When people think of divorce, they often think of conflict. It is, after all, a legal breakup, and emotions can run high even in amicable, mutual dissolutions.
There are certain situations, however, where the divorce is so hostile that negotiations completely break down. We call these “high conflict” divorces, and they can be especially stressful. They can also be expensive and drawn-out, since they almost always involve litigation. High conflict divorces require a unique set of tools, but a San Antonio divorce attorney can help.
What leads to a high conflict divorce?
A high conflict divorce describes cases where one or both spouses are too hostile to work together. While every couple’s troubles are unique, some common factors in high conflict divorces include:
- One or more spouse dealing with addiction (alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex)
- One or more spouse attempting to hide assets, or lying about assets and debts
- One or more spouse engaging in parental alienation
- One or more spouse with violent tendencies
- One or more spouse with narcissistic personality disorder or oppositional defiance disorder (or other similar mental conditions)
- Accusations of adultery or abuse (founded or unfounded)
- Arguments about finances
In general, a high conflict divorce is one where one or both parties are looking to “win” – and actively trying to make the other party “lose.” This is why high conflict divorces often take a long time to resolve: when one or both parties refuse to compromise, or engages in tactics designed to delay or prolong litigation, what should have been resolved quickly can drag on.
Are there penalties for high conflict divorce?
It is not “illegal” to act like a fool, no – but there are certain elements of a high conflict divorce that can lead to civil and/or criminal penalties.
- Lying about assets. If you fail to disclose the full amount of your assets, or lie about your assets and/or debts, you could be found in contempt of court. You might also be charged with fraud, depending on your specific circumstances.
- Engaging in abuse. Physical abuse, sexual assault, threatening behavior – all of these can lead to criminal charges. They are also grounds to seek an emergency custody order.
- Coercing a partner into an unfair prenup. In most cases, a prenuptial agreement is taken at face value. However, if you can prove that you were forced to sign the agreement under duress or against your will, its could be voided. There is no criminal penalty for this, but it can change how every other part of your divorce will proceed.
What can you do to reduce conflict in your divorce?
Aside from hiring a divorce attorney to advocate for your rights, if your ex is too hostile or dishonest to work with, there are a few tricks to help you cope:
- Draw firm boundaries. Cut off communication outside of necessary, court-related discussions with your attorney present. If you are able, consider temporary housing to separate you two further if you do not already live apart.
- Avoid rising to challenges. Understand that high conflict behavior is meant to control you, and is not indicative of something you did wrong or need to fix. Some especially abusive spouses may intentionally draw out divorce proceedings as a way of staying connected. They may try to rile you up, especially in court.
- Keep your children out of it. High conflict parents almost always attempt to use their children (as messengers or as pawns).
- Resist the urge to post anything on social media. Your social posts can and will be held against you in court, regardless of your privacy settings. Do not talk about your divorce, your spouse, or any element of the process.
- Take time for yourself. See family, consider counseling, and rest where you can. No matter what, this is going to be difficult.
One major benefit of Texas divorces is there is no actual requirement for separation before you file for a divorce. In other states, couples may be required to officially separate for a year or more before divorce proceedings can begin. If you are able to leave, you can file your petition on the same day.
Do I need a San Antonio divorce lawyer?
While it is true that you are not legally required to work with a San Antonio divorce attorney, it is strongly recommended, especially for high conflict situations. If you have assets you want to protect, hiring legal representation is the best way to do that. A vengeful ex may be looking to take as much from you as possible, and if they have their own attorney, they are probably getting advice on how to do just that. Make sure you are on equal and fair playing ground so no one can take advantage of you.
If you have children, that is all the more reason to hire representation. The right attorney can help you with the divorce and any ensuing custody battle, and may even be able to help you pursue additional criminal charges against your spouse if necessary.
Getting started with an attorney as quickly as possible is always the best route to go. The sooner a professional can study the details of your case, the sooner they can craft a defense on your behalf. No matter the situation, divorce law can be incredibly complex, and you can only benefit from a trained pair of eyes on your side. The San Antonio divorce attorneys at Grable Grimshaw PLLC have years of experience with divorces of all sorts. We are proud to offer our services to people like you, here and throughout Texas. To schedule your consultation, call us today at 210-963-5297 or use our contact form.