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How to Divorce a Controlling/Manipulative Spouse

Divorces can be emotionally challenging at the best of times. When you are trying to divorce a controlling or manipulative spouse, it can become all the more difficult. While there is no easy solution for dealing with controlling and manipulative partners, there are actions you can take to make the divorce process more bearable and disarm your spouse.

Continue reading for tips on how to divorce a controlling spouse, then contact a compassionate Englewood divorce attorney for help with a New Jersey family law matter. Call (201) 500-2151 to get started.

1. Plan Ahead Before Filing, and Don’t Alert Your Spouse

divorce decree in New JerseyThere are a number of steps you and your attorney can take in advance of filing for divorce. You can begin to collect and categorize your assets, track down all of your spouse’s assets (such as hidden accounts and offshore accounts), identify appropriate child psychologists or other useful expert witnesses, gather other relevant evidence, and prepare all the necessary paperwork.

If you know that you plan to divorce your spouse and you know they are controlling or manipulative, consult with an attorney in advance of filing to start the process. Do not alert your spouse to your plan, so that you can be ready to hit the ground running at the time of filing and avoid your spouse’s manipulative tactics that might discourage you from filing.

2. Minimize Communication; Use Your Lawyer

Once your divorce has been filed, the less communication you can have with your spouse, the better. One of your lawyer’s primary duties is to handle communications for you. Let them talk to your spouse and/or their attorney for all legal matters. They can handle the service of court papers, requests for documents and evidence, scheduling mediation or settlement negotiations, and other necessary tasks that involve contact with the other party.

3. Remember: Your Spouse Does Not Need to “Sign the Papers”

Many people are worried that their spouse will refuse to agree to the divorce, leaving them stuck in a loveless and abusive marriage. Those fears can now be set aside. It is no longer the case that both spouses need to agree to a divorce, nor does either party need to allege a particular “fault” to obtain a divorce. To divorce in New Jersey, one spouse need only allege:

  • There are irreconcilable differences between the couple leading to an irreparable breakdown of the marriage, or separation of at least 18 months
  • The residency requirements are met (at least one spouse has lived in the state for at least one year)

When you properly serve the complaint for divorce on your spouse, with help from your attorney, your spouse is legally obligated to respond. If they refuse to respond in court, you may be able to obtain a default judgment–meaning you get everything you ask for in your divorce complaint. A controlling spouse may try to prolong the divorce by disputing every little issue, but they cannot prevent the divorce from happening.

4. When You Have to Talk, Be Professional, Neutral, and Boring

If you do need to communicate directly with your ex to, for example, schedule parenting time or an exchange of property, be as professional and distant as possible. Your ex may try to goad you into a fight or some other emotional conversation; do not let them. Communicate by email or text, and keep your messages brief and professional. Be boring and factual, giving them nothing to latch onto in order to manufacture a conflict.

5. Gather Your Support Circle

grandmother reading to granddaughterDivorces can feel isolating. Many parties to a divorce feel like they are all alone, that they have no one to talk to. Often, they feel too embarrassed or depressed to reach out. Remember that your family and friends love you. They are there to support you through this time. Try to be proactive about scheduling social engagements and other recreational activities to avoid feeling like the divorce is all-encompassing. Divorce is a change in your life, not the end of your life.

6. Gather a Good Professional Team

You certainly want a good lawyer on your side. Not only do you want a qualified attorney who can fight for your interests; you want a lawyer you feel you can trust. It helps if your attorney has experience dealing with adversarial, controlling, and irrational spouses. In your initial consultation with a potential attorney, make sure to ask about their experience with hostile parties.

In addition to your legal team, therapy or counseling is invaluable for the divorce process. If you can afford the time and the cost of individual or group counseling, it can truly help with the emotional difficulties that any divorce can cause, let alone a divorce involving a controlling or manipulative spouse. There are many therapists and other mental healthcare providers who specialize in divorce therapy or loss counseling.

7. If You Are Experiencing Abuse, Get Legal Protection

If you, your children, or any other members of your family are in any danger of physical harm perpetrated by your spouse, get your family and yourself to safety as soon as possible. Call the authorities and talk to your attorney about your options. You might be able to obtain an order of protection forcing your spouse to move out of the house and stay away from your family. You could be eligible for an order of protection even without an imminent physical threat if you have experienced severe emotional and verbal abuse. Get the force of law behind you and protect your family from harm, with help from your New Jersey family law attorney.

Get Seasoned Advice and Representation for Your New Jersey Divorce

If you’re considering divorce in New Jersey or dealing with child support, child custody, property division, or other family law issues, contact the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at (201) 500-2151.