Dealing with an unreasonable husband in Virginia divorce

Something ridiculous happened to me the other day. In a case that I’m working on, I got an email from opposing counsel. She advised me that my client was “financially irresponsible,” and said that this was the reason why she wouldn’t agree to a number of things that we were requesting in the separation agreement. She attached something.

When I opened it, I realized it was a list of demands for repayment from my client’s husband. It was written pretty poorly, but I studied it for awhile and eventually I think I got the gist of it. Even though there was no signed agreement (so, technically, my client wasn’t obligated to pay anything, let alone pay 50% of everything), he had made a list of things that she “owed” him for “repayment” on things he had already paid. He was also mad because she had taken some money out of the joint checking account, which had caused some other bill payments to bounce. I’ve dealt with my fair share of unreasonable husbands, but this one annoyed me.
It turns out that almost none of what he said was true. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was actually a pretty ridiculous story. My client, of course, was frustrated, and quickly set me straight. Though I suspected that there was more to this story than opposing counsel let on, it was really shocking how many ways she was able to completely contradict him.
Opposing counsel, too, asked me to give her a call to “discuss this further.” Once I heard my client’s side of the story, though, (which it was insanely obvious was the only factual, truthful side) I didn’t see what there was left to discuss. My client had paid her share, even though there was no agreement requiring her to do so, and the only reason there were any problems to begin with was because her husband had gone around switching things behind her back. The money she took was money that he owed her—which, of course, he casually neglected to mention.
We’re not strangers to dealing with unreasonable husbands in Virginia divorce. Not by a long shot. We deal with our fair share (or, because we represent women only, maybe even MORE than our fair share) of narcissists, psychotics, abusers, and more. An unreasonable husband is, more or less, par for the course.
But, for you, dealing with an unreasonable husband is different. You married him. You loved him. You maybe even had children with him. This unreasonableness takes you by surprise and cuts you to the core. Whether you realized it for awhile or it’s a new discovery, his unreasonableness is difficult to take. After all, divorce (thank goodness) isn’t something that you do every day. So, to help, I’ve compiled a list of things you’ll want to do if you’re dealing with an unreasonable husband in your Virginia divorce case.

1. Don’t pick a fight.

In this case, I didn’t respond to opposing counsel. There was nothing further to discuss, and I felt (and my client agreed) that giving his tantrum any more attention would only please him (because, obviously, he was in desperate need of some attention) and cost my client money.
If it moves the case forward, by all means, discuss it. In this case, though, any communication from my office would have been to defend my client against her unreasonable husband’s accusations—which, while satisfying, doesn’t mean that there’ll be any corresponding positive impact on your case. (In fact, in my experience, it only adds fuel to the fire.)
It’s important to plan your moves carefully, and only take specific, calculated moves that are designed to move your case forward. Sure, we can fight over the “principle,” and I can defend my clients from the unreasonableness of their husbands, but, in my opinion, there’s really no point unless we’re in front of a judge when it happens. My goal is always to save my client’s money for the fights that matter. I’m happy to be aggressive, and I’m happy to stand my ground—but I’m not going to be able to turn him into a reasonable person, so there’s no sense in focusing on an unattainable and, frankly, irrelevant goal.
My advice? If you’re dealing with an unreasonable husband, let a lot of the emotional manipulation type stuff go. Focus on your specific goals for the divorce, and don’t let his unreasonable behavior deter you.

2. Don’t play petty games.

I know—you’re not the petty one. But it’s easy to feel marginalized and taken advantage of when you’re dealing with an unreasonable husband, and it’s hard not to let those feelings goad you into behaviors that you normally wouldn’t consider.
It’s tempting to think about giving him a taste of his own medicine, and dealing with him doesn’t make you feel particularly charitable or generous. Still, when it comes to your case, you’ll be best served if you don’t take the bait. Rising to his level will only serve to make your divorce more complicated, more emotional, and more difficult. He’s determined to play his games, at whatever cost, and he isn’t going to be deterred by your fighting fire with fire—if anything, you may spur him on to worse behaviors.
In my experience, unreasonable husbands are ALWAYS willing to escalate the situation. They don’t sit back to think about the cost to their case, they just react. Their reactions, of course, take a toll on you and your children, and there’s just no point in that.
This goes back to my point in #1 – don’t waste your time doing anything that costs you money and doesn’t move your case forward.

3. See a therapist.

Obviously, my recommendations are going to take a LOT of self-control. They may even make you angry just thinking about them.
Part of me thinks I sound like my mother. “You catch more flies with honey,” she’d always tell me, and I’d roll my eyes. Sometimes, it just feels good to fight back. Right? I mean, there’s only so many times you can get kicked while you’re down before it feels reasonable to lash out irrationally (or maybe it’s rationally?).
Your feelings are justified. And I don’t want you thinking that, if I had my way, we’d sit around and hold hands with him and his divorce lawyer and sing kumbaya. That’s not the case at all. I’m only making recommendations that, in my experience, lead to shorter, less expensive cases with better results—not because I don’t sometimes feel like being pretty darn petty, too. I can’t tell you how often I go for runs in the morning or stand in the shower and think of all the things I’d like to say to husbands and opposing divorce lawyers.
It’s not that I’m so mature or enlightened or even that I’m completely unrealistic about human behavior. It’s that I’ve seen a lot of these cases, and I care more about you walking away with all the things that you’re entitled to receive than I do about who gets in the best jab.
To that end, I do think it helps to work through your feelings with a therapist. You’re not crazy and there’s nothing wrong with you for feeling the way you do—but I think the best, most productive way to deal with it is by working with a trained professional. What you’re going through is difficult, especially since you’ve got an unreasonable husband, and there’s no reason you should feel like you have to deal with it on your own. You don’t.
You should talk to someone. Now.

4. Come to Girl’s Night Out.

Okay, this one is just plain fun. And clients like you are the exact reason why we started this program.
Every six weeks or so, our law firm sponsors fun, happy hour style events for our current, former, and prospective clients. We go to fun places all over Hampton Roads, provide food and drinks, and get together with other women. (All paid for by the law firm!)
It’s a great way to make new friends, many of whom are in the same (or a very similar) situation as you, and can offer you some great insights. It’s not that Girl’s Night Out is a place to talk about your case (in fact, that’s not the point at all), but it is that it’s a time to get out, have fun, and get some perspective. There’s a lot to look forward to in the future, and we’re here to show you just how fun life can be.
For more information about our upcoming events, or to register to attend, click here.

Over the past three years since we started offering Girl’s Night Out events, we’ve done all sorts of things – country line dancing at the Ban que (it’s not as sketchy as it looks outside), beautiful summertime barbecues at the Ocean View Fishing Pier, holiday parties, a private movie screening (we saw the movie “Hidden Figures” back in January), karaoke, and even sponsor an annual Un Valentine’s day party. Don’t believe me? Think it might be secretly lame if it’s sponsored by a bunch of divorce attorneys? (It’s cool, I’m not offended—but you’re wrong.) Check out our private Facebook page at gnohr.com.

You’ll have to request to join, but we’re pretty quick about those things, and soon you’ll be able to chat with our members, see pictures from past events, and read posts about upcoming events. Trust me—you’ll be glad you came.
Dealing with an unreasonable husband is no picnic—but you already know that. But by following these tried and true tips, you can help make sure you divorce runs as smoothly and uneventfully as humanly possible.
For more information about Virginia divorce, Girl’s Night Out, a recommendation for an awesome local therapist, or to schedule an appointment, give our office a call at (757) 425-5200.

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