you to have a true idea of where you stand. This also makes it easier for your spouse to attempt to hide assets from you, lie about his or her income, dissipate your marital assets or otherwise try to keep you from receiving your fair share of the marital estate.

If you are going through a divorce with a high-conflict spouse, your divorce attorney will likely encourage you to hire a forensic accountant prior to beginning negotiations. A forensic accountant will be able to help you look over your finances and make sure that nothing looks out of place or suspicious.

High-Conflict Divorce and Child-Related Issues

Perhaps some of the most troublesome and paramount issues surrounding any divorce are those that deal with the children involved in the divorce. A divorce is a conflict that takes place between you and your spouse. Your children just happen to be innocent bystanders to this conflict, but they are involved nonetheless. A high-conflict spouse is likely to be difficult and greedy when it comes to allocating parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. When children are a part of a high-conflict divorce, there are certain things that should be kept in mind to protect their wellbeing.

Effects of High-Conflict Divorce on Children

One of the major concerns that parents have when getting a divorce is how it will affect their children. Divorce is not an uncommon occurrence in the United States, so many children have had to learn to adapt to households with one parent after living through their divorce. In general, children tend to be able to cope with their parents’ divorce and have no serious long-lasting effects because they are naturally resilient. However, this is dependent on the situation surrounding the divorce. The children who are able to cope with the stress of divorce come from families in which the parents made an effort to communicate in a healthy manner and keep the fighting away and out of sight and earshot of the child. These children also tend to have the support of extended family members, such as grandparents or aunts and uncles, or community members.

However, there are plenty of factors that can come from a high-conflict divorce that could negatively affect a child. These factors can include things such as reduced parenting time with one or both parents, moving or changing schools, and traveling between parents’ homes. Multiple studies have been conducted about the effects of divorce on children, however, and the general consensus is that the single most important factor that affects children is conflict between the parents. Studies have shown that children who are exposed to their parents’ continual conflict throughout the divorce suffer the most.

Co-Parenting With a High-Conflict Ex-Spouse

When you get a divorce from a high-conflict spouse, it can feel like you can finally take a deep breath for the first time in a while. Even though you may want to forget that they exist, you cannot do that if you have children with your spouse. Even at its best, co-parenting is never easy, but it can sometimes seem impossible with a high-conflict co-parent.

Maintaining Open Lines of Communication With Your Co-Parent

Communication is extremely important in any kind of relationship, even if you are just co-parents. When it comes to children, communication can be crucial at times in the event of drop-offs, pick-ups, illnesses, emergencies, etc. Important details such as these should be relayed as soon as you can. Other matters that are not emergencies or immediate needs can wait until you either have a moment alone to have a conversation without your children or with a neutral third-party, such as a mediator. You should do your best to maintain civil communication with your co-parent, as a courtesy to them.

Establishing Boundaries With Your Co-Parent

It can feel awkward or uncomfortable working together with your co-parent to raise your child, especially if you have bad blood after your divorce. Establishing boundaries with your co-parent can help ease some of those tensions and can help create a protective space between you and your co-parent. For example, a boundary could be no electronic communication other than to communicate about issues pertaining to your child.

Alternative Parenting Agreements

In some cases, a couple simply cannot seem to cooperate with one another, even for the sake of their child. In these cases, a different type of parenting agreement may be better for everyone involved. Rather than co-parenting, in which both parents work together to raise the child, some couples have better luck with parallel parenting. Parallel parenting is an alternative parenting agreement in which both parents still raise the child, except they have little communication with one another and raise the child alongside one another, rather than together. This helps eliminate much of the conflict that would have been produced by communication in a co-parenting arrangement, saving both parents and the child.

Discuss Your Case Today With a DuPage County High-Conflict Divorce Lawyer

No divorce is going to be easy, but a divorce involving a contentious spouse is almost always going to be as long and dragged out as possible. High-conflict people are not known for their penchant for mercy. If you believe that you will be in a divorce with a high-conflict spouse, you should get in touch with the hard-working team of Elmhurst, IL high-conflict divorce attorneys at Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC. When it comes to contested divorces, experience counts and can help make the most of the divorce, and the lawyers at our firm have the skills needed to successfully navigate a contentious divorce. To schedule a free consultation, call our office today at 312-605-4041.

 

Sources:

https://thriveglobal.com/stories/the-patterns-of-high-conflict-people/

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/divorce_b_1762169

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/5-types-people-who-can-ruin-your-life/201911/keep-the-conflict-small-4-tips-avoid-high-conflict

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-therapists-dont-tell_b_2622776

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tech-support/201605/13-essential-tips-if-you-are-divorcing-narcissist

https://www.ourfamilywizard.com/blog/dealing-uncooperative-co-parent

https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/children-high-conflict-divorce-face-many-challenges

https://www.ourfamilywizard.com/blog/5-tips-how-be-civil-communicator-co-parenting

https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs5.asp?ActID=2086&ChapterID=59

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