Am I in a High Conflict Divorce?

Am I in a High Conflict Divorce Heidi Dinning Certified Divorce Coaching

High Conflict Divorce

When it comes to divorce, about 95% of cases settle before they make it to a judge– which doesn’t seem the case from all of the divorce court publicity. However, when it comes to divorces, there are different kinds of divorces, and the most traumatic and stressful — the high conflict divorce.

High conflict divorce usually comes with problems in communication. That’s where we help.

What is a High Conflict Divorce?

A high conflict divorce is, luckily, not necessarily the norm. It’s estimated that only 15%-30% of divorces are considered a high conflict divorce.

A high conflict divorce is unusual when it comes to a marriage breakup, with tensions running even higher and a focus on the issues, rather than on solutions. In a regular divorce, most want to move on with their lives with the goals of conserving their time, energy, and budget, rather than dragging the divorce out into a nasty battle. 

However, when it comes to a high conflict divorce, spouses have a different experience than those in other divorce situations. High conflict divorces may involve situations where children or other important assets are being “used against” a spouse, or where discussions are constantly cruel, abusive and draining.

Of course, in a situation like a divorce, emotions are running high and may get the best of us every once in a while– with high conflict divorce, though, this is the norm. Inversely, in a collaborative divorce, spouses are typically able to behave decently and resolve the divorce amicably in mediation.

Related – Divorcing a Narcissist – Everything you need to know.

Dealing With a High Conflict Divorce

If you are going through a high conflict divorce, you are not the only one who has experienced this, though it can feel very isolating. There are some ways that you can cope with a high conflict divorce and do your best to minimize any ensuing drama. This type of divorce does require a different approach and set of social and mental skills.

Stay True to Your Needs

In a high conflict divorce, you will need exercise serious boundaries to cope with some of the high conflict tactics used against you that you may face. Your former spouse may try to employ several manipulative tactics to guilt you into making certain concessions that you may not otherwise be prepared to make. Be aware of this manipulation and identify it for what it is. get support. Do not allow them to intimidate you, either, and if they say something that you do not agree with, do not simply give in. Learn when to put your foot down without feeling guilty or intimidated. You need to be sure that your voice is heard and that you are not taken advantage of.


Many of the recommended coping mechanisms for a high conflict divorce centre around setting and practicing personal boundaries in some sort of way. If you are dealing with a strong, vindictive or disordered personality in your former spouse, and you are not receiving the respect that you deserve during the process, be prepared to limit communication until they can communicate appropriately. Setting clear boundaries, is better for your mental health– and the results of your divorce. This helps you to announce and recognize both your self-worth and your self-respect. Again, get support if you need it from a Coach or a counsellor that can support you to assert and maintain your boundaries.

Social Media

Even when you are in a healthy place mentally, social media can be a source of negativity, eroding your self-worth and can fuel jealousy. If you are in the middle of a high conflict divorce, it is wise to unfollow– or even block– your former spouse. This helps to avoid some of the negativity that you may be experiencing during the process of your divorce, since a high conflict divorce is not carried out amicably. 

You should also avoid taking part in any sort of social media shaming or blaming your former spouse through social media. Dirty laundry should not be aired out on the Internet. This ultimately reflects poorly upon you, no matter how much you may feel that motivated to “clear the air”.

Self Care and Mental Health

Any kind of high conflict situation, such as this type of divorce can really take its toll on your mental health. Practicing self care is critical. Part of healthy self care is ensuring you carve out time for yourself, especially as a single parent. Try not to isolate yourself while you are going through this intense experience, and remember to seek out the support of friends and family members. If your mental health is suffering, it may also be a good move to work with a Divorce Coach, and see a counsellor as well, to support you through this. Try to spend some time focusing on doing the things that you love, allowing some joy to continue into your life avoiding the rumination sole focus on the stress of your divorce. Focus on the healthy relationships and your inner circle of friends and family that bring you peace and joy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a high conflict divorce?

With a high conflict divorce, the situation keeps the focus on the conflict between the two partners. This makes it difficult to separate amicably and to come to any sort of agreements during the divorce process. 

How do you get through a high conflict divorce?

To get through a high conflict divorce, let your former spouse own their own behaviours and do not take it personally– these are their issues, not yours. Flexible thinking is key as well as managing your own emotions. Try your very best not to react, opening yourself up for further conflict or potential manipulation. Recognize that you cannot change your former spouse’s way of thinking, but you can control how you react and respond to their behaviour.

Why is divorce high conflict?

During a divorce, tension and emotions run high. Many issues have likely been left unresolved, creating ongoing conflict between former spouses. Those with certain personalities traits and behaviours going through a divorce will make it a high conflict situation. Sometimes it is only one of the parties creating the conflict but it results in constant tension and problem focus, rather than solution focused situations.

What percentage of divorces are high conflict?

The estimate for high conflict divorces is 15%-30%. However, divorces may have varying levels of conflict, so this does not mean the remaining percentage of divorces are conflict-free.

What is high conflict marriage?

Like a high conflict divorce, a high conflict marriage involves any behaviour that intensifies conflict, rather than de-escalates the conflict. While everyone has conflicts in their relationship, the key piece is how to manage yourself and the conflicts. Learning to communicate as well as listen to hear your partner or spouse, ultimately helps couples stay solution focused, not defensive and inflexible.


If you or someone you know is facing a high conflict separation or divorce and don’t know where to begin, that’s where I can help. I act as a emotional support, thinking partner and guide for you, so you can retain your dignity, find clarity and feel hopeful for the future. To learn more, visit our certified divorce coaching page. 

For more divorce resources, relationship communication and co-parenting topics, visit our Blog Page

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