The term “high-conflict divorce” is not uncommon in family law cases. When people hear the about high-conflict divorce cases, they often think of parents disagreeing about child custody arrangements, finances or other assets. The media often highlights these situations in celebrity cases or even in fictional programs to emphasize drama.
In these cases, it is consistent and complex disagreements that make up a high-conflict divorce. These situations certainly exist. However, as Psychology Today points out, “high-conflict divorce” could often be used as a misnomer for legal abuse.
Abuse is about control
It is critical to remember that domestic violence does not always involve physical abuse. It can also involve:
- Verbal abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Financial abuse
The United Nations indicates that domestic abuse is about maintaining control over a partner. That is why it can take any or several of the forms listed above. Unfortunately, abusers rarely want to lose control over that person, even after a divorce.
What is legal abuse?
An abusive former partner could continue to cause pain and maintain control through legal channels. This is how the mistake between legal abuse and “high-conflict divorce” often occurs. The abuser uses legal means to exert power by bringing the other person back to court over and over – and making them fear this.
Legal abuse generally includes a few warning signs, such as:
- Filing frivolous motions
- Parental alienation – or accusations of alienation
- Making harmful – and false – claims about their spouse or financial issues in the case
This makes the abuser feel like they still have power over the other individual. In turn, legal abuse can continue to cause serious emotional and financial effects that harm the other individual and the family.
Awareness is the key
For those involved in an abusive relationship, it is a big step to file for divorce and put an end to it. However, it is important to be aware of the risk of legal abuse. Awareness and knowledgeable legal advice from an attorney can help individuals watch out for the signs, take preventative steps, and protect their family’s future.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) is always available for survivors and families experiencing and/or impacted by abusive situations. All calls are confidential.