Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin. Paul McCartney and Heather Mills. Madonna and Guy Ritchiee. You likely know where this is going. Hollywood is certainly not at a loss when it comes to bitter divorces. We see it all the time as couples sling mud and air dirty laundry, both of which only end up dragging out the divorce process.
During a marriage we feel a sense of responsibility for the well-being of a spouse. For some divorce takes away that sense of responsibility and it becomes about protecting their own interests at the expense of others. That often means taking revenge for a broken heart (or bank account).
While It’s not easy dealing with a spiteful spouse during a divorce, there are ways your actions can minimize the effects of a spouse who has become emotionally unglued and also protect your best interests.
If you are dealing with an angry spouse, he or she is simply not able to let go of negative emotions and use logic. Plainly put, all bets are off with this person. But, that doesn’t give you carte blanche to jump into the ring as well. Instead, make sure NOT to act out of emotion. Talk to your attorney and keep a record of your spouse’s behavior. It may be used against him or her in court.
A tense divorce can make anyone act out of character. But, be careful about dating, partying and hanging out until the wee-hours of the morning. This type of behavior can have negative consequences in court, especially if you have children. During your divorce, spend time with friends, family and your children. Stay close to home. Take care of yourself emotionally. Consider speaking with a counselor to help you get through the turmoil your spouse is causing. Make smart and healthy choices, even if your spouse is not.
If your spouse is the breadwinner in the relationship AND is being unreasonable during the divorce, you’ve got a lot of cards stacked against you. The best course of action is to start taking steps toward your financial freedom. If you don’t have any credit in your name alone you should establish some now. Many people, especially stay-at-home parents find that, after divorce they have a hard time purchasing a home or car because they have spent years sharing credit with their spouse. All that credit you’ve had over the years with your spouse is helpful to him or her but once you are single, you will get very little ‘credit’ for keeping those payments up. You need to get a credit card in your name and go ahead and use it, making sure to pay it off each month. You want to establish a good credit score that will help down the road when you want to own a home or buy a car. Also, keep in mind establishing credit will not affect your spouse’s financial obligation (spousal support) to you if there is one.
This is especially important if child custody is at stake. Don’t act like a good mother/father, be one. This is a stressful time for your children and they need you to stay focused on meeting their needs. In the end, the judge doesn’t care about you or your spouse. The judge cares about your children and you should too.
It’s a natural reaction: your spouse says something irrational and mean and you stop talking. You don’t want to say something you’ll regret, so you think it’s better to say nothing at all. While silence works in some situations, it’s not the best bet during a divorce. Certainly you may not be able to get through to your angry spouse, but it’s worth throwing a few useful thoughts out there in case he or she is listening. Don’t forget, if you can only communicate via attorneys, you will pay a fee for every communication. Maybe remind your spouse that these fees won’t help as both of you work to support two households.
Even if your spouse is feeding the kids lies about you, don’t be tempted to do the same. You have to keep your children’s interest as a number one priority during the divorce. Want your child to be sad, emotionally-unavailable, distracted, lost, etc? Of course you don’t. Then don’t use that child as a pawn in your divorce. The trauma you can cause is life-altering and cruel. Don’t make any decisions without considering the well-being of the children first.
Who can blame you for wanting to get as far away as possible from your angry spouse?
But, unless there is abuse, I normally tell clients to stay where they are. Here are the reasons why:
- If you have children in the home and you leave, it could affect custody rulings in the case.
- It could affect the interest you have in the property. If you move out and your spouse pays the mortgage the entire time of your divorce process, the judge may factor that into a decision about property distribution. If the situation becomes too stressful and you feel you have to move try to continue to pay a portion of the mortgage payment and keep documentation of those payments.
Certainly, if there is domestic abuse, take whatever steps you need to protect yourself. Leave the home if you feel you are in danger. If there is a history of domestic violence, discuss it with your attorney because he may be able to legally have your husband removed from the marital home.
Don’t talk to your spouse about the divorce or parenting until you learn how to lay the groundwork for successful negotiation. Your aunt Jane’s advice to tell your spouse to “jump off a cliff” is not going to help your situation, especially if you're dealing with a person who is angry and revengeful. Friends and relatives can be great for moral support but do not get your advice there.
You cannot control your angry, revengeful spouse during the divorce process. But, you can control yourself. Make smart decisions about your behavior. If you have children, put their interests first. And, be careful not to take advice on divorce from anyone who is not an expert on the process. Keep your cool. It could make all the difference when divorcing a hot-headed spouse. There is a light at the end of the divorce tunnel. Millions have successfully gotten to the other side and so will you.
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