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How to tell if yours will be a high conflict divorce and how to best negotiate with your spouse

Anytime that you hear a horror story from a friend or family member who has gone through a tough divorce it is likely due to their not being able to work with their spouse on agreeing to much of anything in their divorce. It goes without saying that at some point in your divorce you and your spouse will not agree on some things but for the most part amicable divorces are more the norm than the exception when it comes to divorces in Texas.

There are many reasons why this is the case, in my opinion, but foremost among them is the desire for both spouses in a divorce to want to get the case over with sooner rather than later. Unless you and your spouse have a large amount of property (or debts) to divide or find yourself locked into a difficult custody dispute regarding your child, the simple fact is that you and your spouse probably do not have enough “stuff” to even both with a protracted and seemingly never ending divorce case.

The causes of high conflict divorces can be pretty diverse so I wanted to spend today’s blog post discussing that topic as well as how to negotiate with your spouse in a divorce. You may be a businessperson or an attorney yourself- but how you communicate with your spouse in a divorce setting is different from how you communicate with a client in the business world. You need to be aware that the emotions of a divorce are real and will affect how you and your spouse approach settlement negotiations.

How to tell if your divorce is more likely to be high conflict

It may sound too simple to be taken seriously, but stick with me on this. If you have spent the entirety of your marriage arguing with your spouse over matters great and small, then you can expect your divorce to be the same way. Easy, right? A lot of potential clients will come into our office for a free of charge consultation and will spend 15 minutes detailing how petty and juvenile their spouse is and how often they argue. That person will inevitably transition into a discussion of how he/she expects their divorce to be much simpler because their spouse does not want to fight during the case.

The degree of conflict contained in that one statement is enough to make your head spin. If your spouse (or if you) are the type who argues at every opportunity you get, always needs to be in control and cannot show solid discretion on deciding what to react to and what to ignore, then you are cruising towards a contested and conflict-full divorce. Think about how you are on social media. If you are the type of person who cannot pass by a comment with which you don’t agree without responding and reacting with your own opinion then that is exactly what I am talking about.

How living with a high conflict spouse can be a challenge even before the divorce is here

Let’s take these general principles and apply them to a specific place- your home. If you are living with a spouse who has helped to create an emotionally conflict-full environment then that is likely a good indicator that your divorce will be spent in much the same way. Some people just cannot get out of their own way and allow for calm to be the predominant characteristic of the home.

Has your divorce been full of false claims of abuse, theft of community resources, and other extreme instances of false accusations and outright lies? Pay attention to your spouse’s actions as you lead up to the divorce and as your divorce begins. Has your spouse alleged grounds for divorce that are simply unfounded? Have they submitted tedious and nearly abusive requests for discovery responses to your attorney? Again, these too are signs that your divorce may be one where conflict rather than settlement are the name of the game then you should be on the lookout for a high conflict divorce.

At the end of your divorce you may find out that your case was less about the issues, your children or even you- it was a divorce that showed you having to deal with your spouse’s problems. It is better to learn that you may be managing more than just the “normal” issues of your divorce in a divorce like this.

Negotiating your way through a divorce that is full of conflict

Think about a conversation that begins as just that- a conversation, and ends with you and your spouse arguing about a seemingly inconsequential problem. If you are mature enough to be able to go back and reassess the conversation and determine what led to it, you are probably not the guilty party who started the “fight.” Likely, it is your spouse. The reason I say this is because if you have the emotional intelligence and maturity to evaluate, fairly, the role both you and your spouse played in the dispute then you are likely not the type of person to have started it in the first place.

If the above example sounds at all similar to how your marriage is, then you can also expect your divorce to take a similar course. You will be a distinct advantage if you understand just how the history, emotions, and personalities of you and your spouse will react within the divorce itself. Approaching your case as you would a “normal” business transaction is asking for trouble. You need to be able to take the knowledge of your spouse and your marriage and use that as an advantage when negotiating with him or her.

How are stresses handled by your spouse?

You need to be aware of how your spouse approaches you as a person. If you are the “rock” in the relationship, the one that your spouse clings to in times of trouble then a divorce can cause him or her to feel lost and taken advantage of. You will need to confirm that you are still trying to do what is right for each of you in negotiating within the divorce. On the other hand, if your spouse is looking for a fight that means that you are going to need to be aggressive in negotiating because he or she will not be giving you an inch.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of divorces, nearly 90% would be my estimate just based off of personal experience, have the entirety of their cases decided in mediation rather than in a trial. This means that instead of tailoring arguments for the courtroom, you ought to be preparing them for your spouse and their attorney. How will you take your message and points and conform them to your relationship? Do you know how your spouse will likely react to your position that you need to retain all of your retirement savings? Have you thought about it?

The bottom line is that stress is part of every divorce. Whether we deal with that stress by becoming entrenched in our own thoughts and concerns or use it as a motivator to think and be creative with how we negotiate and solve problems is up to us. If you have questions about how to go from having one mindset in your case to becoming more open minded and results oriented please speak with one our attorneys today.

Questions on divorce in Texas? Please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC today

If you are interested in learning more about this topic or have questions for one of our licensed family law attorneys please do not hesitate to contact our office today. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with one of our licensed family law attorneys. We can answer your questions and address your concerns in a comfortable, pressure free environment. Thank you for your time and we hope you will join us again tomorrow as we continue to discuss relevant and important family law topics.

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