Saturday, January 19, 2008

Threats And Divorce

What are the three categories of threats issued by spouses undergoing a divorce?

There are three categories of threats issued by spouses undergoing a divorce - real, implied and imagined. A real threat is one such as “I'm going to kill you”, an implied threat is one such as “I'd be really careful when you turn on the ignition in your car” and an imagined threat is the way the person may interpret the threat. I'll give you an example of an imagined threat. I had a client call me one day very concerned because she received a cheque from her ex and the amount on the check was six six six, and she said to me “Oh my god, he just wrote me this check, he's messing with me, I'm terrified, what does this mean?”, and then I looked at the very recent court order and six six six was the number the court came up with, was that a real threat? No. Was it an implied threat? No. Maybe it was just by chance, was it an imagined threat? Absolutely, but anybody receiving that cheque would have had the same reaction.

Why do spouses make threats during the divorce process?

Spouses make threats in the divorce process because they want to exercise control. They're generally out of control and they are trying to manage what they can't manage, either externally or internally.

Can a threat issued during divorce be considered a crime?

A threat issued during a divorce process can be considered a crime. For example if your ex says to you "I'm going to kill you", that can be a crime, or "I'm going to slash your tires.", or repeated telephone calls with threats using the phone or using the mail, all of those can be considered a crime. And repeat performers, you have a greater likelihood of somebody committing a crime with a threat or if the threat is repeated. I'll give you an example of a threat that may be a crime. I have a client whose spouse infiltrated his home computer, and through the home computer busted into his company's computer. She then said to him, "If you don't do what I want, I'm going to push the button, and I'm going to send all your personal emails that have some issues to your partners, to your clients, and to the press."

Can threats in divorce be a positive?

An open threat in a divorce can be a positive. If somebody is thinking about killing you, you would rather know they're thinking about killing you as opposed to somebody just going postal.

What's the first thing I should do if I'm faced with a threat during my divorce?

The first thing you should do if you're faced with a threat in a divorce is to figure out if it's real, implied, or imagined. If someone threatens to kill you, do something about it. Tell you lawyer if that's right time of reaction. If somebody is in your house saying to you to your face I'm going to kill you or throw something, don't call your lawyer; call 911. What's a lawyer going to do? You call the police or you leave. If they're making implied threats, figure out if the implied threat is real. If you're imagining something, try to figure out if it's really your imagination or you're right on target, pun intended.

How can I stave off the consequences of real or implied threats during my divorce?

If somebody is threatening you physically, call 911; and call your lawyer, depending on the circumstances. If somebody is threatening you emotionally, call your therapist. If somebody is threatening your head, messing with your head, that may be a combination of your lawyer, your therapist, or your Svengali, your guru or minister or priest. And frankly, if somebody is messing with your head or messing with your heart, go to the gym, do something, don't engage, ignore them. But threats are painful, and you need to deal with them in some fashion or you will internalize them.
What should I do if I think I may be imagining a threat during my divorce?
If you are concerned that you're imagining a threat, talk about it with your therapist, who may be better adept, or should be better adept, at analyzing whether the profile of your ex fits the profile of a person who would carry out a threat. If somebody is paranoid, it doesn't mean that somebody is not following them. So, you want to figure out if this threat that you imagine is in your head and how to fix that, or if it's real and needs to be dealt with externally.

What is the profile of a "threatener" in a divorce?

The profile of a threatener is one who engages in menacing behavior. Whether it is with a look, or words (spoken words, written words). You can get an email. You can get something in the mail. You can get that look that says, "I'm going to kill you." If you've been the victim of domestic violence, somebody doesn't have to hit you again; they just have to look at you and you know that look means, "I'm going to hit you." They don't have to hit you; you're just afraid just by the look. This is the profile of a threatener.

What is the profile of a "threatenee" in a divorce?

The profile of a "threatenee" can be an ordinary person or one who threatens and is then the recipient of the response. You can be an average Joe or Jane and be threatened. Or you can be somebody who's really difficult, and it's being dished back at you.

What should I do if I realize I'm a threatenee in my divorce?

If you realize you're a threatenee, I would get some help. I would get some help to figure out how to control the person who's threatening you and how to control yourself from not engaging in the process that may provoke the threatenor. Now sometimes just existing is a provocation, that's not your fault. Sometimes it's behavior somebody engages in that provokes a certain response. You may perceive yourself as this threatenee and in fact, you may be the victim. But for example if you've just keyed somebody's car, you shouldn't be surprised if you receive a nasty voice mail, a threatening email or fax, or a legal pleading that demands that you to go to court to deal with the consequences.

What should I do if I realize I'm a threatener in my divorce?

If you realize you're a threatener, get help. One, it is dangerous. Two, it is costly financially and emotionally. There are better ways to deal with hurt, anger and lack of control than threatening somebody else. And, it only gets worse.

What do threats during a divorce reveal?

Threats in divorce can reveal an awful lot about the person who is doing the threatening or the person who is being threatened. It often reveals that you are out of control. It reveals your innermost thoughts. It can reveal that you're crazy. A very famous celebrity once left a threatening voicemail on his daughter's answering machine. In that message he threatened her emotionally, threatened her psychologically, threatened her or at least implied that he threatened her physically. What it revealed about him was that he was out of control. Does he need help? Absolutely. You don't want to be out of control, and you certainly don't want anybody else to know that you are out of control.

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