What to Do When Divorce Gets Ugly

In some sense, divorce is never a walk in the park. Even if you’re exiting what is an intolerable situation to move towards a brighter future, there is a loss as the relationship comes to an ultimate close and you learn to adjust to a new reality beyond the marriage. That said, divorce can be handled by the spouses in a dignified, collaborative manner, and they can work together to settle matters like division of property, alimony, and child custody and support. But then there are times when divorce simply gets ugly. This can mean fights over property, over the relationship itself, over children, or really anything at all if emotions are triggered. Below are a few basic steps to take when divorce gets ugly to avoid having the process break down altogether.

Figure Out What it is You Are Fighting About

You don’t have to be a therapist to know that when spouses (even divorcing spouses) appear to be fighting over one thing, they are actually fighting over some other unspoken topic altogether. The fight over who gets to keep the fine chinaware when one spouse totally forgot it existed might be actually be caused by resentment over a request for spousal support or even anger about an affair or the marriage coming to an end.

Ultimately, there can be an infinite number of topics that you and your spouse could fight about, but in the end, you’ll want to separate these into 1) legal issues, and 2) non-legal issues. Legal issues relate to money, support, custody, and visitation. Those issues can be helped by working with an attorney or mediator. Non-legal issues are everything else, such as emotional resentments over the relationship. Those generally do not play a part in the legal process of divorce, and when they creep into the legal proceedings, they can cause delay and expense for everyone. Find a friend or counselor to help you work through those issues.

Make Sure Both Spouses are Educated About California Divorce Law

In our experience, many divorces get “ugly” when one of both of the spouses has an unreasonable or unfounded expectation about how the California divorce process works or how issues like custody, property division, and spousal support are treated under state law. For example, the fact that one spouse may request significant temporary spousal support at the outset of a divorce proceeding can cause the other spouse to become angry or vengeful, but once the other spouse understands that providing temporary spousal support is a common practice in California, this can lower tensions.

When both parties are made aware of what their rights and responsibilities are under California law, they may be able to navigate the process without being overly suspicious or resentful. Working with experienced attorneys and/or mediators should help in this process.

Protect Your Rights Through the Divorce Process

Another common reason for ugliness in the divorce is when one spouse tries to game the system by doing things like underreporting or hiding assets or making false accusations meant to leverage the other spouse into giving in to their demands. You may not be able to prevent a spouse from acting improperly (and these issues of character may be at the heart of why you are divorcing), but you can take steps to protect yourself by forcing the other spouse to play fair and do what is expected of them under the law.

By working with an experienced divorce lawyer who is committed to protecting your rights and interests, you maximize your chances of being treated fairly in the California divorce process and getting the outcome that you deserve under the law. Attempting to go it alone without an attorney, either to save money or reduce tension, can backfire in a big way and can lead to much more financial damage in the long run and higher tension than ever.

Work With a California Family Law Attorney

The family law attorneys at Kearney Baker in Pasadena are here to help with your California divorce to make sure that you are treated fairly and get the outcomes you deserve. To schedule a consultation with one of our California family law attorneys, call Kearney Baker at 626-768-2945.