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Fighting against a combative divorce

Almost by definition, the end of a marriage may be difficult under the best of circumstances. Some Texas residents may even find that the complexity of their divorce multiplies when they are dealing with a high-conflict spouse. However, there are ways to lower the aggression in a divorce and protect one's rights in Texas.

One method to avoid arguments and shouting matches with a former spouse is to limit communication to writing. In more contentious cases, communication can be restricted to the attorneys through emails, texts or other messages. Keep in mind, though that written communication can act as evidence in court. Also, taking the time to reflect before words in writing can help stop ill-considered statements. Communications should be limited to concise and neutral statements. Do not respond to provocative messages.

Custody and support agreements should also be placed in writing where the spouse is combative. This helps in situations where the other spouse changes their mind or denies making an agreement.

High-conflict spouses may also refuse to share documents that are needed for calculating spousal support and child support and property division. They may also try to hide their assets or cause harassment. Even before filing, it is important to collect documents such as pay stubs, stock portfolios, credit card bills and pensions. The Internal Revenue Service can provide copies of joint tax returns. Credit reports can identify financial accounts opened in both spouses' names.

Children should be kept out of any these disputes. Custody exchanges should occur in public or with a support person. Immediately end any conversation that evolves into an argument in front of the children. Family or individual therapy may also be helpful for a spouse and their children.

A spouse should also keep a journal with details of the day-to-day parenting activities. This may be important evidence to refute any allegations of abuse made by the other spouse. A restraining order, however, may be necessary to prevent or stop harassment or stalking from the other spouse. These should be considered when the other spouse begins to engage in behavior such as sending angry or threatening texts.

An attorney can help prepare written communications and legal documents to protect a spouse's rights in these divorces. They can also represent their client's interest in court, settlement negotiations and other proceedings.

Source: The Good Men Project, "Toxic divorce? Forget the hazmat suit and do this instead," Bari Zell Weinberger, Sept. 20, 2017

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