Most divorces begin with hurt. Both parties may point the finger at the other person for the demise of the marriage. Accusations of infidelity, mismanagement of money or intrusion of in-laws are relatively common. As the divorce process begins, there may be animosity and heated discussions as decisions regarding the division of property, bank accounts, child visitation and custody arrangements are being made. Over time, people typically adjust to their new situation and the animosity diminishes. Even if one or both parties claim they don’t like each other, attempts are made to establish a civil way to communicate with one another, especially if there are children involved. Sometimes, divorced couples establish a “new” relationship and a friendship develops.

A toxic divorce, however, is a completely different scenario. Many courts define it as a “high conflict divorce” where each party escalates the contention. The toxic divorce, as I define it, is when one party wants to dissolve the marriage in a more equitable way while the other person not only refuses to cooperate, but they create a consistent string of chaos and ill will. Toxic behaviors may include stalking, harassment, threats made to one’s physical safety and health, hiding marital assets, sullying a person’s reputation, damaging property, and alienating children from the targeted parent.

Toxic divorces tend to last longer than a typical divorce; some as long as eight to ten years as one person continues to block the divorce progress at every turn. As the targeted partner tries to develop a new life, the former partner will often escalate the contention and extend the toxicity to the target’s new friends, a love interest, family members or employers.

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