Under ideal circumstances, you and your spouse will accept that you’re better off apart than together and be willing to work with one another to make the split as painless as possible. Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world and you may be married to someone who is aggressive, controlling, and even an outright narcissist. If this is the case, then you could be headed for a toxic divorce.

High-conflict spouses will resort to low tactics like hiding marital assets, turning the children against you, and dragging out exhausting court battles to beat you down and “win.” Below are some strategies that can help you protect yourself and your children during a toxic divorce.

Quickly get your financial documents together

Your spouse may try to conceal the financial paperwork needed to determine the value of the marital estate as well as calculate child support and spousal maintenance. To prevent such a tactic, collect as many of the following as you can find, ideally before you even file for divorce:

  • Pay stubs
  • Bank statements
  • Tax returns
  • Credit card bills
  • Retirement account documentation

If you file your taxes as a couple, then you can contact the IRS for copies of any missing tax returns. To get a bigger financial picture, you can also run a credit report to identify all accounts that are in your name as well as his or hers. Anything you don’t recognize could be an asset they are trying to hide from you.

Get all communications in writing

Try to limit all conversations related to the divorce to written forms such as texts and emails. In a toxic divorce, this strategy helps because written communications can be presented in court if necessary, a fact that even the most high-conflict spouse would certainly be aware of. Never enter into a casual, undocumented agreement with volatile people–it’s too easy for them to renege and insist, “I never agreed to that!”

Take out a restraining order

Sometimes an aggressive and overbearing spouse will cross the line out of spite or desire for revenge and begin to actively harass or stalk you. For example:

  • Showing up at your home or work to confront and intimidate or embarrass you
  • Sending angry texts and emails
  • Actual threats of violence

In situations such as these, a temporary restraining order can help stop this aggressive behavior and keep you and your kids from being exposed to further intimidation.

When you file for divorce, advise your New York divorce attorney that your spouse is likely to cause trouble and try to drag out the process. Your attorney will advise you on steps you can take to protect yourself when communicating or entering into agreements with your spouse, so that you are not cheated or intimidated out of what you need and deserve to begin a new and happier life once the divorce is finalized. If you have any questions about the divorce process, call Jayson Lutzky, P.C. Mr. Lutzky is a highly sough-after divorce and family law attorney in the Greater New York City area. Call 718-514-6619 to set up a free in-person initial consultation. Visit mynewyorkcitylawyer.com/divorce for more information.