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Some couples go through divorce like an episode of masterpiece theater. They are polite, gentle, accommodating and negotiate based upon reason and good faith.
On the other hand, all too frequently one spouse becomes a bully in the divorce.
A bully is someone who refuses to bend, insists upon getting their way regardless of the rules, and makes everything an emotional issue.
I can think of at least seven practical things you can do to avoid being bullied in your divorce.
1. Know the rules.
If you are afraid due to intimidation from your spouse or otherwise, a strong understanding of the rules will provide you with clear expectations that will minimize the fear that you feel.
There are, of course, divorce laws in Illinois. You need to understand them, at least on a basic level, as they apply to you. Do not simply rely upon friends advice. Rather, start learning about Illinois divorce law yourself.
A good lawyer can help you understand basic Illinois divorce laws that apply to all divorcing couples in Illinois. Note this: Illinois Divorce Law has gone through a series of significant changes in the past 18 months. Illinois now has only one grounds for divorce - irreconcilable differences - and after 6 months of a couples' separation these grounds cannot be disputed. Likewise, the Illinois law of maintenance now has a formula approach. Child custody has been replaced by allocation of rights and responsibilities, as well as visitation by parenting time. These changes are far more than a name change - it is new system of laws. Effective on July 1 2017, the manner in which courts will calculate child support will be significantly changed to a system called "Income Shares."
A good lawyer, who focuses on divorce law, can tell you how those laws are applied in your county, and many times by a particular Judge assigned to your case. There are written divorce laws, but there are also unwritten laws, just like there are with most everything else in life.
For example, is the Judge assigned to your case willing to divide child parenting time equally between father and mother? Some Illinois divorce judges do and some do not. All judges have their own beliefs about how parenting time should be divided. A good example is that some judges do not believe that a father should have midweek overnight visitation with his child or children, while other Illinois divorce judges freely order midweek overnight visitation. At Martoccio & Martoccio we can guide you through Illinois divorce law and how it is applied in DuPage County, Cook County, Kane, Kendall and Will counties because we have practiced divorce law in those counties for more than 35 years.
2. Do not follow the pattern of abuse during your marriage in your divorce.
Husbands and wives going through an Illinois divorce frequently follow the typical pattern of behavior they had followed during their marriage. For example, if one spouse orders the other spouse around during the marriage, the same pattern of bullying often occurs during the divorce. If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to break the pattern and stop following orders. Also understand that you should no longer follow your spouse's advice. Talk to someone you trust - not your spouse. If necessary, go to a therapist and explain that you have been dominated throughout your marriage and do not want to be bullied during your divorce. Once again a good Illinois divorce lawyer can help you see through the tactics employed by a dominating spouse.
3. Bullying is a form of insecurity to get attention.
Understand that it is not the victim, but the bully who feels insecure. Just as an attention-starved child acts out to get the attention they crave, an insecure bully engages in similar attention-getting behavior during a divorce. So stop giving it. Arguing with a spouse who is a bully will simply lead to more bullying. If necessary, go to divorce court and get a Protective Order to stop the bullying or harassment.
4. Do not take what your spouse says to heart.
Dealing with the emotional aspects of divorce takes time. Just like the death of a loved one, divorce has psychological stages. Shock, anxiety, sadness, and anger, as well as eventual acceptance of the loss of the marriage are all normal parts of both life events. In many cases, each spouse goes through these stages at a different speeds. One spouse may be over the marriage when the divorce begins while the other continues with these emotions months longer. For many divorcing people, eight to ten months (and sometimes longer) is necessary to feel normal again.
5. Have a strategy and a plan.
If you know what you need to get out of the divorce and plan well, you have a much greater chance of success: a life free of being bullied, a parenting plan, and the money necessary for you to lead a good life. If you are not sure what you want out of a divorce, speaking with an experienced divorce lawyer can help you more than you realize. We can help you not only help you decide what you want from a divorce, we can develop an individual plan to help you achieve your goals.
6. Assert Yourself.
It is unreasonable to expect that agreeing to the demands of your spouse that will suddenly cause them to become reasonable and do the right thing. More frequently, the bullying spouse just continues to be a bully. Do not be afraid to speak up and object if you feel that you have been wronged or that what is being recommended is the only alternative.
7. Try something different.
If you have been bullied throughout your marriage, you do not have to bully back during your divorce. Instead, take a reasonable position and stick to it. The spouse who is most likely to get extended parenting time with his or her children is the spouse who never waivers.
At Martoccio & Martoccio, we are here to listen to you and help you through this process. As husbands, wives, and parents representing families in divorce we understand what you are going through. With more than 35 years experience practicing family law we have the legal knowledge and skill to help you.