EP 132: Dealing with an Abusive Spouse in Divorce


In this episode, we will discuss some tips for dealing with an abusive spouse during a divorce. A divorce from an abusive spouse needs to be handled differently than an average divorce. It is important to take extra precautions to protect yourself. This situation is very complex, so this episode won’t cover all the aspects of navigating a divorce with an abusive spouse. However, you will hopefully find some useful information.

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Abuse can take many forms (such as physical, emotional, or financial), and there may be more than one kind of abuse going on. Both men and women can be abused. When abuse is present, it affects the entire process of divorce. There is good reason to be especially cautious if you are in this situation. Divorce is complicated enough, but an abusive spouse makes the situation even more difficult. The good news is that you are getting out of that situation, and you will make it through your divorce.

But how do you protect yourself and emerge from the divorce in the best possible way? Here are five tips:

1.     Prepare as much as you can beforehand. 

Whether you are planning your exit strategy or are already in the midst of the divorce process, it is important to prepare. If you have not filed for divorce yet, you can start consulting attorneys. Figure out where you are going to live, how you are going to support yourself, and what the ideal situation for the children will be. Find out what your key assets are, and try to get the documents for those assets. Get a sense of what you want your life to look like when this process is over. Preparing in advance will help put you in the best possible position later on.

2.     Don’t be afraid to get the authorities involved. 

If you ever feel physically threatened by your spouse, do not be afraid to contact the authorities. You can file for a restraining order, but if you are in immediate danger, call the police. You may need to go to a shelter to get yourself out of that situation. Fortunately, there are laws in place to help protect you during this time. In Episode 114, Larry Kaye gave tips about protecting yourself and preventing your spouse from stalking you.

3.     Your attorney is critical during all communication. 

As much as possible, avoid directly communicating with your spouse. If you can use your attorney as the filter between you and your spouse, it can protect you in multiple ways. In particular, if there was any physical abuse, you should avoid any interaction with your spouse. Any communication between the two of you could start a fight, and you do not want to respond in the heat of the moment.

4.     Get emotional support from a therapist. 

Therapists can help you work through all the complicated emotional issues that the abuse and  divorce have caused. This situation is going to be one of the most difficult times of your life, so it helps to have someone to talk to. A good therapist can help you work through those complex emotions.

5.     Do not accept that your spouse’s threats are facts.

This tip does not include threats of physical violence. If your spouse is threatening to hurt you, then you should definitely take it seriously, and get out of harm’s way. However, abusive spouses also tend to make divorce-related threats that you should not consider to be facts. For example, your spouse may say, “If you hire an attorney, I’m not going to pay you child support.” He or she may also threaten to take more than they are entitled to, such as full custody of the children or more of the assets. Also, abusive spouses try to intimidate you so you will give in.

Fortunately, there are laws that protect you during this process. Your attorney will help you fight for everything that you deserve. Again, other than threats of physical violence, these types of threats can actually help you, because they tell you what your spouse is planning. Then you can be prepared and take steps to make sure they are not able to carry out these threats.

Abusive spouses are often very difficult during divorce, but remember, you will get through this process. Take it one day at a time, and make sure you get the help you deserve.

Thank you for listening to the Divorce and Your Money Show. Visit us at www.divorceandyourmoney.com for 1-on-1 coaching. If you enjoyed the show, please take a moment to leave a review on iTunes, as it will help other people discover this free advice.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA

Dallas, Texas

Shawn C. H. Leamon is Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, a firm that helps successful families manage large financial transitions like divorce, inheritance and selling a business.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College, double majoring in Economics and Philosophy, and his Masters in Business Administration at Spain’s IE Business School.

Before founding LaGrande Global, Shawn helped manage $1.1 billion in client assets at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He also worked as a credit research analyst at J.P. Morgan. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and he has been an advisor to numerous high-stakes divorce cases.

Shawn is the author of two well-received finance books: Managing Private Wealth: Principles, and Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide, both published in 2016.

In his spare time, Shawn is an ultra-endurance athlete and has competed in events as long as 24 hours. He is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Alumni Board of Greenhill School.