One of my kids’ absolute favorite books is The Very Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle. We must have read the book together over 100 times, with each of us taking turns reading the parts of the animals that the so-called grouchy ladybug encounters throughout his day. The book carries an anti-bullying theme, as each animal that the ladybug encounters ultimately stands up to his attempts to “fight” them, no matter how big they become (starting with a “friendly ladybug” and ending with a whale). At the end (spoiler alert!), the whale finally knocks some sense into the ladybug and he ends up more humble and agreeable to those around him.
In the world of divorce, “bullying” is an all too common theme that we have written about before. In some instances, one spouse’s desire for control or “victory” emanates from how things occurred during the marriage, no matter what the cost to ensure the continuance of those roles. All too often, one spouse will try to pressure the other spouse into agreeing to terms that many would characterize as inequitable.
Perhaps the most common example involves the working spouse (the “breadwinner”) and the stay-at-home spouse, where the working spouse will try to financially squeeze the other spouse into surrender through a variety of different ways including, but not limited to, no longer funding the lifestyle that existed during the marriage, trying to bury the other spouse in litigation fees, and more. On the opposite end, the stay-at-home spouse who raised the children during the marriage while the other spouse worked may try to conrol the other spouse’s ability to see and communicate with the children. Essentially, each spouse is “bullying” the other by using his or her own form of leverage against the other party.
When one party is acting as the grouchy ladybug, while the other party is standing up for him or herself as the friendly ladybug, what can result?
- Extensive counsel and expert fees;
- A drawn out, lengthy litigation;
- A potential domestic violence claim;
- Children in the “middle” and, in many cases, some form of therapy;
- Dwindling assets;
- Heightened emotions and acrimony between spouses;
- An outright unwillingness to settle for anything that a mediator, settlement panel or judge would deem reasonable;
- A desire to have the trial judge make your decisions for you; and
- A penchant for saying “no” to everything.
There are so many more potential results of allowing the bullying spouse to take over a litigation. Standing up to such a spouse is oftentimes the only way to protect your interests, whether they be of a financial or custodial nature. While the result may be one of those listed above, the takeaway is that litigating in a sensible and reasonable manner will not only inure to everyone’s financial benefit, but hopefully to the emotional benefit of the entire family involved.