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Kathy Marshack News

Recognizing and Hopefully Avoiding High Conflict Divorce

Thursday, January 20, 2011


In my professional experience there are three kinds of divorce scenarios: Business-like divorce, friendly divorce, and high conflict divorce. Unfortunately, in the case of high conflict, this type of couple cannot resolve their differences in either a business-like manner nor in a friendly way. They create a war that is costly and damaging to the children and to themselves. In fact the damage they wreak spreads a wide net into their extended families and friends, and sometimes even into the greater community. In the long run this couple pays the price because they may never be able to restore their lives to healthy functioning.

What does it take to make a divorce high conflict? Two things - Motive and Means. “Means” generally equates to money. If one or both parties have enough money to wage a war and they are not concerned with an unhealthy outcome (or not aware of this possibility), this leads to a high conflict divorce. Another source of means is power, which can come in a variety of forms. For example, being famous or having media connections is a source of power. A third source of means is being irrational and tenacious. Even without money or power, a person can create a high conflict divorce through simple means. If the controlling person is uncooperative, antagonistic, and dishonorable, a high conflict divorce will take shape.

Then there is “motive.” If a person feels aggrieved and they are narcissistic, they can feel justified doing just about anything to trash and burn the other person. This includes dragging the children into the fray. And no matter how self-effacing the egalitarian is, he or she will fight back if pushed far enough. Thus the motive to protect and defend is aroused.

In spite of this disheartening look at high conflict divorce, I still believe it is possible to prevent or at least better tolerate a high conflict divorce. Anyone going through a life changing experience like a divorce, high conflict or otherwise, should seek the support of a therapist, your church, and other groups supportive of your experience. If at all possible work with a mediator to craft a win-win solution to your divorce. Be willing to compromise and to walk away with a “half fair deal.” In the long run, walking away from your money and possessions is worth it to avoid the acrimony.

For more suggestions on how to cope with a high conflict divorce, read Recognizing High Conflict Divorce on my website. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, contact my office for an appointment.


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