Divorcing A Manipulative/Controlling Spouse

Law Blog

If you have been raised to believe in the innate goodness of people, it can take a long time to realize that your mate is narcissistic, manipulative, and/or emotionally abusive. When you realize your relationship is not going to improve no matter what you do, this can prompt you to want to get away as soon as possible.  However, if you want a good outcome for yourself (and your children), you need to strategize first.

What You Need to Understand

Even though you are beginning to cut through denial you have built up over the course of your marriage, you may not be prepared for what can happen when your mate realizes you are going to leave. Once the motivation to "play nice" has been removed, you are going to be in for a tough fight.

People who display traits of personality disorders, such as narcissism, also have strong feelings of entitlement and are often guilty of projecting their own behavior on their mates. They may see themselves as the victims, no matter what they do to you.

You can expect them to try things like:

  • Getting people in your social circle to turn on you.
  • Ruining your reputation so they can gain custody of the children and avoid paying child support.
  • Hurting you financially and destroying any sources of material support.
  • Using parental alienation tactics to get your children to turn on you.
  • Thwarting your attempts to get a fair share of marital assets.
  • Using veiled or overt threats of violence.
  • Stalking you. You have to realize your safety may be at risk, even if up until now their behaviors have been primarily non-violent.
  • Regaining control of you by violence or sexual assault.

How You Need to Prepare

You need to go into stealth mode and delay announcing your plans to leave until you can get certain things into place. Duplicitous behavior may go against your nature, but you have to keep in mind that you are doing this for a short period of time for you and your children's future security.

Make a plan that will coordinate certain actions to occur simultaneously when you are ready to initiate divorce proceedings.

Here are some practical things you can do:

  • Gather detailed information on your joint financial situation, make copies of important documents, and consult an attorney.
  • Gather IDs, birth certificates and other documentation of yourself and your children, and put them in a safe place you will have access to later.
  • Save as much money as you can, and hide [it] in a place only accessible to you. Talk to a social worker about finding ways to obtain financial assistance for necessities in case your spouse cuts off access to bank accounts and credit.
  • Develop a support system with trustworthy family members and friends, but share information about your plans sparingly and only as needed for specific parts of your plan.
  • Update your job skills, or get more training if needed. Your state employment agency or community action program may have special programs for "displaced homemakers" that you can prepare to take advantage of.
  • If you are the main breadwinner, arrange your schedule to take more time with your children and know their schedules, doctors, and other particulars.
  • Consider getting counseling for yourself and your children.
  • Arrange a safe place (your mate is unfamiliar with) to go to if needed.
  • If your attorney recommends staying in your house, you would need to arrange for the locks to be changed and/or your security system to be updated on a certain date.
  • Train family members to call 911 at the first sign of violence.

It would be nice to have a civil divorce, but unfortunately mitigation and other types of collaborative methods probably won't be effective. You will need to consult a divorce attorney, like Lisa J Kleinberg, to give you specific legal advice for your situation.


5 June 2015

Choosing To Fight

Although I am far from perfect, I have focused on abiding by the local laws for the vast majority of my life. Unfortunately, about five years ago, I realized that I was being accused of a crime that I didn't commit. I thought about letting the trial run its course, but then I realized that fighting would be important to ensure my future. I teamed up with a great lawyer, and things became much easier overnight. My legal counsel told me what to do and what to avoid, and he was able to prove the facts in a court of law. This blog is all about choosing to fight charges.