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Divorcing a Bully

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Are you divorcing a bully or planning to do so? If you are then you probably feel a bit intimidated. Maybe you are unsure about how you are going to cope with your spouse’s bully-boy tactics during the divorce and whilst you are sorting out the financial settlement and arrangements for your children.

In this blog, our family law solicitors offer some thoughts on divorcing a bully.

Online and London Family Law Solicitors

For family law legal advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

Starting divorce proceedings

With the introduction of no-fault divorce proceedings, you do not need to prove that your husband or wife is bullying you or that they have behaved unreasonably towards you.

To start divorce proceedings all you need to do is file an application saying that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. Your husband or wife does not have to agree with your assessment of the state of your marriage. Often bullies have no perception of the impact of their behaviour on their partner and their relationship. The court no longer investigates the reasons for the separation and therefore it is far harder for your spouse to oppose a divorce.

Family law solicitors acknowledge that whilst the introduction of no-fault divorce proceedings may take some pressure off you, the likelihood is that if you have a bully for a partner, the bully will try to either stop you from starting divorce proceedings by piling emotional pressure on you or say that they want to be the one who applies for the divorce.

Should you let a bully start divorce proceedings against you? From a family lawyer’s perspective that may be a bad idea if your spouse only wants to start the divorce proceedings to control you and they have no intention of progressing the divorce once they have started the divorce application.

You should take legal advice before agreeing to your husband or wife starting divorce proceedings against you if you are worried that they plan to use the divorce proceedings as a weapon or to stall you from getting a final order of divorce.

Bullies and injunction orders

If your husband or wife is a bully you may need the protection of an injunction order. Some bullies are violent whilst others exert control in more insidious ways. For example, by keep telling you that you are stupid, saying that you cannot have access to money or a bank account, telling you that if you start divorce proceedings you will not see your children again or that you will have to leave the family home. If you are in the UK on a spouse visa you may be told that if you separate that you will have to leave the UK and the life you have made for yourself in England.

You can apply for an injunction order to protect against domestic violence in all of its forms. The definition of domestic abuse includes emotional and psychological abuse and being subjected to coercive control. In addition to the court making an order that your spouse must not abuse you (a non-molestation injunction), the court can also order that your spouse must leave the family home or that you be permitted to return to the family home (an ouster order or occupation injunction).  A family law solicitor can help you apply for an injunction order.

Bullies and arrangements for the children on your separation or divorce

If you have children, a family lawyer can discuss the option of applying to the court for a child arrangement order. A child arrangement order says the parent the children live with and sets out the contact arrangements. If your spouse is a bully, you may want the contact handover to be in a safe and public space or you may want contact to be supervised and take place at a contact centre.

Sorting out a financial settlement when you are married to a bully

A bully will often tell their husband or wife that if they leave the relationship they will ‘walk away with nothing’. Alternatively, they will say that they won't pay the bills on the family home so it will end up repossessed.

If you have immediate money worries our family law solicitors can advise you on your child support rights if you have children. We can also explain your right to apply for temporary spousal maintenance whilst long-term decisions are made about how to divide up the family assets.

It is important that you do not agree to a financial settlement with a bullying husband or wife without first talking to a family law solicitor. That’s because they may want to coerce you into something that is not fair. Taking into account a range of factors, such as your age, health, earnings capacity, and the extent of your family and non-family assets, the financial settlement needs to be fair to both of you and meet both of your reasonable needs so far as it is possible to do.

Leaving a bully

Leaving a bully is not easy, especially when your spouse’s bullying behaviour isn’t obvious. For example, if they are manipulative and controlling with you but play the concerned husband or wife when they are with their in-laws and your extended family. If you have children, it can be easier to decide to leave a bully if you recognise that your partner’s bullying behaviour is starting to affect the children. The children might be starting to emulate your bullying spouse’s behaviour or they may be too quiet in school and excessively anxious.

Whatever your family circumstances there is help at hand from a variety of sources, including family lawyers, to assist you in taking the first step in leaving and divorcing a bully.

Online and London Family Law Solicitors

For family law legal advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

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