There’s no question about it: Divorce can bring out the absolute worst in people, especially when the sums being negotiated are substantial and the stakes are high. If your husband is someone who’s accustomed to getting his own way and known to be short-tempered when he doesn’t, well… be prepared. It’s likely the sparks as well as the financial threats are going to fly.
I don’t have to tell you how wretched it can feel. No matter how certain you are that your marriage is over, it can still be shocking and hurtful to hear threats and insults hurled at you by the same man who, on your wedding day, looked lovingly into your eyes and said, “I do.”
And before we go any further, let me say this: If you believe your husband poses a physical danger to you and/or your children, you must get help without delay. For the purposes of this article, I will be discussing threats of a financial nature only. Threats of violence are another matter entirely. Your physical safety should be your top priority, and if it’s in question, please take immediate action.
That said, your husband’s financial threats can be intimidating, stressful, and downright frightening. Angry husbands can definitely be prone to venomous irrational outbursts. If he is an influential person who is used to calling the shots in both his work and private life, his bluster might be very convincing, leaving you feeling scared, stressed, and vulnerable.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Here is a sampling of what’s been said to my clients by their soon-to-be-exes, over the years:
- “I’d rather give my lawyers everything than see you get one dime.”
- “You’ll get nothing from me. Zero. I’ll go to jail before I’ll let you get anything.”
- “I’ll do everything in my power to be sure you lose the kids and end up on the street.”
Here’s how to handle these kinds of financial threats.
1. Learn What He Really Can—and Can’t—Do
Knowledge is power, and accurate information is your strongest ally. If something your husband says plants a seed of fear or doubt in your mind, don’t live in a state of worry. Find out the facts: Hit the books, browse reputable websites, and consult with your divorce team. Often, the greatest source of stress is uncertainty. So, do some research.
Learn whether you live in a community property state or an equitable distribution state and what that means. Understand the difference between separate and marital property. Learn how his 401(k) and other assets can be divided. Once you know how divorce works where you live (laws vary widely from state to state), you’ll be much less easily intimidated. Maybe you can’t prevent your husband from bloviating, but you can control how it makes you feel.
2. Ignore the Hot Air, but Guard Against Real Risk
Most of what an angry husband hollers during a divorce will amount to nothing in the end. The heat of the moment passes and reason prevails, often with the influence of each side’s legal team. But you should also realize that there are husbands who would, out of spite, truly spend every dime to see their wives go broke. Others will try to cheat, lie, bribe, hide assets or do whatever else they can to push their wives toward financial ruin.
Keep your eyes and ears open. Learn to recognize signs that your husband might be pulling dirty tricks.
3. Keep a Diary
This is not to be confused with your friend’s suggestion to keep a journal as a way to cope with your feelings through the divorce. Rather, I’m recommending that you use a diary to keep meticulous track of when, where and how you’ve been threatened. Each and every time, write it down. You will be documenting a pattern that may prove useful. At the very least, it may help you to predict—and perhaps avoid—your husband’s rants in the future.
4. Communicate Closely with Your Divorce Team
You should have a team of first-rate professional experts on your side. Use them as a sounding board to help cope with your husband’s threats. Whether you need legal advice, financial guidance or emotional support, you’ll have the right person at hand to help you through.
Where you’ve written down each threat from your husband, you can also write down your professional expert’s response. Use the written record to remind yourself that with help, you will come through your divorce in the best possible legal, financial, and emotional shape.
5. Resist the Temptation to Respond to a Rant In Rage
As an intense personal struggle, divorce will elicit strong emotions. You will likely feel not just anger, but real outrage at some of the things your husband might say. You’ll want to match him insult for insult, and you’ll even have some potent zingers saved up for the next time he tries to harangue you.
Don’t do it. Save those would-be comebacks for sharing with friends, and instead keep your feelings in check when dealing with your husband. It’s critical that you Think Financially, Not Emotionally® during your divorce settlement negotiation process.
Stay calm and write down what he says. If it’s worrisome, share it with your divorce team and find out the truth of the situation. The more you know, the more you’ll see his posturing for what it is, and the better positioned you’ll be to deal with it.
Breaking up is hard to do, and no one ever said splitting the finances would be easy. But if you go in prepared, you’ll be less intimidated and more focused on achieving what you want—and need—out of this. Good luck.
Jeffrey Landers is a member of the DailyWorth Experts program. Read more about the program here.