What I Hate About Divorce

Blog | 4.20.2017

Shareholder Ann Gushurst shares what she hates about divorce. 

Well, mostly everything except helping my clients.  The number of divorces I’ve done, where both people were able to rationally sit down and kindly part with no tears and no recriminations – the “conscious uncoupling” advocated recently by Gwyneth Paltrow – is few.  Most divorces have at least one blowup or one person who, upon reflection, feels like they got the short stick.  Even when people are absolutely committed to being scrupulously fair, divorce is not pleasant and one person is inevitably going to feel cheated, betrayed, or let down.  In one of the divorces where the parties were the kindest to each other, I still remember seeing them holding hands, quietly crying about the loss they were undergoing.

Now, this is not to say that every divorce rivals the War of the Roses.  The vast majority are accomplished without breaking the bank or one or the other’s hearts and most people are able to do a decent job of it with only a few incidental skirmishes that although they may have left some marks, did not represent an ordeal that radically changed either the psyche or the life projection of those involved.  And that’s what you hope for, because the loss of a marriage is significant, but it shouldn’t wreck your life.  Divorce encompasses a myriad of lesser losses (dual incomes, a home, your relationship, your image, family and friend relationships, some of your property, time with your children, and the list goes on) but it isn’t the loss of your sanity, your security, or your life.

Unfortunately, having said that, divorces can and do get ugly sometimes, particularly when you have what one of my friends calls the double whammy of “sick and mean.”  Many people are mean in divorces, because they are mean in general, or because they are really angry or, most often, because they are retaliating for their own pain.

Many people also have underlying mental illnesses that can come into harsh focus during a divorce.

But when these two paths intersect, the mean person who has an underlying mental illness, it can result in a painful process for their spouse.  And the ways this can manifest is an ever surprising range of behaviors you don’t come across every day. I stopped saying that I have seen it all when I realized over and over that I have not.

How do spouses make life miserable for their soon to be unsignificant others?  Let me count the ways: leaving emails to their lovers up on the computer detailing their latest sexcapades; writing and submitting a fake obituary (which was thwarted when the funeral home called up to confirm details); rubbing animal excrement on the other person (which resulted in assault charges); and of course there are the mundane things like draining the bank accounts, closing credit cards, and cutting up clothes.  Mundane not in terms of damage done, but in terms of the frequency of occurrence.

Sometimes karma is a witch.   In one case I remember, an opposing husband charged that his wife had put him on a cheaters website.  I didn’t know those types of sites really existed, but they do and they can be FUNNY.  The case had an interesting twist when, upon investigation, it turned out the source of the multiple offending posts was not my client, but several disgruntled girlfriends who had banded together to form a club of sorts.  It was a dilemma for my poor client who was at once both humiliated and yet highly amused.

Sometimes bad behavior goes from irritating to downright scary.  Cars are a frequent source of abuse from the old sugar in the gas-tank trick to a more recent and scarier episode where a client found all the lug nuts removed from their car (fortunately there was a note on the windshield alerting to this fact).  Others perpetrators are not so thoughtful: one of my clients had over 20 tire ‘accidents’, which lead to the installation of CCTV and her always parking her car where there were cameras.  When the incidents got more serious – up to and including severed brake lines – a court finally took notice but it was 5 years and thousands of dollars later.  And forget restraining orders or pressing charges unless you have proof.

Some of the most miserable things people do is to make false reports.  This happens all too often.  Parties get into a fight, the police get called, and while one spouse is at the door letting the police in, the other is in the bathroom scratching themselves or creating evidence that results in the arrest of the innocent spouse.  And, by the way, men do this every bit as much as women do.

How can you prevent this?  Think before you act.  The truth is that bad behavior begets bad behavior so before you decide to notify everyone on Facebook of what your ex has done, just remember that this type of behavior frequently leads to a downwards spiral that can have no end.

You ask why I hate divorce?  It’s because it’s never fun seeing an ordinarily nice person give in to their darker side, and it’s no fun to get hurtful letters from the other side, and it’s particularly no fun to know that innocent children are getting decimated between two warring parents.  Which is why I, as I said, every time I say I’ve seen it all I sadly discover that I actually haven’t.