On an almost daily basis I receive calls from panicked clients who have been threatened by their spouse. These threats are often gravely concerning to my clients, but in fact few of them should be as they are often made in an attempt to scare and intimidate you, and get you to back off. The following is a list of common threats that are made by vindictive spouses during divorce:
- I will tell the court about your behavior and you will never get the children.
Divorcing spouses threaten anything to try to get custody, and that usually means that they stand little chance of getting custody themselves, and therefore they need to threaten and browbeat you to try to get you to back off. They threaten to reveal affairs, or perhaps that you smoked pot 5 years ago, that you have seen a therapist, are on anti-depressants, that you drink a two or three glasses of wine every day, or any other threat that they can think of. Typically most of these threats have little to do with the best interests of the children and will not be seriously considered by the court.
- Why are you trying to take my money from me?
The answer this question is that you are asking for what you are legally entitled to under that law of this state and that you are entitled to your fair share.
- Either do this my way, or you won’t get a dime.
This threat is made by an individual who is used to being in control and getting things their way. The assets will be divided pursuant to the law regardless of this threat.
- I’ll go to jail before I’ll pay you a dime.
The courts have developed various tools to ensure that support payments are made. If someone really does not want to pay it is true that the court can place them in jail on a charge of contempt, but this is rarely the case as usually most people pay their obligations voluntarily long before it gets to spending time in jail.
- I’ll quit my job before I’ll pay you that amount of support.
There are many ways to enforce a support obligation, and if a spouse purposefully quits their job the judge will come down very hard on them. If you hear such a statement try to get a witness who can testify in court that they heard the statement. If the statement is made in an email or letter, save it, you will be using it in court.
- Your attorney is a loser/inexperienced OR my attorney can represent you as well as I, why don’t we just save money and use one attorney.
Your spouse wants to be in control of the legal process, and if you don’t have an attorney he will be able to control the result.
- Your attorney is making me provide all kids of documents. Call him and tell him to cancel all “discovery” requests”, he is just running up your bill.
Divorce attorneys will send “discovery” or requests for various categories of documents at the beginning of the case. A good attorney will narrowly draft these questions so that they are specific to your case. Regardless, this process is very important so that your attorney can fully understand the extent of the assets and the issues of your case, and the spouse who has to answer these discovery requests will often complain. Let your attorney decide what information is necessary.
- You’ll never see the kids again.
California law encourages frequent and continuing contact with both parents. Courts often change custody of the child if the parent intentionally denies the other parent contact with the child. Furthermore, if a parent moves out of the area just to deny the other parent time with the child, the court can switch custody, or allow custody to be modified to allow for the other parent to have significant vacation time.
- I will drag out this case for ever– I would rather pay my attorney than pay you—I will fight you to the bitter end.
It is true that many spouses threaten to continuing fighting and dragging out the case in the hope that you will give up or run out of resources to continue. While it is unfortunate that people use such tactics, there are tools to combat such a technique. A good attorney will push the case forward to trial. Furthermore, the Court can sanction the delaying spouse and make them pay your attorneys fees for such stall tactics.
- I am going to file for divorce in Nevada (or some other state or country).
There are rules of jurisdiction and residency that apply to divorce and custody issues. It is true that your spouse may be able to get divorced in another place, but the other jurisdiction probably does not have the authority to divide your property or deal with issues of custody. If you are faced with such a threat immediately consult your attorney.
If your spouse makes any of these kinds of threats you should maintain a log and keep track of the exact statements, time, date, place and occasion with a detailed summary of what was said.