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“Put Out or Get Out”

by | Aug 1, 2019 | Family Law

You hear a million stories in my chair. How people sometimes treat one another can be saddening, infuriating, depressing.

One constant theme is the abusive husband. This isn’t confined to the bastard who beats his wife. That one is well documented. We know that sad story. The man I’m talking about lords it over his wife in less physical but no less coercive ways.

Surprisingly often, this abuse continues after the couple have found a way to divorce. Even after they’ve been divorced for several years, I’ll hear about an ex husband still manipulating the relationship in completely unacceptable ways. One way is through demanding sex.

I still recall the first time I heard about this “arrangement.” The ex-husband owed his ex-wife monthly child support and alimony. He would pay it by coming over to her house “for coffee.” They would sit at the kitchen table in the morning, after the kids had gone to school. First, they would literally drink coffee. Then, in order to receive her child support and alimony, he would demand sex. “No go, no dough.” Yes, she could have refused, but after years of being conditioned to yield to his demands, she was almost literally powerless to say no.

Fortunately, over several years she slowly gained her strength and her independence enough to come talk to me. We worked through how she got to such a position in their marriage and how that played out in their divorce. (He wanted the divorce because his then current girlfriend demanded that he marry her.) We assessed what might happen when she refused him “coffee.” What she worried about wasn’t pretty. A few months later, when she had progressed a little further still, we launched our strategy. Let’s just say that we were able to stop his conduct immediately. He didn’t comprehend at first, but within a few months he was paying his child support and alimony on time and without any demands on his ex-wife and he was in the initial stages of a divorce from his new wife.

Even more insidious though, was a post divorce situation where the ex-husband, a rather horrid bully, kept the kids in the divorce (she couldn’t dream of standing up to him). Now, with primary custody, he demanded sex from her every time before he would let her see her children. Mind you, this was not a requirement in their settlement agreement, but he didn’t follow the settlement agreement from day one. He made up the rules as he went along. For four years she had “put out” just to get any time with her children. She was not in a good place when she first came to see me, but she was in a good enough place to finally be seeking some way to shut him down and end the abuse yet still see her children.

As the saying goes, “sunlight is the best disinfectant,” and we showed sunlight all over that guy’s reprehensible conduct. I doubt he regrets his demands and his behavior (he doesn’t have the capacity) but he certainly doesn’t profit from it anymore, not from our client.

Abuse comes in many forms. Bullies abound.  But I’m absolutely certain that they can be stopped.

-Michael Manely