8 Scary Behaviors You May See During Divorce and How to React

Elise Buie, Esq.
4 min readOct 28, 2020


Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

People divorce for a variety of reasons. But one thing remains clear: divorce can bring out the worst in people, including your soon-to-be-ex. Even if your spouse appeared level-headed and emotionally stable during your marriage, divorce could turn your relationship — and them — toxic. Here are eight scary behaviors to watch out for from your ex and advice on how to react.


Common among narcissists, anyone can use this psychological tactic to throw an ex off their game. The person doing the gaslighting wants to make their victim feel as if they’re going crazy. To accomplish this, they tell you something one day and something different the next. Or leave out information on purpose.

When you confront them about the discrepancy, they tell you you’re confused, forgot what they told you, or messed up. It’s all your fault, never theirs. Gaslighters skilled in this practice become brazen in their usage of it; they present their findings of your forgetfulness and screw-ups to anyone holding a position of power in your divorce, like a judge, mediator, or parent coordinator, to gain their favor.

To protect yourself, keep a record of these instances, and refrain from engaging in similar behavior yourself, as tempting as it might be to retaliate. Your best bet is to not stoop to your ex’s level.


More broad than gaslighting is using manipulation as a whole. Your ex may try to manipulate you and others like family members (including your own) and the court during your divorce. They do this by planting seeds of doubt, such as painting you to appear as though you’re the “bad guy” and them the victim.

Often, if you fail to comply with your ex’s demands, they may use “weapons” like blackmail or threaten court to get what they want. The best way to deal with this tactic is to not play into it. The more you do, the more your ex will raise the stakes — and the level of manipulation to elicit the desired response.


If they haven’t been in the past, your ex may begin lying to you. Lies from your ex can be as simple as where they were over the weekend to the location of documents or bills.

Information is power, and for an adversarial ex, the less you have, the better. On a grander scale is the pathological liar who lies regularly. You may just be realizing you’re dealing with one. If so, take nothing your ex says at face value, which is generally a good idea when you’re engaged in divorce proceedings.

Keep copious records and substantiate what you can with reliable documentation. If your ex’s lies revolve around information usually recorded, such as bank statements, your lawyer will request anything missing during the discovery phase of your divorce.


As you go through a divorce, it’s common for one spouse to blame the other for everything going wrong in their life. This behavior can be especially hurtful because, depending on your personality and thoughts about your ex, you may internalize the behavior or feel guilty for what your ex is facing, even though their problems are most likely not your fault. It can be incredibly damaging if your ex blames you for happenings beyond your control publicly, including in the courtroom.

If your ex engages in this type of behavior, try and redirect their accusations. Reiterate facts only or refrain from responding at all. Good record-keeping, as always, remains your safest bet.


Meddling can manifest itself in various behaviors, such as asking your ex questions directly or others about who your ex is dating, where they’re going, what they’re spending money on, and then using that information to cause trouble.

When you go through a breakup, the goal should be to live your life free of your ex’s influence. Deliberately inserting yourself into your ex’s life by meddling may cause them harm but will likely cause you and your children more. The goal is to create a healthy co-parenting environment, and that begins with you. Unless you or your kids are in danger from or are affected directly by your ex’s dealings, what they do now has nothing to do with you.


Though infidelity may have been an issue during your marriage, what I’m referring to here is the propensity your ex may have developed for taking shortcuts. Purposefully not fulfilling responsibilities, whether parental, financial or otherwise, is a problem.

Your ex’s less than stellar behavior may require you to become more of a micromanager and record-keeper, which can be stressful, not to mention time-consuming. But what you shouldn’t become is a cheater, too. Remember, winners never cheat, and cheaters never win.


As you go through your divorce, you may find that your money or property is going missing. If your ex has access to your information, including bank accounts, credit cards, or your house, and you suspect they’re the culprit, document anything that was removed and take whatever legal steps you can immediately to prevent the theft from continuing.

If your ex agrees to move out of the family home, change the locks. Do whatever you must to protect yourself and what’s rightfully yours. Financial abuse is a real problem, but there are ways to stop it or make it more difficult for it to occur. And, to repeat one last time, don’t retaliate by stealing from them.


Panicking is what your ex’s scary behavior causes you to do, and it’s by far scariest behavior of all because no good can come of freaking out, only bad. Though your ex may use some or all of the above tactics to frighten you, by keeping a level head despite their behavior, you will become a stronger adversary, which is, ultimately, what your ex is scared of most.



Elise Buie, Esq.

Elise Buie is a Seattle-based family and divorce lawyer and founder of the ​Elise Buie Family Law Group​.