High Conflict Divorce and Building a Support Team
Written by Rachel Snow
I think people have the common misconception that a high conflict divorce must mean that both parties are part of the conflict. The reality is it only takes one person to make it a high conflict divorce. Divorce is difficult as it is, but when it is with someone abusive and toxic, difficult takes on a whole new meaning. People often assume they will get validation in court, and that is completely false. There is no justice or validation that comes from the family court system.
The high conflict individual (HCI) is combative, has a “my-way-or-the-highway” mentality, blames others, craves power and control. In a high conflict divorce this individual will often bully their spouse in many ways to include verbally, legally, emotionally and financially. This is abuse. Often times these HCI have a Cluster B personality disorder such a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
If any of this sounds familiar, you’re dealing with a person that is a high conflict individual. There is no way that will change. If anything, their behavior and actions will get worse as time goes by. Gone is the person you thought you knew, and the replacement is their true self. The sooner you can come to grips with the reality, the easier the process will be to deal with.
So, how can someone make it through this special kind of hell? I would suggest building your divorce team. Here is how that can look.
Hire a High Conflict Divorce & Custody Coach. Have you heard of a birth doula? Think of your divorce coach like your birth doula. Your divorce coach is there to support and empower you through the process and beyond. They will help you brainstorm, strategize, and fill your toolbox with many useful things to help you throughout the process. They will listen when you just need to vent, and most likely they know exactly what you are going through. Your coach can explain the reality of the family court system, and how broken it is. Some very specific things a high conflict divorce coach can help you with are; communication with your ex, documentation, safe guarding against claims of alienation, creating a strategy, mediation preparation, radical acceptance and much more. No matter your stage in the process of divorce, a high conflict divorce coach can help you develop, build, and restructure your team. Hiring a coach can often save you in legal fees too!
A very important piece to your divorce team is a kick ass attorney that truly understands the high conflict situation. Not all attorneys are created equal. You want to make sure you get some solid recommendations for attorneys, and interview at least three. You are hiring them to do a job for you. You are hiring them for their legal expertise and their knowledge of the family court system. You want to be sure they understand what you are going through, and that they can successfully represent you. Divorcing someone abusive is a million times worse when you have children with them. So, having an attorney that is savvy on abuse, and what is in the children’s best interest is vital. I cannot stress that enough.
Find a trauma informed therapist that has a deep understanding of abuse. Your mental health is likely in a very fragile state. Your ex has probably used abuse tactics such as gaslighting, manipulation and brain washing. You are probably questioning your reality, and wondering if the abuse is really so bad. You may feel like a shell of your former self. You are wondering how you got to this place, and why you fell for someone so awful. Please know it is not your fault. You are not crazy. Your ex is an abusive monster. Having a qualified therapist to help heal your trauma, and support you through your divorce is vital to the process. I often suggest you find a therapist that is trained in Eye Movement Desensitization Therapy (EMDR) which is a psychotherapy treatment designed to alleviate distress associated with traumatic memories. Another effective form of therapy is Brainspotting. “Brainspotting is a powerful, focused treatment method that works by identifying, processing and releasing core neurophysiological sources of emotional/body pain, trauma, dissociation and a variety of other challenging symptoms. Brainspotting is a simultaneous form of diagnosis and treatment, enhanced with Biolateral sound, which is deep, direct, and powerful yet focused and containing” according to David Grant, Ph.D.
You will also want to get your child(ren) into a qualified therapist immediately too.
Going thorough a high conflict divorce with children is a marathon. The divorce may take a year or more to finalize, but the abuse continues, and the ex keeps dragging you back to court. This is post separation abuse. Having the proper team to support you can make a world of difference. When you are going though this it can feel like you are all alone, and that no one understands. You aren’t alone. There are many people out there that understand and can support you. If you are facing a high conflict divorce and/or custody battle, contact Rachel Snow at www.luminarydivorcecoaching.com.
Certified High Conflict Divorce Coach