No matter where in the world you are getting divorced, you can find yourself facing a divorce bully. Bullies are omnipresent in every walk of life. Bullies are born and bullies are bred. Bullies make your life a living, miserable hell. And when you are going through divorce, it is no different. In fact, you can just accept that it can get exponentially worse.
The beauty about it is that the bully (the one you had been married to and are now trying to divorce) usually started to bully you long before you decided to file for divorce. Being married to a bully can take many forms. They can do everything from using passive-aggressive tactics, using money as a control mechanism to marital rape. Some bullies even kill. So what do you do? You try to get out of the situation by getting a divorce and wham!
They bully you there too, during the divorce process.
A bully is not going to select a passive, reasonable divorce lawyer. You can forget about that. A bully will tease out the biggest, most horrible divorce lawyer he or she can find to further torment you as you try to end this marriage. What do you do? Do you get a bully of your own? Well, hey, if it comes down to that in order to defend yourself you have to do what it takes to defend yourself. Why get a weak, terrified and soft-spoken attorney to deal with your bully spouse and his or her bully attorney?
And it not just them. Sometimes you just get the divorce judge from bully hell who takes one look at you and see fresh victim prey and they decide to bully you too. They do it through the system, and through your lawyer or if you represent yourself, OMG. You’re red meat.
What can you do? Well, first, figure out the angle of the bullying.
Usually, you can fit it into 4 categories:
A) About money
With this type of bullying, your ex and your ex’s attorney want you to agree to some type of financial settlement or else. They use threats and intimidation to get you to do as they want you to do -including threatening that you will end up with nothing. The way you respond is by being super prepared as far as knowing the extent of your marital net worth and having a good legal team to help make sure that your interests are protected. Have as little direct communication with your soon to be ex and certainly the attorney for this person – unless of course you are self represented. In the latter case you will have to engage but if you know all your rights and have the right type of support from family and friends, you will feel stronger and project more confidence. Remember that it’s just money and not worth dying over so you have to gauge the situation to see whether you should stand your ground or walk away. If we are talking about a significant amount of money and property, I cannot imagine any scenario where it is better for you to represent yourself versus having a lawyer as an intermediary. If it is not a lot of money and you are self-represented, really ask yourself it is even worth it. If you decide that it is, then be prepared, be strong and stand your ground; stand up to the bully.
B) About the kids
Bullies take your kids away by lying about your character to the court, painting you as a bad parent, or alienating your children from you. You have to be prepared to go to war to defend your good name and reputation in this context and at the same time, it’s like walking on egg shells because you don’t want to further alienate the kids, nor do you want to play the same toxic game as your spouse in trying to turn the kids against him or her. Again, a good lawyer is key but also the testimony of friends, neighbors, school personnel, church personnel and others who know you well and can attest to your parenting. The children themselves can also be a key ally (or not) in this situation. If the children are adamant that they don’t want anything to do with you, no matter how bewildering this is to you, be very careful in how you handle it and in showing anger towards them. Just continue to be a parent, step back a little and wait. In time, they hopefully will come to their senses. If they don’t, so long as your conscience is clear, the conscience of the other party cannot be. Something will give eventually. The key is not to let this type of bullying change you into what the other person wants you to be. Be careful about “becoming a monster to fight monsters.” They win if they turn you into the same type of monster that they are. Stay true to yourself and give this time. It will pass.
C) About the Grounds for Divorce
Sometimes you are bullied about the grounds for divorce. This is usually the easiest to fix. Just go with “irreconcilable differences” or whatever the language is for an uncontested divorce. The thing is sometimes, you have to choose your battles. Yes, this person was a monster who committed violence against your body, spirit and soul in many different ways, but you just want out with as little drama as possible. Why rehash the whole thing if its just going to cause World War III? It is not to say to back down from the bully but just to say to choose your battles. If you have lived through a marriage of bullying with this person, it is understandable that you want your justice but trying to hold out for a contested divorce with certain grounds can be trouble and can lead to greater bullying and more stress than this animal is worth. Walk away with a “no fault” filing and move on with your life.
D) Just bullying for bullying sake?
Sometimes it is not just you but the attorney or the judge or even the personnel at the court with whom you have to interact in order to end this marriage. You are not going to win ’em all. When you can stand up for yourself, do. Otherwise, refuse to engage. Take a stance of disengagement as much as possible and let them go at it, understanding that these types of people who treat people this way can’t help themselves. They were born and bred this way and it is all they know how to be. In a way they deserve compassion. Because they have a burden to overcome and often they don’t even realise this about themselves. Or they do but they are helpless against their impulses. Do the best you can to have as little contact or only as much contact as necessary to get through this situation and move on with your life with your dignity in tact, knowing that are not worth you getting bent out of shape. And knowing that you will survive even them.
Best of luck.