Victimhood Has Currency

Most people spin conflict so that they are the victor or the victim. Here’s why it’s important to keep that instinct in check.

The legal community focuses heavily on the topic of domestic violence with continuing legal education seminars and pro bono clinics. There is even a specialized court called the IDV court (integrated domestic violence), where the family law cases that have alleged elements of domestic violence are adjudicated.

Abuse comes in many forms – emotional, physical, sexual, and financial. Courts take abuse into consideration and use it as a factor in equitable distribution and spousal support, often increasing the amount of money an abused party will get. So, there is monetary compensation for it.

There is a case J.N v. T.N., in which the abuse was found to be so grave, the court awarded the abused party 85% of the marital assets. The case can be found here: See also, DRL Section 236(B)(5)(d)(14), which can be found here:

Abuse is also an obvious factor in custody determinations, as logically, children should have measured and protected engagements with an abusive parent. Trouble comes, however, when one party exaggerates or fabricates allegations of abuse to gain monetary and custodial advantages. The irony being that such a party abuses the abuse claim as a punitive and self-enriching weapon.

For example, conjure the not uncommon case of a wife calling the police on her husband, purely as a child custody tactic. In doing so, she thinks she can get the upper hand by forcing the creation of a police record for her husband – all without thinking of the implications. The wife here is so blinded by her personal ambition of gaining full custody that she fails to see the bigger picture – that her husband would get fired if there was any hint of an abuse allegation in his private life. Whether or not the allegation was true, the allegation’s mere existence was a glaring indelible black mark against him. What she thought would help her in her custody case turned out to be a very silly move for the financials. Since her ex is now unemployed and virtually unemployable at the level of income he was making at a top bank, she is limited in the support she can get. Moreover, because the court felt her call to the police was disingenuous, she ended up being penalized on the custody front.

Everything done in divorce has a cost-benefit analysis. As highlighted above, when vindictive parties are too myopic in their strategy, they end up losing on multiple fronts.

One of the consequences of the victimhood claim is that it often keeps very unhappily married couples married.

I have seen many situations where a theme of the marriage is – “You are the reason for all my unhappiness and misery, and if we get divorced, I will make your life a living hell.”

The party being blamed chooses to stay in the marriage because they view this as a real threat. Despite their misery, it is a misery they know and have lived with for years, which to them, beats the unknown behemoth of misery their spouse vows to ascend on them if the parties divorce.

I often get postnuptial agreement inquiries from this category of married couples.

To learn more about how genuine and fabricated abuse allegations can impact a marriage and divorce, contact The Law & Mediation Offices of Cheryl Stein.

Cheryl Stein, Esq.
The Law and Mediation Offices of Cheryl Stein
745 Fifth Avenue, Suite 500
New York, NY 10151
Phone: (646) 884-2324