Divorcing an Angry Spouse

Safe Strategies for Divorcing an Angry Spouse

According to some statistics, almost 50% of first-time marriages end in divorce, and the rate for second and third marriages is even higher. Divorce attorneys warn that there is often anger involved, particularly for the spouse that experiences the rejection. It helps to be aware that anger may be a response and to have strategies for how to deal with it.

How Anger Can Affect the Divorce Process

You can expect there to be some degree of anger during a divorce that is experienced by both you and your spouse. Anger is a stage of grief, and divorce is a grieving process. In fact, psychologists recognize divorce as the most traumatic experience in an adult’s life behind only the death of a child or spouse. Know that anger is not rational and may cause your spouse to act in surprising ways. They may:

  • Make unreasonable demands
  • Interfere with or refuse the divorce process
  • Use the divorce process as a tool for revenge

Dealing With Anger During a Divorce

You can only control your own emotions. Experts recommend that you:

  • Not engage with your spouse’s anger
  • Avoid antagonizing your spouse or blaming them
  • Recognize the pressure to give in and do not
  • Work through your lawyer or other intermediary when necessary

Find a Good Lawyer

As soon as you realize that you do or may want to divorce your spouse, consult with a lawyer. Meet with several or more if necessary to find the right one for you. A lawyer will handle the logistics of your divorce, but a good one will do much more than that. Your attorney should:

  • Help quell your fears and anxieties
  • Point you to the resources you need
  • Maximize productive problem-solving
  • Present you multiple options for problems

Build an Emotional Support Structure

You need emotional support. Lean on your inner circle. Confide in the people you trust the most. Take time to socialize. Every week, you should schedule time to visit family and enjoy a night out with friends. If you have children, experts warn against letting them be your emotional support structure, as it can harm them emotionally.

Manage Your Stress

Even the most peaceful of divorces is incredibly stressful. You can expect a divorce rife with anger to be even more traumatic. Experts recommend that you manage that stress through:

  • Daily exercise
  • Eating well
  • Breathing techniques and meditation
  • Laughter
  • Journaling
  • Counseling

Record Your Experiences

Many therapists suggest maintaining a journal during a divorce. It’s a useful way to record facts to recall them later. Journaling is also a useful tool for processing emotions. If there are concerns that your spouse may read the journal, some therapists recommend writing your feelings out by hand and then destroying the paper immediately afterward. You can also keep your journal in a safe or other secure location. Electronic journaling is generally not recommended, as it is easy to monitor. However you choose to do so, you may want to discuss it with your attorney in order to avoid your thoughts being subject to discovery.

Benefit From Counseling

Most experts advocate for pre-divorce counseling. That therapy should then transition to intra-divorce and post-divorce counseling. Pre-divorce counseling often involves the couple. It begins with determining if you can save the marriage, and if not, it then transitions to preparing to divorce. This may not be possible with an angry spouse. Experts recommend that you proceed with pre-divorce counseling alone whether your spouse refuses to participate or you simply prefer it.

Be Patient and Accept Your Spouse’s Anger

Even if your spouse is not dealing with their emotions well, understand that their anger is a natural response. Be patient. As they grieve, most people will overcome the anger and become productive. If your spouse does not, remaining patient and calm is still going to benefit you in the end.

Pick and Choose Your Battles

What is it you want? Make a list, and prioritize it. Fight for those things that are most important to you. Give in strategically. It may be a small thing, but if it’s important to your spouse, it could make a big difference in overcoming their anger and helping you get the things that are really important to you.

Alternatives to an Amicable Divorce

Your attorney will likely recommend a collaborative divorce if at all possible. While not suitable for every situation, this approach:

  • Saves money
  • Takes far less time
  • Preserves the couple’s control

Unfortunately, a collaborative divorce often isn’t an option when intense anger is involved. Your spouse may simply refuse to cooperate or may allow their anger to be an obstacle to agreement. In these scenarios, there are several alternatives:

  • Divorce mediation
  • Divorce arbitration
  • Divorce litigation

Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation is a type of process through which an impartial third party listens to each spouse’s concerns. This is generally considered the ideal divorce. It is relatively cheap and fast. The couple retains full control within the framework of what the law allows, and the attorney protects the interests of both parties and ensures that all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.

Divorce Arbitration

Arbitration is a middle ground between a collaborative and litigated divorce. An arbitrator, who is often a former judge, oversees the process and is not bound to the formalities of a court proceeding. This allows the arbitrator to focus on the key disagreements in order to resolve them. Arbitration is a relatively fast process, but it will cost more. Both spouses will also relinquish some control. The arbitrator is not there to help you reach an agreement but rather hear both sides and make a ruling. With that decision in mind, it is important to note that there is:

  • Binding arbitration
  • Nonbinding arbitration

Binding arbitration is the most common form. In this arrangement, the couple is legally bound to the arbitrator’s decision. An appeal is only possible in rare circumstances, such as a judge deeming that the arbitrator did not perform their duties in good faith. In nonbinding arbitration, either spouse has the option to reject the decision and move forward with litigation. This presents the risk, particularly when anger is involved, that the arbitration process is a complete waste of time.

Divorce Litigation

In some cases, the spouse is so angry that they simply reject the divorce. The good news is that New Jersey state law allows a spouse to divorce even when the other spouse does not want to or refuses to participate. The downside is that you will have to go before a judge. The process will take longer and cost more. The judge will have complete control, and if your spouse does choose to participate, the process can be very expensive and take as long as 24 months to complete.

Do You Need Help Divorcing an Angry Spouse?

At the Law Offices of Kelly Berton Rocco, we have more than 35 years of experience in these types of matters. That includes dealing with divorces where our client’s spouse is so angry that it really complicates the process. If you’re in such a situation or you fear that you may be, we recommend consulting with an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible. To schedule a consultation, call our Hackensack office at 201-343-0078, or contact us online.

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