Vindictive Behavior and How It Will Undermine Your Case / by Cassandra Hearn

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Litigation often results in feelings of anger and resentment. This is especially true for family law cases where the issues at the center of the case are deeply personal. There can be a temptation to “get back” at your former spouse or partner to make sure he or she feels just as hurt as you do. Being vindictive may feel good at the moment because you know that you are causing your spouse or partner to feel the same unpleasant feelings you feel, but ultimately this type of behavior can seriously undermine your case.

One of the most common ways vindictive behavior is observed in family law cases is when the parties share children. In that type of case, vindictive behavior can take the form of talking badly about your spouse or partner in front of the children. Making your child aware of your bad feelings and anger you hold for your spouse can be detrimental to the child’s well-being. Moreover, if evidence of this type of behavior at trial can result in loss of parenting time or custody. One of the factors for the court’s best interest decision for custody or visitation is whether you are willing to help encourage the child to bond with the other parent. Talking badly about the other parent runs clearly contrary to this factor and can mean you lose your custody case.

Another vindictive action taken by angry spouses is dissipation of marital assets. There can be a temptation during the divorce to spend money or cash out investment accounts. After all, the court cannot divide an asset that no longer exists. However, this tactic can seriously backfire on the person wasting the marital funds. If a court determines that one spouse has intentionally wasted marital funds as a method to deprive the other spouse of his or her proper share of community property, the court is free to rebalance the shares of property in order to equalize the distribution. Further, if this behavior occurs after the divorce case is initially filed and served, the court can find that this is a violation of the “ATROS,” or Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders, that are made when the case is initiated.  Violation of the ATROS could result in contempt of court.

Finally, some vindictive behavior may take the form of intentionally prolonging the divorce action. A spouse may make unreasonable demands, file repetitious and frivolous motions, or frustrate the settlement process. In such a case, a court may order the vindictive spouse to pay attorney’s fees under California Family Code 271.

If you have questions about divorce, call us today at 619-800-0384 for a consultation. We are here to help talk with you about your family law case and how best to approach it to achieve your goals.