Harassment during Virginia Divorce

Posted on Feb 22, 2021 by Katie Carter

My sister in law asked me a question the other day – for a friend of a friend – and it really irritated me. Not that she would ask me a question; that’s fine, we’re really pretty close. But the question itself irked me.

Her friend had a friend, from a really long time ago, who is now getting a divorce. He asked her friend’s husband if he would write a signed affidavit where he detailed the events from some 15 years prior, when the wife got naked in a hot tub at a party.

My sister in law told me that, after twenty years of marriage, this man was determined not to pay any kind of spousal support to his wife.

Of course, I hear all the time that husbands don’t want to pay their wives spousal support. In some ways, I expect it. But this was a little bit beyond what I expected to hear, even though, after thinking about it a little more, I’m sure it happens all the time.

I imagine that this husband – can you imagine why he’d get a divorce? – is hoping to use the information to harass or intimidate his wife. I can think of no other purpose, because it’s not really something that would bar a wife from receiving spousal support.

I’ve talked about spousal support in many different ways, but a couple truths remain.

1. Adultery is a bar to spousal support.

2. Whether spousal support will be awarded, and then, if so, how much and for how long are questions that are determined based on a couple of factors: (1) need and ability to pay (meaning that there must be pretty significant disparity in income), (2) an analysis of the statutory factors, and (3) the duration of the marriage.

Spousal support is not barred because someone once got naked in a hot tub, and certainly not when that event took place 15 years ago, and when the parties REMAINED MARRIED all that time afterwards. What could he hope to do by bringing up something so irrelevant from so long ago? To me, it suggests that he is only intending to harass, intimidate, threaten, or otherwise manipulate his wife.

My sister in law suggested that he intended to bring up her drug and/or alcohol use. But simply using drugs and/or alcohol, or even being a “druggie” or an “alcoholic” isn’t a bar to support, either. I think it’s one thing if the addiction led to the addicted spouse draining a retirement account to purchase contraband, but just drinking too much or smoking pot or whatever by itself is not a bar to spousal support.

Mostly, I think this episode goes to show the lengths to which some men will stoop to stop their wives receiving even a portion of the benefit of the assets the parties earned together throughout the course of the marriage. And, to you, reader, if you find yourself in a position like this, I want to offer you a few words of advice:

1. If your husband is harassing you, see a criminal attorney.

All of this collecting of notarized affidavits is ridiculous. I don’t see what purpose it could serve, other than to manipulate, hurt, scare, or embarrass.

I seriously doubt its for a legitimate purpose. If I was collecting evidence for a trial – and I could collect evidence about someone’s character from a witness designated to serve that purpose – I would contact and interview the witness myself.

My clients do not go out and curate their own random “evidence”. And I can think of very little from 15 years ago that would interest me.

What DOES interest me, though, is how he plans to use this information. Is he going to share it with friends or family? Publish it? Circulate it through your church community? Reference it in front of people who are influential or important to you? Threaten you with its dissemination?

I’m not a criminal lawyer, but I really do think you should talk to one. He’s harassing you. It’s inappropriate. If it makes you fear for your safety, too, you could also consider a protective order.

2. Find out your rights and entitlements from a real Virginia family law lawyer – don’t listen to him.

I imagine this is intended to sort of slut shame this woman, because she got naked at a party (allegedly, I should say). Moreover, it’s an attempt to show that she has a drug and/or alcohol problem.

If he’s talking about you losing your support or losing custody of your children, I know it’s scary and intimidating. I know its hurtful. I know hearing those awful things – something about a party where you once behaved embarrassingly – is so uncomfortable.

You need to talk to someone real, someone who has your interests at heart, and someone who can tell you what you might be entitled to receive. DO NOT CAVE and sign a bad agreement just to get the abuse to stop. In tandem with talking with a licensed criminal attorney and learning your options for pursuing action based on his harassment and intimidation or even a protective order, you should be talking to a divorce attorney.

Your husband is behaving this way to convince you to settle for less than you should. But, even if you do agree, chances are slim that the abuse will stop. Besides, then you’ll have settled for less than you deserve, and there could be other, far reaching consequences too.

3. Seek the help of a therapist before, during, and after your Virginia divorce.

Look, this is awful. It really is. But you need to talk to someone, to take care of yourself, so that you have the mental fortitude to take on a guy like this. His behavior likely didn’t come out of nowhere; you’ve likely spent the last however many years dealing with his abuse. It can make you run down. It can make you feel weak. You need to have someone in your corner to help bolster you, strengthen you, and fortify you.

A therapist is a tool that you should keep in your arsenal, especially in a case like this.

I know your case is probably different. I know you probably didn’t get naked in a random hot tub at a random party fifteen years ago. I’m talking about a question I just happened to get, but it made me think of all the times I’ve heard a husband make a crazy allegation about a wife to make her feel wrongfooted in the divorce. Whether your husband is out there getting notarized statements, or just texting, emailing, or calling you to harass you, showing up at your place of work, or whatever, you need to know your options. It’s abuse, and what he says to you – however awful – is not the truth.

Remember, reader: He’s speaking from a place of fear because he knows what you are entitled to receive, and he wants to deprive you of it.

The best defense is a good offense, and the best offense consists of a team of professionals who can help you combat his threats, his abuse, and, frankly, his complete nonsense.

For more information, or to talk one on one to a divorce attorney dedicated to representing women only, give our office e a call at 757-425-5200.