The thought process around divorce has changed drastically over the last few years. Not only are many adults now familiar with how divorce impacts children but they’re aware that a messy divorce isn’t necessary. That said, toxic relationships are leading to ever more toxic divorce proceedings.
People are finding new underhanded ways to attack each other and provide an unpleasant experience for everyone involved. Your toxic relationship may finally be coming to an end, but you’ll need legal counsel to help with the fallout.
Can you stop someone from attacking you personally online? What if they post images or videos which were private or are outright damaging to your reputation? The only way to handle internet attacks with a proactive response.
First, change your passwords. In toxic relationships, password sharing is widespread as it coincides with over-dependence, jealous, and possessive behavior. Second, block them on all forms of social media. It is all too common for an ex to post cruel or hurtful things on someone’s page or profile in an attempt to spur a reaction. Finally, report them properly.
Although reporting someone to the social media network might not always work. If the online harassment is severe and you believe it may become physical or is dangerous, report it to the police. Be sure to screenshot any posts which could be a threat of violence or harassing in other forms.
Handling Ongoing Substance Abuse
Regardless of the substance, if it plays a role in your relationship, it’s a toxic presence. However, substance abuse can drastically impact your divorce. On a legal level, a drug test may affect child custody, child support, visitation, and more. In some states, a positive drug test and threats of violence can nullify any necessary waiting period resulting in an immediate divorce.
How does substance abuse come into play with a divorce? One partner will accuse the other of drug use. The family court will take those charges and identify if the children involved are at risk. It doesn’t matter if the drug is legal or illegal, the children’s safety, well-being, and health is the primary concern.
The family court will order drug testing and then make a decision on child custody based on the results and other outlying factors.
It is possible, and becoming increasingly common, for someone to make this allegation as part of an attack. If you believe that your spouse is capable of this type of attack, then you should bring an attorney into your defense. Drug use allegations are always taken seriously. You could need help defending yourself even if you know that you don’t use drugs.
Taking Control Over Physical and Emotional Abuse
Physical and emotional abuse are far more common than most people care to admit. However, the presence of abuse can substantially change how your divorce plays out. You should always seek immediate help and make sure you have access to a safe place.
In a toxic relationship, this abuse could have become apparent over the course of many years. You may have never filed a police report, and that might make it challenging to show the presence of abuse within the relationship.
What you need is a therapist. With a therapist and an attorney, you can work towards a successful divorce, freeing you of your abusive partner. A therapist can help you learn and develop skills to recover from abuse and work towards building healthy relationships in the future. Divorce is painful, and when an abuse party is present, they will likely contest many aspects of the divorce. But looking towards the future and working with professionals can give you the confidence you need to leave this situation.
Processing Over-Dependence, Guilt, and Anger
What is over-dependence? You may not even know that this is an aspect of your relationship. Over-dependence is when someone wants all of your time. It’s present in many situations of emotional abuse, and it starts with the lovely concept of spending every waking moment with your new love. As time wears on, they become passive-aggressive, alienate your friends, and refuse to make decisions without you.
Along with over-dependence are guilt and anger. You may feel guilty or angry, and either emotion can significantly change how the entire divorce process happens. Alternatively, your former spouse might feel either of those emotions and act on them, making the process more difficult for you. Attorneys, particularly divorce attorneys, work to help people proceed and fight through the emotional aspects involved. During a separation or divorce, these emotions can drag out proceedings, and result in bitter feelings.
Usury is a simple concept and very present in most divorces. One spouse has relied on another for money, sex, social connections, or housing, and they don’t want to lose that. So, they’ll invoke guilt to continue receiving these benefits even as the marriage is falling apart. Reaching a dissolution in these situations is difficult because the formal agreements need to reflect the actual living situation.
For example, if the divorce agreement states that your spouse will move out and provide their own housing, but that doesn’t happen, you can have further legal problems down the road. Discuss with your lawyer how you can work to keep up your terms in the divorce decree. Then work with your therapist to ensure that you’re not falling pretty to their attempts of exploitation.
Finally, you need to avoid legal traps actively. Your former spouse may provoke you into saying hurtful things that they can claim as slander. Or, they can repeatedly claim that your financial information is incorrect, without providing evidence. A fairly common legal trap is to present the opposite of legalese. They make the wording so simple that it seems beneficial to you when it’s not.
For example, a statement may be as plain as “meeting the reasonable right of time for parenting.” But depending on the state you’re in that “reasonable” time could be alternate weekends only with one consecutive week in the year. That’s less than 25% of the entire year.
The issue with legal traps is that many people fall into them because they want to get the whole process over. People in toxic relationships that are finally in a divorce are often willing to sign to unreasonable agreements. Not to mention that at least one person in toxic relationships who is capable of long-term manipulation.
Enjoy the fact that you’re finally getting out of your toxic relationship. The divorce will be challenging, and it may come with more issues than usual, given the issues between you two. Keep your focus on moving forward and make plans for what to do after the divorce to ensure your next relationship is healthier.
Elizabeth S. Coyle is the current Director of Client Services for JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law based in Mesa, Arizona. She serves as a paralegal for the Family Law Department of the firm.