Amicable Turned Ugly Divorce: 9 Reasons It Could Happen

ugly divorce

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

When someone tells me they are going through “an amicable” divorce, I think it’s great, but I also tend to feel a little bit skeptical. While I’d like to think it’s possible to have a friendly divorce versus an ugly divorce, I have a hard time believing it will stay that way, just because amicable and financial security and the division of assets, along with a child custody schedule just don’t go hand in hand. Also, let’s not forget the elements of resentment, anger, hurt and fear that are part of every divorce.


Often times, a divorce starts out amicable and turns into an ugly divorce . “We’re not going to be like all those other people,” a couple will say. “We respect each other and we both want this, so let’s set an example and show everyone that it’s possible to have a friendly breakup,” they might say. But then, reality sets in. Something happens and someone gets angry, which results in offsetting the course.

All of a sudden, the divorce turns into an ugly divorce.


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So, what are the things that can happen to cause an otherwise amicable divorce to turn into an ugly divorce? Here are 9 possibilities:


1. One person finds out the other person is dating someone.

Perhaps the number one reason an amicable divorce turns into an ugly divorce. Even if the man or woman was the one who wanted the divorce, the minute their soon to be ex gets a girlfriend (or boyfriend) they go ballistic and get insanely angry and jealous. It doesn’t make sense, but it really does happen a lot.


2. Someone’s attorney talks them into going for more money.

Be very careful when choosing your attorney and make sure you trust him/her. I have seen attorneys blow deals that were put together by two consenting adults, because the attorney –in his or her defense—was trying to get the person more money. In other words, he or she felt they were just doing their job, but it backfired. I’m not saying don’t listen to your attorney’s advice, but everything has to be weighed. Is it worth it to walk out of the marriage with a little less money if it’s going to help keep things smooth and settle quicker?


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3. One of the people finds out from someone in the community that the other cheated while they were married.

Gossip after a breakup happens all the time. It can be really hurtful.


4. Friends and family begin to talk negatively about the spouse.

They might say things like, “I would hate him if I were you.or “I never liked the way he treated you.” The person getting divorced starts to think about it and gets resentful, or feels like they SHOULD hate their soon to be ex—like it’s expected or something. People who love you don’t mean to do it, but they badmouth your ex because they think it’s helping you. They can even be egging you on.


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5. Resentment starts to build and one or both people start thinking about the past.

“He took the best years of my life.” “If it wasn’t for her, I would have gone to law school.” “I always wanted to live in California and she would never move with me.” “He always treated me badly at parties and embarrassed me.” These are examples of what people start to think when they are getting divorced. I personally think it’s what we do to reassure ourselves that divorce is the right thing. I mean if you think about it, if everything is so nice and amicable, would the emotional part of getting divorced be a lot harder and more confusing? So maybe we do this to help ourselves.

6. Reality sets in and people realize it’s for real.

This is when people really start to be in pain, and sometimes that pain can transfer into anger and vindictiveness and wanting to hurt the other person-legally or emotionally, so the divorce becomes contentious. When people are hurting, a lot of times that feeling turns into anger and resentment.


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7. One or both people get scared, which always drives anger.

Being afraid and having fear  can also cause someone to get angry and mean. Fear is very hard to deal with, and sometimes people turn that fear into blame and hate for their ex.

8. One person becomes unhappy, either at work or in another relationship, and focuses the anger and frustration on the soon-to-be ex.

Someone who is miserable will take it out on someone close to him/her and what better person to do that than their soon-to-be ex? They start to play the victim and blame the person for everything negative in their life.

9. One person has or develops an addiction.

People who have addictions blame everyone else for their problems and refuse to take accountability for anything that goes wrong. An alcoholic might tell their spouse, “You’re the reason I drink,” or “You’re the reason we’re getting divorced,” and “My life will be so much better once you are out of it.” So, they start to blame the divorce on the person and when blame is in play, it’s hard to stay amicable.


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If an amicable divorce turns into an ugly divorce, it can be exhausting, upsetting, and basically a roller coaster ride. Plus, it doesn’t stop even after the divorce decree is signed and the divorce is finalized and official.


How do you deal with an ugly divorce? Try your very very hardest to keep the emotion out of it. Treat it like a business deal and try not to take anything personal. I know that’s not easy, but remember what your goals in the divorce are: the custody schedule you want, the assets you are trying to get, financial agreements, and more.

Remember, a lot of times, when you read lawyer jargon, it was written by your ex’s attorney-not your ex. That’s not a slam on the attorneys (they are just doing their jobs) but it could be construed differently if you think your ex (or if he thinks you) wrote it.


The other thing to do is try to enjoy something out of every day. Because an ugly divorce means lots of unpredictability and bombs dropped, life might feel uneasy and creepy and scary. So, since there’s nothing you can do to change that, focus on enjoying your days in some way, with your kids, with your career, with your family, and with your own passions and hobbies. Grab some kind of enjoyment every single day. (everyone should do that-not just people going through ugly divorces!)


Lastly, remember that your divorce will someday end, and hopefully your ugly divorce will turn into an amicable post divorce relationship.

Like this article? Check out, My Ex Hates Me: 8 Reasons He’s Angry and Hateful Towards You

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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at:

    2 Responses to “Amicable Turned Ugly Divorce: 9 Reasons It Could Happen”

    1. Dor

      Hard to grab enjoyment when going through a divorce.
      It was a surprise and extremely hard to have dealt with for me.
      After divorce, now I can focus on enjoying my life by myself, with my children, family and friends.


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