What makes highly difficult relationship dissolutions extra difficult?
Protracted. Reasonable people attempt to get through a divorce as efficiently as possible and with as little drama as possible. They often seek mediation. An abusive person often continues to abuse their partner through the divorce process regardless of whether mediation or the court system is involved.
Abusive partners will use the divorce process to punish their partner economically. Examples are delaying signing financial documents, hiding financial documents, sabotaging the sale of the home, pressuring their partner to sign a financial document that is not in their best interests, etc. are a few examples of economic abuse tactics used by abusive partners. Prolonging the Divorce unnecessarily and pecayune tangents is a common way of economically punishing the other partner, even though both suffer.
Protracted custody battles. The abusive partner fights for sole custody of the chidren to get revenge on the other parent, who is the more nurturing and constructive of the two parents. Triangulation of the children – putting children in the middle is common. This does not mean that parents who ask for sole custody are abusive – many are legitimately trying to protect their children from physical, sexual, and psychological harm. Nor does it mean that parents who attempt to help their children process feelings about abusive behavior are triangulating. There are ways to do this that focus on the behavior and the child’s feelings, but don’t bad mouth the other parent. These parents usually enlist professional help for their children if they can afford it.
Abusive partners lie about their partners blatantly, but often present better in person than their partner (who may present confused, uncertain, depressed or anxious due to the chronic stress of living with an abusive person). Court officials, counselors, guardians ad litem, etc. can be swayed by the abuser’s charm. Their arrogance sometimes passes as confidence.
Abusive partners stalk their estranged partners, physically or via technology and the court system.
Abusive partners may physically threaten or physically abuse their partners.
Abusive partners refuse to be reasonable and make unreasonable demands in ways that are unusual, even for a divorce.
And of course, when both parties are abusive as a style of relating, a highly contentious divorce will result. Note that when even one party is personality disordered, divorces usually get very contentious. The abused party often has to “fight” very hard for the welfare of the children and basic financial security. A mistaken belief is that if a divorce is contentious, both parties are equally at fault or equally dysfunctional. Abusers can be male or female.
Length of time of the relationship – Gray Divorces usually involved complex separation of property and emotions.
If you are in involved in a difficult divorce, it’s important to assemble a profesional support team, including an emotional support team.