Nobody gets married with the intention of eventually getting a divorce, but sometimes, a split is the only realistic resolution to marital problems. Ideally, under these circumstances, you and your partner will be able to negotiate a peaceful parting of ways. But in many cases, divorces become nasty.
What steps can you take to facilitate a faster and better resolution if your divorce takes a turn for the worse?
Before the Divorce
As early as possible, and preferably before the divorce papers are filed, it’s important to hire a family lawyer to help you navigate this space. Even if you want the separation to go as smoothly as possible, and even if you’re interested in mediation, it’s a good idea to have a lawyer on your side who can advise you on legal matters and potentially take legal action on your behalf.
If you don’t already have a lawyer, get one now. Be completely open with them, ask lots of questions, and seriously consider their advice. This will reduce the likelihood that the divorce will spiral out of control and give you more options if it does.
Acrimony and Complexity: The Dark Side of Divorce
What does it mean for a divorce to get ugly?
These are just some of the things you might experience:
· Withdrawing and using money in joint accounts. You and your spouse might share a joint account. If you do, your spouse might intentionally withdraw and use money from those accounts without seeking authorization, and possibly for unreasonable uses. For example, they might splurge on a vacation for themselves or squirrel money away into a private account.
· Canceling accounts. If your spouse is acting maliciously, they may also attempt to cancel accounts that are shared between you. For example, they might intentionally cancel a credit card they know you rely on.
· Hiding or unfairly taking assets. If you hold significant assets in your marriage, your spouse may attempt to conceal or undervalue certain assets to pursue a split that’s markedly in their favor. It’s natural for individuals to seek outcomes that are in their best interests, but hiding assets is often unreasonable in an ongoing divorce.
· Shaming, embarrassing, or gossiping. Sometimes, divorces lead one spouse to attempt to shame, embarrass, or gossip about their partner. Ideally, both parties in the divorce will remain quiet about the circumstances of that divorce, but this doesn’t always happen.
· Arguing and intimidation. Your spouse may also be more direct, arguing with you or attempting to intimidate you into taking or avoiding a specific action. In some cases, verbal abuse can escalate into physical abuse along this trajectory.
· Manipulating or using children. Toxic spouses have no qualms about manipulating or using their children; for example, they may attempt to turn your children against you in an effort to undermine your case.
· Intentionally dragging things out. One spouse may also intentionally drag things out, using the legal system to delay the process out of spite or a selfish desire.
What to Do If Your Divorce Gets Ugly
What can you do if you experience some or all of these things?
· Consult with your attorney. First, you need to talk to an attorney. Before you decide what to do in response to these tactics, you need to understand the legality of those tactics and what legal options you have. Your lawyer will be able to provide you with insights and direction, as well as ideas for how to move forward.
· Avoid escalation. When someone personally attacks you or causes harm to you, it’s natural to feel inclined to retaliate or aggressively defend yourself. However, this usually makes matters more complicated in divorce and could worsen your position. In most situations, it’s better to avoid any kind of escalation.
· Remain neutral if possible. The grey rock method, designed to help people navigate interactions with toxic or abusive people, involves remaining indifferent in the face of toxicity. No matter what your spouse tries to do, avoid showing your emotions; these behaviors are likely planned and executed with the deliberate intention of evoking a reaction in you. If you don’t give that reaction, they won’t get a reward, and they may be less likely to continue these behaviors in the future.
· Get emotional support. Divorce is incredibly stressful, even when things are going relatively well. It’s important for you to have a strong base of emotional support, so lean on your friends, family members, and a therapist to help you through this situation.
Divorce isn’t a pleasant topic of conversation, and it’s certainly not a pleasant thing to go through. But if you’re aware of all the ways that a divorce can get ugly and are prepared for all of those possible eventualities, you’ll be in a much better position to come out on top.