I am a huge fan of an organization called the “High Conflict Institute”, founded by Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq., and Megan L. Hunter, MBA. Their unique approach to dealing with conflict comes from years of studying conflicts, and the realization that the conflicts are not driven by events, but in fact driven by the personalities of certain parties, specifically what are called “High Conflict Personalities”.

I have observed cases in which a family law litigant, and his girlfriend, and their attorney, were all high-conflict personalities.  The following excerpt is from the above-linked article:

“again in many different situations with many different people. The issue that seems in conflict at the time is not what is increasing the conflict. The “issue” is not the issue. With HCPs the high-conflict pattern of behavior is the issue, including a lot of:

All-or-nothing thinking

Unmanaged emotions

Extreme behaviors

Blaming others”

In the context of family law, it is the passive-aggression that I find notable.  While high-conflict personalities engaged in a divorce will often say “He(she) keeps taking me back to court”, what they fail to mention is their behavior is often crafted in such a way as to force the issue.  What is a mother to do when her child is alienated and won’t come home?  What does she do if the spouse locks her out of the community property business, destroys the books, and then changes the name of the business and says “I don’t have any money’?  What does she to do if she settles the case and ends up being sued by creditors and driven into bankruptcy for debt that the spouse agreed to pay, and then refuses to, while that spouse lives in a 4500 square foot mansion and supports his girlfriend who also misrepresents her income to the court so she can get child support from her ex?  I am not making this up.  This is family law.

This excerpt from  this article from  Cathy Meyer is helpful here:

What to Expect From the Passive Aggressive During Divorce:



    • The passive aggressive is short on negotiating skills. They will want to mediate the divorce but then refuse to negotiate a divorce settlement. They will agree to a settlement then change their mind. They will quibble over who pays how much for the mediator when it was them who insisted to begin with. Just like during the marriage you will expend a lot of energy on solving conflict with not much to show for your effort except wasted time and emotional stress.


    • If you have children, the passive aggressive will want custody. Well, maybe not so much want custody but definitely a way to punish you for leaving and what better way than tothreaten your relationship with your children. Expect a custody battle but don’t fear one. When push comes to shove the passive aggressive will return to old, self-defeating behaviors. They won’t show for court dates and when they lose custody, most will fail to show for visitation.


  • Once the divorce is final and you have a final divorce decree expect the passive aggressive to defy what is ordered by the court. If the passive aggressive is ordered to pay child support expect them to either slow leak the payments every month or not pay at all. If there are marital assets to be split expect to make a few trips back to court. Just as in marriage, the passive aggressive will be slow to follow through on anything they promised to do. During and after divorce passive aggressive obstructionism runs rampant and can run your life if your spouse knows how to manipulate the family court system.

In conclusion there is the potential for a high conflict divorce when divorcing a passive aggressive. The problems you dealt with during the marriage will only become worse during divorce. Your passive aggressive will blame you and use the family court system to express anger toward you. Knowing there is a battle ahead helps you arm yourself with information that will help you protect not only your legal rights but your emotional health.