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The High Conflict Person and Their Crazy-Making Ways

In family law, we often see good people at their worst.  Sometimes, though, we see a level of conflict that is disproportionate to the situation and it may seem (if you’re in the relationship) like you are being beaten down at every turn.  The High Conflict Person can make a big fight over nothing and, worse still, they seem to enjoy it. In a recent case, Spouse A filed for divorce, told Spouse B to leave the house, and both parties hired attorneys.  We would expect Spouse A to be – if not happy, exactly – satisfied when Spouse B complied and became actively engaged in the divorce proceedings.  Not so in this case.  The more that Spouse B met Spouse A’s demands, the worse they became.  The bar was constantly moving and no one, not even Spouse A’s attorney, could stabilize the situation.  The case took almost a year to resolve, but only because Spouse A created drama, made up fights, and fueled the fire of conflict at every turn. I was going to write a blog post about how High Conflict People can derail your best efforts in settlement, and then I ran across this article by Bill Eddy, the go-to guy for high conflict situations.  Bill knows all about Spouse A – read his article here. What I particularly like about Bill’s advice is that he gives us a clear definition of the HCP: An Observable High Conflict Pattern High-conflict people (HCPs) have a pattern of high-conflict behavior that increases conflict rather than reducing or resolving it. This pattern usually happens over and over again in...

What’s Your Everest?

I was inspired to blog about this topic from — of all things — a Champion sportswear ad that posed the question and went on to say, “The summit awaits each of us — and the symbolism of Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, can help us achieve our own goals and dreams.”  I see their “Everest” on the faces of people who are struggling through a divorce, who have been climbing a long ascent with few resources and no summit in sight.  They are physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially exhausted and overwhelmed.  Just like a person climbing Everest, every step is a monumental effort, and they are constantly battling fatigue, depression, limited resources, isolation, and defeat.  Some people never make it to the “summit” of divorce — they never experience the relief of closure, resolution, and peaceful acceptance.  Recently, a friend told me about a couple who were about to appear for another (their 8th in 10 years) post-decree hearing in Court, this time regarding parenting time.  These two have not been able to attain their summit in the traditional divorce model.  Years (many years) after their divorce, they are still struggling to reach the “top” or at least the end of their climb, but — like many who attempt Everest — they ran out of tools long ago.  The only resource left to them was their “position,” which rarely serves the needs of the children or parents.  Here were two people that — individually — have so many strengths and talents.  But together, they are unable to climb that last mile to the summit of closure and resolution, so they just keep on trudging.  Their children...

Are You Insane?

Albert Einstein (a fairly smart fellow) said that the definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  In that respect, it’s fairly simple to self-diagnose!  If you’ve been doing the same things over and over and still expect to see different results, you might be insane … or, you might be giving a conditioned response. Insanity needs attention from someone trained in psychiatry.  (Not my gig.) Conditioned responses need attention from you, because the only cure for the conditioned response is awareness and a willingness to change.  So what does this have to do with family law?  As it turns out, quite a lot.  You see, if you are repeatedly responding in an unhealthy way to conflicts or issues with your co-parent, expecting THEM to change, you’re probably going to be disappointed (at the very least). Here’s an example of conditioned responses (CR): You:  I’ll be there at 6 to pick up Andrew and Emily. Them (Pushing Your Button):  I told you that I needed to leave at 6.  Be here at 5:30 or not at all. You (CR):  You didn’t tell me that.  Besides, the orders say 6 and that’s when I’ll be there. Them (CR):  You heard me.  5:30 or don’t bother. You (CR):  I have to work for a living, so I’ll be there at 6. Them (CR):  Don’t bother because we won’t be here. You (CR):  Fine. I just won’t bother following court orders, but I’ll be calling my lawyer in the morning. Them (CR):  Fine.  Go ahead. But you still won’t see the kids tonight. You (CR):  Screw you!...

Create a new tradition!

Create a New Tradition for Your New Family Dynamic This may be your first holiday season wearing your New Family suit, and it might  not feel as comfortable as you would like, so here are some ideas to help you find the joy in the season: New Family. You, your children, your coparent, and extended family on both sides are now part of a New Family. Treat each other with the care and compassion that you would treat your own family members (would you be snippy or sarcastic to your favorite aunt or beloved sibling?). Try to remember to approach all of your interactions while silently saying the words Compassion, Gratitude, and Harmony. It will help you focus on what’s important. Kids first. If you and your co-parent (notice, we don’t use the word “ex”) are focused on what will make the holidays best for the children, you will almost certainly do the right thing. That doesn’t mean competing to see who can out-spend or one-up the other. In fact, the best way to show your love may be to discuss and agree with your co-parent on what gifts the children will receive and then present them from both of you. You can also agree to alternate favorite activities, or attend together. For example, if a “sparkle tour” is a favorite Christmas Eve activity, rent a van and take along another family. It creates a sense of adventure for the children and gives you, as co-parents, a buffer zone of other people to interact with just in case things are tense. New Traditions. Memories of Christmas (or Thanksgiving, Hanukkah,...

Avoiding Financial Bedlam

In my last blog, I asked you to think about a question: Am I willing to turn over a significant percentage of my net worth in order to be divorced? Since you’re back to read more, I’m guessing you answered NO to that question and you’re ready to Avoid Financial Bedlam.  Here are a few ways to keep more of your cash when you’re getting divorced. Avoid litigation.  In my last blog, I introduced you to Tim and Kathy.  Even though they eventually reached settlement in their divorce, the path they took was pure litigation.  Their attorneys wrote rough letters and held long blustery phone conferences where nothing much was accomplished other than defending their clients’ polarized positions.  They filed motions and went to hearings, they argued over dishes and debts, they over-involved the children in their fights, and they both did so with the conviction that they were “right” and would have their “day in Court.”  They didn’t sit down at the settlement table until they were over a year into the process.  This is a sure path to Financial Bedlam. Reduce conflict.  Remember, Conflict = $$$.  The more conflict your attorney can create, the more money he/she will earn.  The more conflict you or your spouse create, the more money you will each pay to your attorneys to “resolve” your conflict.  If you solve your own problems, like responsible adults should, then you will reduce conflict and save money.  Make no mistake, even if it’s “the other side” causing the conflict, you’ll still be paying to put out the fires. Create a budget.  Tim and Kathy never budgeted their...

Financial Bedlam

Financial Bedlam.  That’s how one client described his divorce. Like many people seeking a divorce, “Tim” just wanted a short and simple divorce without a lot of fighting over “things.”  (No, it’s not really Tim. See Disclaimer.)  Tim, a small business owner, has the “entrepreneurial temperament,” which means that he is used to getting what he wants, when he wants it.  Divorce was no different, so Tim did a lot of pushing.  After all, he was being “fair” and his wife just needed to see his side of things. For “Kathy” (see Disclaimer), Tim’s wife of 17 years, divorce was not at all simple or easy.  At first, Kathy was devastated and in denial.  She was terrified of being on her own, grief-stricken that Tim would break up their family, and outraged that Tim had announced the divorce to her “out of the blue.”  Kathy felt that she was at battle with an unseen force (maybe another woman?), so she gathered the “troops” — her girlfriends, family, teachers at the children’s school, hair stylist, and anyone else who would listen — to let them know how Tim had failed the family.  Kathy got the validation she was seeking and many of those “troops” advised her to take Tim to the cleaners to teach him a lesson.  Their advice was well-intentioned, but the worst possible thing they could have said. So Kathy and Tim engaged the “best” lawyers they could afford.  Tim’s attorney made settlement offers, demands, threats, and filed motions, pushing Kathy and her lawyer to accept Tim’s offers “within 24 hours or else.”  Kathy dug in her heels and her attorney,...