Managing High Conflict During a Divorce

woman and man looking unhappy

Conflict of any kind can be painful and anxiety causing. However, when the conflict involves your spouse, it can be especially painful and disruptive. When the conflict reaches the level of being high conflict the children, other family members and friends are affected. If high conflict occurs during a divorce, it can bring negotiations to a standstill and drive the cost into the stratosphere. Real damage can be done and everyone suffers.

By handling the conflict first, couples can make better decisions and come to better agreements for settling a divorce in a more timely and cost saving manner. In order to achieve this, three areas need to be addressed: Thinking, Emotions, and Behavior.

Addressing thinking, we need to be flexible in our thinking. This means, we need to be able to look at the dispute from different perspectives and one of those perspectives is through the eyes of the person with whom you are having the dispute. Being flexible in thinking means making proposals that are geared to resolving the conflict. Being flexible in thinking also means creating more than one proposal that you can put forward to resolve the conflict.

Addressing our emotions, we need to manage our emotions during a conflict. Managing our emotions means taking responsibility for how we feel and not blaming others. It means being able to make “I” statements about how we feel and what we want without allowing our emotions to run the encounter. This will allow us to protect our children from the conflict. When we manage our emotions, we have found a way to calm ourselves down to allow logic and reason to influence our actions.

Addressing behavior, we need to feel with our hearts but we must act with our heads. We must understand that there are consequences for our behavior and assess what those consequences might be for any given action on our part. There is a difference between feeling and doing. We might feel the emotion of anger and express it with words. However, any acting out of our anger through a behavior is no longer expressing an emotion but rather acting out in a form of rage. Most acting out behavior results in a negative consequence.

Rather than acting out, if one addresses their thinking, emotions and behavior while exploring the possible options and resulting consequences first, better decisions can be made that spare our children, family and friends heartache while moving the divorce along a healthier and more proactive path.

Contact a qualified Divorce Coach who can assist you through the process of your divorce. Coaches are California licensed therapists specifically trained and skilled in helping divorcing couples come to agreements while preserving family relationships and protecting the children. Coaches can give you expert guidance for communicating as co-parents as one home now becomes two.


Dr. James E. Walton is a licensed psychotherapist and divorce counselor assisting families in resolving conflicts around issues of division of property, child and spousal support and parenting agreements while assisting them in obtaining a legal divorce in place of litigation. He is active on the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association (LACFLA) and serves as the Administrator for Continuing Education Credits for professionals licensed by the Board of Behavioral Sciences. He is also on the faculty of the Advanced Training Programs for LACFLA. He is a frequent guest lecturer on emotional health for collaborative law classes at UCLA, Loyola Law School and Southwestern Law School, and is a volunteer co-mediator and divorce coach at Loyola Law School.

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