Quick Start Guide (for Avoiding A High Conflict Divorce)
© 2011 by Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. and Randi Kreger
The more prepared you are, the less likely you will be to have a high-conflict divorce. While these hints can’t fully protect you, the sooner you take action on them, the better off you will be.
1. Develop an emergency plan. Your partner could assault or evict you at any time. Figure out a safe place to go, get some ready cash, and think about who can help you on short notice. Copy important records and keep them in a safe place. (See chapter 5.)
2. As soon as possible after they occur, write down accurate details of problems and events between you and your partner (and others) that could become issues in court. Keep a journal or other written record of anything pertinent. If other people were present, write down their names. Save email and text-message correspondence in a safe place, especially copies of hostile, harassing, and controversial exchanges. (See chapter 5.)
3. Communicate very carefully and respectfully with your partner, because anything may be introduced into evidence. Make any emails, whether initiated by you or in response to your partner, brief, informative, friendly, and firm (BIFF; see chapter 4). This is especially true if your partner’s emails are hostile. Avoid setups for violent confrontations, such as physically fighting over papers, or pushing and shoving. Indicate that you want to settle issues out of court to keep things calm, but always be prepared for the realistic possibility of court. (See chapters 4, 5, 13, and 14.)
4. Protect your children from conflicts between you and your partner. Don’t say anything against your partner, no matter how provoked you might be, because anything could become evidence. Avoid:
· Asking your children questions about the other parent
· Discussing court with your children or within their hearing
· Asking your children to compare you and your partner
· Giving your children choices between their two parents
· Exposing your children to your negative emotions
5. Obtain a therapist to help you understand your partner’s behavior, anticipate problems, deal with your emotions around the divorce or separation, and learn about yourself. (See chapter 5.)
6. Hire an attorney with good communication skills, and consult with this professional to prepare for predictable crises and accusations. (See chapters 6 and 7.)
7. Either stop using Facebook, Twitter and other social networking, or turn on all Facebook security and prohibit 3rd parties from tagging or adding things to your Facebook timeline. Make sure your passwords are secure. Make sure that what you want to keep private, such as letters or lists, is kept private. If you delete your account and/or any browsing history, you must keep backup copies in the event it becomes subject to litigation, as there are laws that require preserving electronically stored information. This includes keeping copies of emails and text messages somewhere, if you are ever required to produce them.
8. Tell your family and friends what to expect, how to respond, how they can help, and how to avoid splitting either of you into being viewed as all good or all bad. (See chapter 5 and the appendix.)
Begin all of these steps right away, even before separating, if possible. If your partner is a potential “persuasive blamer” (see chapter 3), there’s a risk that the blamer might use anything you do:
As an excuse for abuse or violence
To spread rumors against you
To publicly humiliate you
As the basis for allegations and decisions against you in family court and possibly other courts
These suggestions are not legal advice or therapeutic advice. You should always consult with a local professional regarding any legal or therapeutic matters.
Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, and mediator. He is the co-founder and Training Director of the High Conflict Institute, a training and consultation firm that trains professionals to deal with high conflict people and situations. He is the author of several books and methods for handling high conflict personalities and high conflict disputes with the most difficult people.