It’s sad but true. During divorce some men and women become unrecognizable to their spouses.
Like Jekyll and Hyde, formerly loving husbands and supportive wives won’t pay child support, fight relentlessly for sole physical custody, hide assets, divert or defer income, fail to become employed and so forth and so on.
Of course every Dr. Jekyll has unique reasons for his/her cameleon ways, but some of the most common are that a divorcing spouse:
a. feels rejected by your decision to divorce
b. feels guilty about his/her decision to divorce
c. has become detached and is handling divorce like a business transaction
d. is a psychopath, sociopath or simply on a very bad path
e. wants to retaliate
f. is scared…
You can spend hours, days, or weeks asking yourself “why”, but I suggest you don’t. The fact is your former spouse is acting differently and your best response is to acknowledge this fact and keep it in mind as you develop your divorce strategy and whenever engaging with your spouse.
Even if it’s a bitter pill and painful to swallow, now is the time to put your pain and/or astonishment on the back burner and deal with the person and divorce matters immediately before you.
1. If you don’t already have one, find and talk to a lawyer. If you can’t afford a lawyer, contact one of the many organizations that offer low or no-cost legal services. (See our Divorce on a Shoestring and Divorce 411 articles for help with your search.)
2. Know your case. Using our Divorce Issues Checklist, identify all of the unresolved issues in your case. Identify your goals and bottom lines for each. Also, prioritize the issues based on levels of importance to you.
3. Know the law. To the best of your ability, and as it relates to your case, understand your state’s family laws. For example, if your husband is refusing to pay alimony, spousal support or maintenance, find out if you’re legally entitled to receive it. If you are, also find out how payments are calculated and the projected frequency and length of payments. By understanding your legal rights, you’ll know your strengths and weaknesses and be able to understand the weight, if any, or your husband’s threats.
4. Know the estimated costs and risks of trial. In divorce litigation it’s important to know your risks and costs of trial. You need to know what you stand to lose and how much it may cost you. By knowing your risks and costs, you can weigh them against the benefits you might receive if you stand up and fight. This knowledge can be used as a barometer for your divorce decisions.
5. Take stock of your personal values. Once you understand the issues, laws and costs associated with your divorce, consider your values. Consider the effects a protracted legal battle can have on your health, psyche and family, against the possible rewards. Use this information to determine whether there are issues of little or no import to you that you are willing to concede and others of great value that you are unwilling to walk away from.
6. Examine your finances. Calculate your estimated income over the course of the divorce and identify other sources of money available to cover your expenses during litigation. Be brutally honest with yourself and figure out how you’ll survive if you go to the mat and lose.
7. Choose your battles wisely. If your husband is going to war over a minimal sum of money, decide whether a fight is worth your time and energy. If it isn’t, refuse to meet his challenge. If, on the other hand, your husband is threatening to take away everything you value, summon your deepest inner strength and push forward carefully.
8. Rein in your lawyer, if necessary. There are lawyers who thrive on litigation. When they see a husband dressed in battle gear they get their artillery ready and charge full speed ahead. If you have such a lawyer, be certain he or she isn’t stirring up extra trouble and is focused on the issues you’re fighting for. It’s okay if your lawyer is ready for battle provided he or she isn’t launching unnecessary attacks. Keep tabs on his or her agenda.
9. Remain hopeful. Even under pressure in the darkest hours, hold on to any faith you have. If the law is on your side and your lawyer optimistic, focus on this. Also, bear in mind that your husband may be all bark, no bite, and might fold in the final hour – believe it or not, this happens.
10. Don’t give up. If your husband is trying to ruin you and your survival depends upon the outcome of a trial, don’t ask yourself “why” just persevere. Do what you must to stay strong and be true to yourself. Turn to your friends, family or a support group for help, talk to a therapist and to the best of your ability, let go of your husband who once was.
You can make it through this. And, if your spouse is threatening to take you to the cleaners, just say to yourself “It’s about time he/she started doing laundry…and by the way, I like mine fluffed and folded!”