Considering all the scary things that could happen during and after a divorce, most of us would be most happy if the ex simply went poof and disappeared. And why not? Aside from financial obligations and scheduling activities for the little goblins, you probably aren’t too interested in maintaining friendly relations at this point. To test your resolve, here is an easy quiz – please choose the correct answer.
Since the successful conclusion of your divorce, the punishment you would most likely seek for your ex would be:
- Taking a bath in a bubbling vat of Sriracha sauce,
- Performing 1,000 push-ups over a swarming nest of fire ants, or,
- Hanging upside down in a dank, humid cave trying to learn the bat alphabet.
The correct answer is yes. In that order.
Since everyone aced the quiz, it’s safe to say that having as little unnecessary contact as possible with an ex-spouse is a highly desirable outcome. And let’s face it, most of the time the feelings are mutual. No one goes through the time, expense and anguish of a divorce looking for more quality time with the ex.
But what if the unexpected happens? Maybe you’re at a neighborhood Halloween party, rocking your latest Dracula costume, and out of the corner of your eye, you spot something. Familiar yet frightening, casual yet caddish, holding a beer at a ridiculously rakish angle – could it be? After a few minutes of scaracter observation, you know that sarcastic, smothering, sanctimonious succubus is your ex. But why show up here? Particularly when he/she is way behind on child support payments and has taken every opportunity to throw stones your way.
Idle ex-spouses = trouble
This is profound, so get ready – divorces create animosity. This shouldn’t be surprising, considering one spouse is suing the other. And you can usually see this problem escalating. Does your ex slip little insults into your phone calls or emails? Are plans changed at the last minute, always to your detriment? Is information you divulged as a courtesy later used against you? If this sounds familiar, you can be sure that some of your former friends are getting an earful of post-divorce propaganda – either in person, via social media, through third parties – by any means possible. There is an old saying that a bored dog is a bad dog. If your ex has time on his/her hands, scheming will likely result.
What can be done?
This kind of behavior (subtle harassment) usually isn’t specifically forbidden in a divorce settlement. Even if it is, these actions can be tough to prove. So start with your agreement – does it prohibit bad-mouthing you to your kids? To your employer? To your friends and other family. Even if it isn’t specific, it may be possible to initiate a modest action (like a letter) that will put your ex on notice. This will usually cure the late child support problem as well. Here’s another tip – nature abhors a vacuum. If you aren’t talking to your family and friends, you are providing your ex with a forum to make mischief. Your family might be wondering why you don’t call, and then bang – your ex fills in that thought with a spectacular fib that they might start believing over time. Be sure your friends and family hear your side of the story early and often.
Use the “hide and write” method
An effective strategy to counter an ex spouse, in case of future litigation, is to hide personal information, and to write (record in a journal) what snide actions they are performing. For example, block your ex on all social media, along with anyone else who might pass info behind enemy lines (hide), but do record what you know to be true, like your ex’s overseas trip with a “friend” (write). Do not reveal improvements made to your new home (hide), but feel free to record that new car your ex just acquired (write). Never discuss anything pertaining to your current relationship (hide), but recording the shortcomings of your ex’s dating life is fair game (write). A good rule of thumb is this – if you want to brag about something or are upset about something, it probably shouldn’t be divulged (hide), but anything your ex brags or frets over is fair game (write). When you are recording him or her, don’t let them know you are doing so, and don’t use any methods that violate privacy laws (which includes accessing email, social media, or bank accounts, even if you still know the passwords). Only record what is easily said or made available.
Emotions can certainly run hot during and after a divorce. Always consider your agreement before discussing any issues concerning your ex. You don’t want to do anything that makes you look petty, mean or (worst of all) unstable if the worst happens and you wind up before a judge again. If you have any questions on how to prevent such harassment before, during and after a divorce, please contact my office and set up a consultation.