As a couples therapist I’ve had the distinct displeasure of witnessing the divorce process up close…and as many of you know…it ain’t pretty. I realize there’s a place for a hard fought war between separating spouses. I also know that steps need to be taken to neutralize an abusive mate. But abuse notwithstanding, some of the tactics I’ve seen over the years are unnecessarily destructive, especially when children are involved. Here are seventeen distasteful and oftentimes provoking maneuvers employed by both men and women during the divorce process:
1. Rejecting or delaying a raise at work in order to reduce (or avoid paying) alimony or child support payments: Some people quit their jobs rather than pay their partners any money.
2. Hiding assets or money from your spouse: You see this one a lot with people who have their own businesses—particularly cash businesses.
3. While plotting a divorce you steal money from your partner and hide it in a separate account: One woman I treated hid stacks of cash that she had been skimming from her husband’s trucking business.
4. Raiding the safe deposit box: Who wins the race to the family jewelry?
5. Using the legal system to bankrupt your mate: The judicial system needs to do a better job setting limits with these obnoxious characters.
6. Allowing your attorney to needlessly slander your spouse: Some lawyers can get out-of-control and it’s your job to stop them.
7. Agreeing to an amicable divorce and in turn, hiring the meanest lawyer around: Don’t you love those spouses who say “everything is going to go smoothly,” and then proceed to bring a bazooka to a knife fight?
8. Teaming up with your lover to plot a divorce from your spouse: There’s nothing like actively enlisting someone to help you to destroy your own family.
9. Telling your children that your marriage is over before informing your spouse: This maneuver can place a great burden on your kids.
10. Forcing your children to accept your lover (or any new partner) before they’ve had time to emotionally process the divorce: This one’s especially self-serving.
11. Consistently ridiculing your estranged spouse in front of your children: Create loyalty conflicts won’t serve your children well.
12. Making up slanderous stories about your partner in an attempt to alienate him/her from your mutual friends: Friends don’t usually appreciate being manipulated.
13. Dumping your partner when he/she is at low point emotionally (e.g., lost job; hospitalized): Some people like to make a statement.
14. Dumping your partner during a time of celebration (e.g., Anniversary, Giving birth): Some partners insist on sadistically stealing your joy.
15. Divorcing your spouse for his/her best friend: Oftentimes people seem more upset by the friend’s betrayal.
16. Destroying your partner’s property during the divorce process: Cars and clothes are often victimized, but the particularly nasty types usually destroy something they know their partner will miss.
17. Locking you partner out of the family house even though he/she isn’t a threat to you: If no abuse is involved, this is usually a needless power maneuver to escalate the divorce battle.
Forgive me if I’ve missed a few dirty deeds but I’ve simply run out of ideas—I’m also getting nauseas. No doubt the legal divorce process is adversarial and fosters this style of play; but couples are often enablers who take their relationship dynamics into the divorce process and replicate their misery. Divorce Mediation, and Collaborative Divorce can help, but most couples don’t get along well enough to take advantage of these alternate routes. So, if you’re taking the “road most often traveled” to divorce, hopefully both you and your partner will exhibit grace under pressure. But just in case…don’t forget your checkbooks.