Divorce Terrorism Cases: Why is it so hard to divorce?
Divorce Terrorism is a war of attrition.
From the outset, these cases tend to start as most divorces do – with one spouse attempting to find an attorney by asking friends who have been through “terrible” divorces for a referral. The problem at this stage is that the person asking for help has often not told anyone about the abuse, so the people she approaches see what they have been allowed to see – typically an upper-middle class woman married to a successful husband from whom she has grown estranged. They have a long-term marriage, they look happy, well adjusted, their kids are successful. Things are just changing. A typical divorce.
Divorce Terrorism cases are anything but typical.
Your relationship was not typical, why would your divorce be any different? The behaviors that existed during the marriage – how your spouse treated others, how they reacted to stress – does not change. Like the scorpion who stings the frog taking him across the river, they act this way because it is their nature.
While many victims of domestic violence recognize the obvious perils of separation – lack of funds, inability to find employment due to stepping out of employment to support their spouse, fear of leaving the children for any period of time solely in the care of the abuser – many do not recognize another lurking demon ready to torture the already tortured soul – court.
Why Do These Cases Take So Long to Resolve?
Protracted litigation is a very powerful and seductive weapon for the abuser. From the outset of the case, abusers typically engage in avoidance behaviors that increase costs and delay any meaningful resolution.
Lack of Transparency
Though California requires both parties to disclose all assets and debts, the abuser will often refuse to produce documents or share information. When they do disclose assets, the disclosure is not complete. They hide assets, fail to disclose bank accounts, close out accounts, move money around, or move everything to cash. This creates a need for endless discovery motions, subpoenas or both.
Along with the refusal to provide necessary documents, the abuser will often attempt to point the finger at their spouse by making unfounded allegations that their spouse is guilty of the behavior the abusive spouse is being accused of. This creates a lot of extra work on the part of the abused spouse to not only address these claims but to also track these allegations and the outcomes because these accusations will recur throughout the case. Organization is extremely important.
Often these abusers are self-employed because they struggled to maintain a job where they had to be accountable for their behavior to someone who could fire them. It is difficult to tell how much they earn or how much the business is worth. A forensic accountant is often needed to help find necessary information and to evaluate the information provided, which can be extremely costly.
Lack of An Experienced Attorney
The abuser often refuses to hire an attorney (claiming they can’t afford one), or will serially switch attorneys to avoid producing information, complying with orders, or because the attorney is not telling them what they want to hear.
The Red Herring – Raising Frivolous Issues.
Once a case has started, the abuser will often file a series of frivolous motions, bringing up numerous unfounded or completely false claims, in order to detract attention from their own behavior. This overloads the court with the number of claims, which a judge in the limited time they have for most hearings, cannot address. Matters get continued. Issues like custody and support often languish for months without any resolution while countless hours are spent addressing the abuser’s frivolous claims.
The most common tactic is the “red herring” approach – making false allegations against the abused spouse in an attempt to draw the court’s attention away from their own bad acts, establish their position as the real victim, delay any resolution, and draw down the financial resources the abused spouse may have in an attempt to get the abused spouse to just give up.
This “red herring” approach is the hallmark of Divorce Terrorism and why these cases take so long to resolve. On some level, these frivolous accusations need to be addressed, but it is difficult to address these issues without going down the rabbit hole of unending litigation.
Do Not Engage With The Enemy
The sheer volume of red herring issues can often overwhelm the already ill-equipped court system and creates a never-ending need for litigation to resolve these red herring issues – never seeming able to get to the issues that matter, like support and a division of assets so the abused spouse can actually move on. This is the point. This is the game. And because the abuser fully identifies as the victim, the need to protect themselves from this continuing abuse is deep-seated and unshakable. This is gaslighting on a grand scale.
Does this sound familiar? How many times have you told yourself that you knew he was like that, but you never thought he would do this to you? You are not alone.
At Hart Ginney, we know that every divorce is different, and every divorce requires a different approach to resolution. Most attorneys are not prepared for a divorce terrorism case. Most attorneys do not recognize the signs and manage such a case like any other type of case. Because of this initial misunderstanding, divorce terrorism almost immediately morphs into the case that never ends. We strongly feel that no one should be forced to remain in a relationship because they are afraid of what the other party may do. If you are afraid of the next step, start by talking to someone who understands what you are facing and what options are available to you. We are happy to set up a consultation with you or your current legal team to discuss options.
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