What If My Spouse Retaliates Against Me For Filing For Divorce?
The decision to divorce can be brought on suddenly or made after a long period of disagreement between spouses. In either case, emotions can run very high upon filing for divorce. A spouse may react out of anger or jealously when he or she learns about the divorce filing. The law offers means of protecting spouses from some forms of retaliation, but not every type. Below is an overview of common types of retaliation and legal remedies available.
Any physical retaliation by a spouse is actionable while a divorce is pending, just as it would be absent the divorce filing. For example, if a spouse physically attacks the other, the victim has a claim for civil battery. This mean that a jury can hear about the incident and award monetary damages to the victim. There will also likely be criminal components to any physical abuse. Criminal cases can result in probation or jail time for the abuser, but no monetary damages for the victim.
After a physical attack or a threat of a physical attack, the victim can also seek a Protection from Abuse Order. These orders are provided for by Section 60-3107. The victim of abuse can file for an order in court. Once granted, the order will prevent the abusing-spouse from coming near the victim. A spouse can also seek such an order when the children are abused by the other spouse. These orders will also control access to the home, generally prohibiting the abusing-spouse from entering the property. These are the most typical means of protecting spouses during a pending divorce.
Verbal Abuse And Harassment
A victim of verbal abuse may also have an independent legal claim against the retaliating spouse. Verbal abuse can lead to claim of assault—placing the victim in apprehension of being physically abused—or intentional infliction of emotional distress. Intentional infliction of emotional distress (also known as the tort of outrage) requires outrageous actions by the abuser meant to cause serious emotional harm. This means the emotional or verbal abuse must be extreme. This is even more true in the context of divorce, as a certain level of distain is likely to be expected. Criminal law prohibits a wider variety of activities, such as telephone harassment and stalking. Again, though, criminal prosecutions serve to punish the abuser or harasser; they do not offer redress for the victim’s suffering in the form of monetary damages.
When the abuse suffered is verbal or emotional, a Protection from Abuse Order is not available. These orders are reserved solely for three types of abuse: physical, sexual, or threatened physical or sexual abuse. Though verbal and emotional abuse is actionable through other legal means, a Protection from Abuse Order cannot prevent the abusing-spouse from contacting the victim. This means that the other spouse will be allowed to enter the martial home as he or she pleases.
Destroying Property Or Spending Shared Accounts
A property division must occur in every divorce. The court will have to make a fair distribution of all property between the spouses. One factor the court is instructed to consider in dividing property is squandering of assets. Upon filing for divorce, each spouse has an undetermined interest in all property owned by the couple or either spouse. This means that that property cannot be destroyed or given away without permission of each spouse. This can occur in the form of destroying the martial home, such as punching holes in walls or intentionally flooding the home, or destroying personal property owned by the couple. Alternatively, one spouse may burn through money that the couple has. This includes withdrawing and hiding money as well as purchasing expensive items to solely benefit one spouse. When a spouse has squandered or destroyed assets, the court will generally remedy this by simply “crediting” the squandering-spouse’s share of the property with the value of what was lost or spent. This means that if a spouse were to give away $10,000 of the couple’s money, that spouse’s share of the property would be reduced by $10,000; the court would treat that spouse as receiving the $10,000 when deciding how to divide up the remaining property.
Perhaps the most common type of retaliation brought on by divorce is social. A spouse may encourage others to ostracize the other spouse for filing for divorce. This can have devastating emotional effects on an individual already going through a painful divorce process. However, the law can’t offer redress for every unpleasant and immoral thing individuals can do to one another. Though this kind of treatment is extremely unpleasant, there is no legal remedy available. This is true for social retaliation in church or religious groups, amongst friends, and even neighbors.
One caveat to this truth is when the spouse lies about the other spouse. If the spouse lies about the other spouse’s actions and harm results to the victim’s reputation, the law may offer redress in the form of a slander claim. However, slander claims are generally tricky business. To prove a slander claim will require a very invasive discovery process, especially if the slanderous statement concerned sexual activities. Even after this long and invasive process, the monetary damages available are often slight. Thus, even in the case of lying, social retaliation is often difficult to address using the legal system.
Retaliation brought on by filing for divorce makes an already difficult process even harder. Some forms of retaliation can be addressed quickly by legal processes. Others take great time and may offer little reward. Finally, some forms of retaliation are simply outside what the law can address. Only after contacting experienced legal counsel can you be sure what options are available to stop and redress retaliation by your spouse. It is vital to keep your attorney informed of all types of retaliation your spouse commits after learning of the divorce filing. If you have questions about retaliation after filing for a divorce contact the experienced Johnson County family law attorneys at Copley Roth & Davies.
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