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Timing of Divorce in Violent or High Conflict Relationships

Joseph Coupal - Friday, January 11, 2019

What is the best time to divorce?

Walsh Law Office, Hingham, MAThe trouble is that there's no simple answer. It all depends on what's going on in your family, what kind of parents you are, how much you can cooperate, and what your child’s age and temperament is.

Of course, if there is chronic violence at home, the answer is "the sooner the better," regardless of your child’s age. Violence means physical attack – hitting, kicking, throwing objects – or chronic threats of physical violence. Exposure to such violence has serious consequences for a child's development that may last well into adulthood. As a result, the sooner that a child can stop being exposed to such violence, the better.

Filing for divorce sooner rather than later is also preferable when there is repeated high conflict in your marriage like yelling, screaming, and pounding the table. Whether these behaviors emanate from serious differences between you and your spouse, or whether they erupt over relatively insignificant issues like grocery bills, local politics and less than stellar report cards, such high conflict can be terrifying for children to witness. In such an environment, children can lose the capacity to trust or even to feel. The longer such conflict goes on, the worse it will be for your children. Again, the sooner the children can stop being exposed to such conflict, the better.

Unfortunately, while divorce in violent marriages provides important, and often immediate, relief for one or both parents, it does not always instantly help the children. When children have witnessed violent behavior, they will typically need therapy during and after the divorce to, among other things, learn new and healthier models for spousal relationships. In the same vein, divorcing a high conflict partner alone is not enough to immediately help children who have grown up under such conflictual conditions. These children, too, will likely need therapy to help them resume their development without a distorted view of how people treat each other.

Naturally, in such violent and high conflict households, the children are not the only ones who benefit from therapeutic intervention. The parents who terminate such marriages also need help, not only to protect their children but also to learn how to let go of their fear and anger. Engaging in such therapy will often help these spouses become better parents to their children and may even allow them to learn to co-parent (to the extent that such co-parenting is safe and appropriate) in the future.

For more information, contact Walsh Law.

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