What to Do When Your Spouse Makes Divorce Threats

Gathering up the courage to ask for a divorce is hard. Things can get even harder if your spouse resists or starts threatening to take you to court or never pay you a dime. Unfortunately, this does happen, but just because your spouse makes a threat doesn’t mean that it is true. Using the Divorce Decisions Workbook by Margorie Engel and Diana Gould, we answer a reader’s question by looking at the most common divorce threats and separate fact from fiction. 

Question:
My spouse and I are divorcing, and they say that unless I agree to split the property the way they want, they’ll take me to court and the judge will order us to sell everything. Can my spouse do that?

Answer:

First, we’re sorry that your spouse has resorted to divorce threats instead of working with you to negotiate a mutually agreeable divorce settlement. Sure, they can take you to court, but it is unlikely that the judge would order the sale of an asset unless there is a good economic reason and the sale is in the best interest of both parties.

For example, if you want to keep the house and there are sufficient other assets that could be awarded to your spouse to make the settlement fair, it is unlikely the judge would order the house to be sold.

If your spouse is willing to launch one divorce threat, they might have others in store for you. Make sure that you are ready! Here is a list of divorce threats, courtesy of Margorie Engel and Diana Gould from their book Divorce Decisions Workbook.

“Unless you play this my way, you’ll never get a dime.”

The threatener is used to being in charge and doesn’t want to give up their power. But coercion won’t work. Your marital property will be divided between the two of you regardless of whether your spouse earned more than you. If you live in a community property state (Arizona, California, Louisiana, Texas, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin), then you have equal claim to all marital property. If you live in a different state, a judge is empowered to make the final division decision.

“I’ll go to jail before I’ll pay you a dime of support.”

If your spouse is employed, alimony and/or child support will be enforced through automated wage garnishment, and your check will come directly from your spouse’s employer. If your spouse has no employer and falls behind in support payments, you can contact the court to legally get them to pay. Ultimately, if your spouse is found guilty of contempt of court, they may face jail time. However, most people pay voluntarily before going to jail. (Here’s more information on what to do if your spouse won’t pay child support.)

“I’ll quit my job before I’ll pay you that kind of money.”

If your spouse makes this threat, try to record it on your phone or get a witness. If you can show your spouse quit their job to avoid paying alimony or child support obligations, a judge can order them to continue the payments.

“I will reconcile with you only if you put everything in my name.”

This is a threat made by someone who wants to keep you in their power. If you are going to reconcile, why do you need an agreement that is lopsided in favor of the party making such a demand? Think about what it would mean to your freedom and financial stability if your credit cards, bank account, car title, and home title were all in your spouse’s name? Do not let them take full financial control of your life! This is a bad deal no matter how badly you might want to reconcile.

Threats are very common during divorce. If your spouse insists that they won’t pay or that you won’t get anything from them, speak with an experienced divorce attorney who can look at your situation and help you determine what is real and what is not. You may also want to attend the next Second Saturday Divorce Workshop in your area. Threats only have power if you are uninformed and unprepared!

Finally, if your spouse ever threatens to physically harm you or your children, or if you ever feel unsafe, get out of the house immediately and contact your local law enforcement.

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