Divorce Court Bullying

Bullying, as defined by Wikipedia, is “the use of force or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or to aggressively impose a certain type of domination over others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual.”  We have heard about bullying on the playground in our schools, but bullying also occurs in adult relationships such as marriage.  When it does, it often repeats throughout a divorce proceeding when that marriage is terminated.

Divorce court bullying is very expensive because it is not so easy for the bully to get his or her way when the target of the bullying is now surrounded by legal counsel and can seek intervention from a judge.  Because the bully will face resistance, legal wrangling ensues; the bully can now attempt to use the judicial system to push his or her agenda. If you are the target of the bullying, you must seek the protection of your lawyer and/or the judge while at the same time standing your ground in the process of regaining control over your life.  Now, for maybe the first time ever, the bully is “stared down” by your attorney and/or by the judge.  Therefore, while the bully may have had success with domineering yet childish ways during the marriage, lawyers and judges are not intimidated by such playground tactics.

Despite the fact the bully may for the first time ever be facing resistance, bullies are no doubt persistent and often never see the error of their ways.  As a result, it becomes incumbent upon you as the target of the bullying to gain the strength in the litigation process by working with your attorney to “stand your ground.”  Here are five tips to do that if you are the person who is the target of litigation bullying:

  1. Do Not Mediate.  Mediation is a wonderful process for people who come to the table in good faith to resolve their disputes.  Mediation should not be a forum for intimidation and threats by the bully.  If this occurs, mediation is not appropriate.
  2. Hit Rock Bottom.  Often people who are the target of marital bullying continue to hope the bullying will stop and continue to look for the “good” in the bully.  The lawyer representing you is not emotionally connected to the bully and therefore usually sees the bully for who he or she is; however, you may need to “hit rock bottom” to see the bully’s true self.  Once you are willing to listen to and consider your lawyer’s observations and opinions about the spousal bully, it will be the start of regaining your strength and self-respect.
  3. Determine What is Good for You.   Stop thinking about reaching an amicable solution with the bully because the only way that will occur is if you give in and make the compromises.  Rather, determine what is in your best interest, review it with your lawyer and then do not waiver from this position unless you and your lawyer have determined there is good reason to do so.
  4. Stop All Non-Essential Communication with the Bully.  Unless it is necessary to make arrangements involving young children, there is rarely a reason to continue communicating with the bully during litigation.  If there are young children, all communications with the bully should be limited to necessary communications about the children.  There should be no communications about the resolution of the pending litigation.  The bully will otherwise use these communication opportunities to intimidate, coerce and dominate.
  5. Litigate.    The bully is not able to compromise.   This means, all decisions are going to have to be made by a judge.  The sooner you recognize this reality, the sooner you can progress toward ending the divorce and starting a new life.

We see bullying every day – on the playground, in politics, on the world stage.  Bullying also exists between spouses and it can carry over into litigation during a divorce.  If you are the target of the bullying it will be difficult to stand strong during the litigation, but by trusting your lawyer and following the five tips outlined above, you will slowly, but surely regain confidence often stolen from you by your bullying spouse.  No doubt, fighting a divorce court bully is financially expensive, but the emotional and psychological rewards can be priceless.