This paper deals with the development of an enhanced model for solving wave–wave and wave–structure interaction problems. We describe the application of a non-linear splitting method originally suggested by Di Mascio et al. , to the high-order finite difference model developed by Bingham et al.  and extended by Engsig-Karup et al.  and . The enhanced strategy is based on splitting all solution variables into incident and scattered fields, where the incident field is assumed to be known and only the scattered field needs to be computed by the numerical model. Although this splitting technique has been applied to both potential flow and Navier–Stokes solvers in the past, it has not been thoroughly described and analyzed, nor has it been presented in widely read journals. Here we describe the method in detail and carefully analyze its performance using several 2D linear and non-linear test cases. In particular, we consider the extreme case of non-linear waves up to the point of breaking reflecting from a vertical wall; and conclude that no limitations are imposed by adopting this splitting. The advantages of this strategy in terms of robustness, accuracy and efficiency are also demonstrated by comparison with the more common strategy of solving the incident and scattered fields together.