While always unfortunate, the simple reality of many divorces is that there can be some hurt feelings and resentment involved. This is often why divorces come about to begin with, and during proceedings that involve negotiations and splitting of assets, among other sensitive areas, it’s no surprise things can get a bit tense.
At the offices of Day, Shell & Liljenquist, however, we’re here to tell you that there are limits to this within any divorce case, limits we take seriously for all our clients. There are some situations where standard tension and strain from a divorce gives way to legitimate emotional abuse, including to a level where divorce proceedings are impacted and additional lawsuits may be needed. Here’s everything you need to know about emotional abuse during a divorce case.
Defining Emotional Abuse
While most people are aware of what physical abuse would look like between spouses, it can be harder to define emotional abuse in some cases. Here are some examples, though discretion is of course needed in some of these areas:
- Yelling and screaming
- Isolating the spouse
- Sharing personal or private photographs or information, or spreading lies on social media
- Making specific verbal threats
- Criticizing personal areas like appearance or life choices
- Repeated and extreme shaming
- Controlling financial behavior and account activity
As we noted above, divorces will include several negotiation areas, from basic assets and property to child custody and child support areas if applicable. These negotiations are already likely fairly tense, but they can become virtually impossible if one spouse or the other is completely unwilling to compromise and continues with emotional abuse.
In these cases, courts may order outside assistance or mediation. In other cases, the judge will simply push your case to trial – and make no mistake, emotional abuse will be part of the case you can make at this point. A judge has a huge amount of discretion in a divorce trial, and could determine, for instance, that it’s not safe to award child custody to an emotionally abusive spouse.
Bringing a Suit
In other cases, emotional harm intentionally caused by your spouse could be grounds for you bringing a separate lawsuit against them. This lawsuit will be for intentional infliction of emotional distress, with basic guidelines as follows:
- The spouse in question engaged in outrageous, abusive behavior.
- Said behavior is a major factor in your emotional distress.
- Said spouse specifically intended this form of emotional harm with their behavior.
In these cases, you’ll have to be able to document more than just sour feelings. You’ll have to be able to prove significant suffering that a reasonable person should not be able to handle. However, the burden of proof is not so high that it can’t be attained – many such cases are brought and won on a regular basis, and we’re happy to help if you think you may have one against a former spouse.
For more on emotional abuse during divorce situations, or to learn about any of our family law or divorce attorney services, contact the offices of Day, Shell & Liljenquist today.