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What to do if You’ve Been Emotionally Abused During Your Divorce
Florida is a no-fault state for divorce actions. Spouses can obtain a divorce because the marriage is “irretrievably broken” without having any other grounds for divorce. However, there are some cases in which a divorce is initiated because of martial wrongdoing.
Abuse is a common reason for divorce. Unfortunately, the abuse may continue even after a person leaves an abusive spouse. In some cases, domestic abuse continues throughout the divorce proceeding.
What is Emotional Abuse?
Abuse or domestic violence can take many forms. Physical abuse is a common form of domestic violence. Sexual violence may also be a factor in domestic abuse.
Physical abuse and sexual violence are overtly harmful. These types of abuse involve inflicting physical harm and pain. However, emotional abuse can be just as destructive.
Emotional abuse may be subtle in the beginning. The assault generally occurs over time and destroys a spouse’s self-esteem. Through words, behaviors, and actions, a spouse slowly tears another spouse down.
Emotional abuse can take many forms. Examples of emotional abuse include, but are not limited to:
Manipulating children, friends, or others into disliking, fearing, or distrusting a spouse
Criticizing a spouse’s appearance, including the spouse’s weight, clothing, hair, etc.
Controlling all decisions regarding finances, children, and the spouse’s daily activities
Shaming the spouse in front of friends or family members
Public embarrassment, patronizing comments, and belittling comments
If you are suffering from emotional, sexual, or physical abuse, you should consult with an attorney to protect the safety of your family. Additionally, you might be able to gain compensation from a civil lawsuit if you were physically assaulted.
Emotional Abuse Can Continue During the Divorce Proceeding
When physical abuse or sexual violence is the cause of the breakup of the marriage, the abuse usually stops when the spouses separate. However, emotional abuse may continue during the divorce proceeding. A spouse may use emotional abuse during a divorce to influence the outcome of the divorce.
For example, a spouse may manipulate the couple’s children to testify against the other parent to obtain custody. Likewise, a spouse may use personal information and photographs to threaten to embarrass a spouse on social media if the spouse does not agree to certain divorce terms.
A spouse may continue a subtle assault on another spouse during the divorce to make the abused spouse believe he or she is at fault for the breakup of the marriage. By convincing the abused spouse that he or she “failed” at marriage, the abusive spouse may believe he or she can coerce the abused spouse into accepting a less favorable settlement.
In some cases, continuing emotional abuse during a divorce is nothing more than a form of punishment. An abusive spouse may seek to punish the other spouse for “getting out” of the marriage.
Regardless of the reason, emotional abuse during a divorce can be severely harmful to the victim and the children. Victims of emotional abuse may have endured abuse for so long that it is difficult for the person to speak up. However, speaking up is the first step in getting help to stop emotional abuse.
Proving Emotional Abuse can be Challenging
Because emotional abuse can be subtle, proving emotional abuse can be challenging. An attorney can help a client identify evidence that may be useful in court.
For example, witnesses can be extremely helpful in proving emotional abuse. Family members, friends, and co-workers can describe situations in which a spouse belittled, embarrassed, or intentionally inflicted emotional distress. Written evidence is also useful, such as social media posts, emails, and notes.
Maintaining records is one way to prove emotional abuse. If your spouse is abusing or threatening you during divorce, keep a careful log of all contact with your spouse. Make notes about all conversations, including the date, time, and content of the conversation.
Place copies of all emails and other correspondence from your spouse in a file for your attorney. Take screenshots of all text messages and save all voice mails.
If you believe your spouse may be using visitation time or telephone calls with your children to unduly influence your children, report the conduct to your attorney immediately. Depending on the situation, your attorney may want to petition the court for supervised visitation or psychological evaluation of your spouse.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Even though you are married, your spouse does not have the right to cause emotional distress intentionally. In addition to your divorce, you may have another legal course of action if the emotional distress continues after the divorce is finalized.
Although the legal elements of intentional infliction of emotional distress are difficult to prove, it is possible in some cases. If a spouse’s actions were so outrageous that the conduct can be regarded as abhorrent and inexcusable in a civilized community, you might have a cause of action.
Speaking to your divorce attorney is the first step in stopping emotional abuse during a divorce. Your spouse is counting on you not speaking up. Tell your attorney what is happening so that your attorney can help you stop the abuse and hold your spouse accountable for his or her abusive conduct.