Navigating High-Conflict Divorces in Utah: Strategies for Success

While most couples aim for an amicable divorce, some situations are more prone to conflict. A vengeful spouse, domestic violence, child custody disputes, and other issues may make a peaceful end to your marriage seem impossible. 

Navigating a high-conflict divorce can be a highly emotional and challenging experience. The stress can be even more intense if your divorce includes a child custody dispute. In this blog post, we will discuss effective strategies that can help mitigate conflict, protecting your rights and best interests. 

Handling a high-conflict divorce without legal support is likely to further compound the overwhelm that you feel and the challenges you may face. That’s why you should come speak to a Utah divorce attorney at Brown Family Law – sooner rather than later. 

We can offer legal guidance and support throughout the entire process of going through a divorce  in Utah – all while maximizing time for yourself and your kids. Call us today at 801-685-9999 to schedule a consultation. 

What Is a High-Conflict Divorce?

An estimated 20 percent of divorces in the US involve high conflict. Such high-conflict divorces often result from individuals who have high-conflict personalities. 

There could be someone involved who has a high-conflict personality, hostile and combative toward his or her spouse. High-conflict spouses who cannot handle their emotions may blame others and behave erratically. 

The following are some characteristics common among high-conflict divorces. 

Intentional violation of court orders

When necessary, courts will issue temporary orders regarding the following:

  • Payment of debts
  • Possession of the marital home
  • Child support
  • Child custody
  • Alimony
  • Parent-time

Such orders enable the divorce to proceed methodically and safely. But if your spouse violated court orders on purpose, this indicates that he or she may not respect the judge’s final rulings on your divorce. 


Individuals involved in divorces often suspect that their spouses are being deceitful by hiding assets or lying about their income. In these situations, a person’s finances will need to be thoroughly investigated. 

Divorce lawyers may need to subpoena bank records, pay stubs, and other sources of income to determine a spouse’s financial situation. We can uncover their actual (not stated) income and look for hidden assets as well.

Vengeful attitude

A spouse’s high-conflict behavior may manifest in the form of revenge. Sadly, some spouses are more interested in hurting their partner than ending their marriage amicably. Their goal could be to seek revenge for feeling or being wronged in the marriage. 

Revenge during divorce proceedings can be emotional, financial, or take on other forms. 

Unwillingness to compromise

In a fair and equal divorce agreement, both parties will need to come to some form of compromise. Typically, there are at least a few things the divorcing couple can agree on. 

However, high-conflict spouses may refuse to come to an agreement on even simple matters. They may intentionally be unyielding and refuse to compromise on nearly everything just because they want their spouse to suffer. 


If you are a victim of domestic violence, verbal abuse, or threats, these are signs that your divorce will likely be a high-conflict one. An abusive partner may have a controlling personality or unstable personality disorder – thus unable to work rationally through the divorce process.

You may need to ask your Utah family law attorney to help you file an Order of Protection to protect your safety. You may also seek the help of domestic violence support groups, a counselor, or help from other professionals and advocacy agencies.

You Can Successfully Navigate a Utah High-Conflict Divorce

High-conflict divorces can be long, expensive, and mentally and emotionally draining. The lawyers at Brown Family Law have helped many clients who have struggled to navigate the complexities of high-conflict divorces in Utah. 

Consider the following suggested management strategies for navigating a high-conflict divorce in Utah.

By setting boundaries with your ex-spouse

Try to set reasonable boundaries and ground rules with your ex-partner – and then stick to these. When boundaries are set, and one or both parties work to follow them, this can reduce disputes and mitigate conflict. 

Boundaries may include:

  • Creating a communication schedule that defines valid reasons why a spouse may be contacted by the other, what form of communication can be used, and how often each individual is allowed contact 
  • Agreeing that both parties must give their approval before any major decisions that involve both of them are made
  • Resolving to enforce and stick to any legal or financial arrangements that may be agreed upon in court

By focusing on what you can control

When your marriage ends, you may have the overwhelming feeling that you have lost control of many aspects of your life. While it is true that you cannot control your spouse’s attitude and behavior, you can control your own. 

Try to react calmly to your spouse’s angry, sarcastic, or argumentative outbursts. If you do, you may be surprised to see how conflict is minimized or – even decreased – when your spouse is unable to get a negative reaction from you.

Controlling your attitude and behavior also gives you the peace of mind that you were the more mature party and did all you could to protect yourself and your family’s well-being. 

By developing strategies to cope with disagreements

One way to reduce stress when you are in the middle of a high-conflict divorce is to develop helpful coping strategies when you are faced with disagreements or extreme behaviors. 

Some suggested strategies are:

  • Compromising on some issues
  • Setting boundaries for yourself and your ex-spouse
  • Speaking calmly and respectively to all parties involved in the divorce proceedings
  • Expressing your thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a calm manner
  • Resisting the urge to retaliate 

By leaning on your support groups

Having a strong support system when going through a high-conflict divorce is key to your emotional and mental health. Do not hesitate to reach out to family members and friends. Be open and honest with them about your feelings and what you are going through. 

Some individuals going through high-conflict divorces have found it helpful to get professional help from a therapist. Others join support groups dedicated to those in a similar situation. Talking about your situation with others who can relate can give you the support and community resources you need to get through this challenging time in your life. 

By finding healthy ways to reduce stress

Divorce and child custody battles can be emotionally and physically draining. Make sure to take time for self-care throughout the legal proceedings – perhaps by going to therapy, exercising, or engaging in relaxing hobbies.

This may seem rather basic, but restful sleep is important for anyone dealing with a stressful situation. A good night’s sleep can help you better cope with life’s challenges, take control of your emotions, and help your body to rejuvenate and heal. 

Additionally, it is important to avoid outlets that could cause you harm. For example, avoid:

  • Depending on drugs
  • Using alcohol excessively
  • Sending threatening or aggressive messages to your ex
  • Venting about your divorce on social media

By prioritizing the needs of your children

In a high-conflict divorce and custody battle, parents may get so caught up in arguing that they forget about what is most important – their children. 

It is ideal to keep your children out of your divorce proceedings, especially with a high-conflict person. Involving your children will add to their stress. Additionally, it could escalate tensions in the entire family. 

Make an effort to focus on your children’s needs by:

  • Focusing on their physical and emotional well-being
  • Maintaining a stable routine
  • Minimizing disruption in their lives as much as possible

Encouraging a positive relationship between your children and the other parent is recommended. Doing so is advisable even if you have disputes about custody arrangements. 

Utah requires parents to complete mandatory divorce education classes. These are designed to teach parents involved in a divorce process about the issues their children may face during such a difficult process. It also teaches parents how to support their children.

By seeking the help of a Utah divorce lawyer

Trying to balance your emotions and needs while also protecting your interests can be extremely challenging – even more so if you are in a high-conflict divorce. You do not need to handle every aspect of the divorce on your own. An experienced lawyer can provide you with the tools needed to navigate your child custody issues and high-conflict divorce proceedings successfully.

Make sure to choose a divorce lawyer who has experience in helping high-conflict people work through disputes. You want a lawyer who can provide sound counsel and mediate complex issues. 

It is helpful to have a Utah high-conflict divorce attorney on your side. You will feel supported and confident that you have someone looking out for your best interests.

Legal Considerations in Utah High-Conflict Divorces

There are many legal complexities involved in going through a high-conflict divorce and child custody battle. Understanding the legal resources and options available to you can help you be successful during the difficult journey of going through a high-conflict divorce. 

Available resources and options may include:

  • Mediation: Mediation is used to help couples resolve financial issues and custody disputes. It can also help with other issues through the help of a third party. Family court mediators help couples find solutions that save them time, money, and emotional energy. 
  • Child custody laws: Becoming familiar with the custody and visitation laws specific to your area can be helpful. Learn about the different custody options available, such as physical and legal custody. Being informed can help you be better prepared to co-parent and make decisions that protect your relationship with your children. 
  • Temporary orders: If you are facing a financial crisis, domestic violence, or your children’s safety is threatened, you may choose to seek temporary orders from the court. These orders can enforce temporary child custody, restraining orders, spousal support, and rights to the marital home. 

Strategies for Effective Communication During the Divorce Process

In high-conflict divorces, it is essential that at least one spouse manages his or her negative emotions and keeps the divorce process moving forward peacefully. Understandably, this is not always easy to do. 

Consider the following communication strategies for a high-conflict divorce. 

Use “I” statements

It is easy to place the blame for the coming divorce on your former partner. But small changes in your wording can reduce tensions and open up more effective communication. 

Instead of blaming the other party with accusing statements such as “You did this,” or “This is all your fault because,” try to use “I” statements to express how you feel. You could say, for example, “I feel hurt when,” or “I do not understand when.”

Focus on the present

In stressful situations, couples may bring up past mistakes their partners have made. Their conversation may quickly turn into blaming their ex for past grievances. 

You can avoid this by staying focused on the present issue. Do your best from this point forward to avoid bringing up past events and unrelated issues. If you notice the conversation veering towards past arguments, try to steer things back to the present. 

Keep the peace

Regardless of how your spouse acts, do your best to be respectful and civil towards him or her. Do not resort to name-calling, personal attacks, or negative comments. Instead, try to keep a calm voice and express your thoughts and viewpoints respectfully. 

Communicate through a Utah divorce lawyer

Sometimes, especially in high-conflict situations, a spouse is so aggressive that direct communication is difficult. If this is your situation, you may wish to minimize contact by only communicating with your former spouse through your attorney. 

You will especially need a lawyer to communicate with your ex when you have a restraining order that prohibits contact. These are often needed in cases of domestic violence.

Support for Navigating High-Conflict Divorce in Utah

You do not have to navigate the challenges of a high-conflict divorce alone. Work with a lawyer to protect your rights, physical well-being, and mental health as you work toward a fair resolution. 

The compassionate and experienced divorce attorneys at Brown Family Law are here to help. We understand the challenges you may be facing when dealing with a spouse who has a high-conflict personality. 

If you are facing a difficult situation in your own high-conflict divorce, we can offer you personalized support. Schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team today. Call us 24/7 at 801-685-9999 to speak to a live representative.

Published On: January 3rd, 2024Categories: DivorceComments Off on Navigating High-Conflict Divorces in Utah: Strategies for Success
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About the Author: Marco Brown
Marco C. Brown was named Utah’s Outstanding Family Law Lawyer of the Year in 2015. He graduated with distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2007 and is currently the managing partner of Brown Family Law, LLC.
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