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Category: Divorce

Navigating a Toxic Divorce

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Written by Anne Whiting, MBA on 2.15.23

Some divorces are amicable, some require mediation, most divorces settle with limited litigation, and then there are those select cases that suck all the oxygen out of the room leaving shock and devastation in their wake.

A toxic divorce may be one of the most traumatic experiences in a person’s life. If you find yourself in a toxic divorce, a little preparation, knowledge, and self-care can significantly improve your outcome.


Recognize this will be the fight of your life.

Unless you are prepared to concede on every point, this is going to get ugly. Prepare for every vulnerability to be weaponized against you, expect your ex to use the courts as a hammer, and ready yourself for intense emotional and financial abuse. If you fear your situation is spiraling toward domestic violence or DV has already been a hallmark of your marriage, please understand divorce generally augments reality. Whatever was broken generally gets bigger, so you will need to take steps to protect yourself.


Define your win.

What are you fighting for? Is it freedom? Time with your kids? Financial stability? This is the time to get very clear on your end goal. A lack of clarity will lead to continual second guessing, especially as your ex exploits every known pain point to get you to concede.


Team up: Legal, Mental health, Financial

Hiring an attorney who understands toxic patterns is critical to navigating your court battles. Your ex will obstruct at every pass including not participating in discovery, hiding assets, ignoring court orders, using mediation as a delay tactic, and using your children as pawns. You need a lawyer who has experience with high conflict cases and has the knowledge resources to traverse child-related issues and marital-estate division.

Working with a personal therapist or coach provides you with toolkit to deal with your ex’s toxic patterns and a safe place to heal. Do not pay your attorney to be your therapist. This is one of the most common mistakes made in divorce and generally why you hear the horror stories of insanely high legal bills.

Financial abuse is one of the most common themes in toxic divorce. If you are overwhelmed with your financial situation, do not assume you will have a clearer head when you are further in the trenches. Talk to your friends, family, religious advisors, or your attorney for a referral to a budgeting expert. Your attorney should be open to cost-benefit discussions with you throughout the stages of your divorce. Keep your eyes on your defined end-goal.


Set Boundaries on HOW and WHAT you communicate.

Studies show cutting off all contact is the best way to protect yourself from a toxic person. Unfortunately for most of us, that advice is impractical, so our best option is to set boundaries on communication. There are ways to manage HOW you communicate to minimize direct exposure during a toxic divorce. You may choose to utilize court recommended communication apps or set a firm boundary line to only negotiate through your attorney.

You can also set boundaries on WHAT you communicate. Dr. Ramini Durvasula, a leading expert in navigating toxic relationships, recommends the D.E.E.P. style of communication. Don’t Defend, don’t Engage, don’t Explain, and don’t take things Personally. This advice is easier said than done and again, working directly with a therapist or coach will help put you in the best position to handle what is thrown at you. If you feel that urge to fire off a lengthy email novella defending and explaining your position, that is a clue you may be better served by setting a boundary.


The Path to Success.

A toxic divorce is expensive, traumatic, and most importantly not your fault. Ready yourself for a fight, define your win, build your team, and set your boundaries.

Our team is ready to help you move forward. You’ve got this.

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