My In-Laws Caused My High Conflict Divorce

A few weeks ago we talked about low conflict marriages and how they affect the kids (hint – it isn’t good). This week we want to discuss high conflict divorces and the in-laws. A different look at how scorch-the-earth divorces catch fire with a mother-in-law OR father-in-law holding the match!

Divorce cases, like the marriages themselves, run the gamut from peaceful and courteous to hateful and raging warfare. Of course we all prefer the former, but it’s inescapable that the latter will present itself in our offices from time to time. It’s these high conflict cases that consume resources at an alarming pace, and sometimes it isn’t even the divorcing parties that cause the most conflict but instead it is their family members!

Cartoon of a Couple Arguing

When your client brings her father to every meeting with counsel, every mediation session, and every court appearance, there’s likely a problem brewing. Sure, your client has every right to have family members present especially during stressful times; moral support is very important. But, what do you do when that family member gets involved in the process? If sessions with your client and her loved one turns into a dissertation by the father-in-law on the failings of his worthless son-in-law, then your client’s legal bills will grow right along with her anxiety and your migraine headache! While your client may think it’s helpful to have her father along every step of the way, instead she’s creating even more conflict in an already high-conflict case.

So what do you do as your client’s legal advisor and advocate to help her to understand that her father is not a productive part of the divorce process? Surely she sees the (costly) impact on her monthly bill – more conflict equals more time billed to the client. Surely she must recognize that her father’s presence causes her soon-to-be-ex to clam up during mediation sessions. There’s no way she could miss her father’s hateful stare as opposing counsel asks the Judge to remove him from the courtroom, right? Well, sometimes yes and sometimes no. As one well-known divorce attorney and Huffington Post blogger said,

“For the divorce attorney who is trying to minimize fees and obtain an equitable and amicable settlement, it can take months to undo this unnecessary escalation of conflict.”

Help your divorce attorney help you and keep family members out of the process as much as possible. Watching your parents and loved ones spew hate at your ex may feel good at the time, but in the long run that type of high conflict behavior doesn’t help anything and will probably hurt some things in fact.


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