Legal abuse often accelerates at the time of separation since this is one of the few remaining ways your ex-partner can attempt to control and harass you.
Common legal bullying strategies
Tactics related to lawyers
- Make it difficult for you to find a lawyer by “consulting” with all the family law lawyers in your community before you have a chance to call one. This creates a situation of conflict for lawyers so they cannot represent you.
- Engage in stalling tactics such as not finding a lawyer, making it difficult for you to get your case started or to move it along.
- Repeatedly change lawyers.
- Represent himself even though he would qualify for a legal aid certificate or could afford to pay for a lawyer himself.
- Run up your legal bill or eat up the hours on your legal aid certificate by using up your lawyer’s time with unnecessary correspondence, phone calls, etc.
- Miss his mandatory information program session.
- Fail to complete his court documents on time.
- Try to file incomplete court documents.
- Ask for repeated adjournments so he can complete his court documents.
- Refuse to provide complete financial disclosure (e.g., by not completing the financial statement fully or honestly).
- Seek repeated delays for no real reason.
- Fail to show up for scheduled mediation sessions.
- Bring repeated motions on issues that have already been decided or on very small issues that can be resolved without a motion.
- Appeal decisions even when there is no possibility of success.
Allegations and other forms of harassment
- Make malicious and unfounded allegations about you to the CAS, OW, ODSP.
- Make official complaints about his lawyer, your lawyer, the judge and anyone else who is involved with your case.
- Harass you at court, in the days leading up to court appearances, when you are coming and going from court.
- Bring family members and/or friends to court with him to create an intimidating atmosphere in the waiting area.
- Try to divert your attention away from what he is doing legally.
- Change his mind repeatedly after you have agreed on something.
- Lie in his court documents.
- Refuse to follow court orders.
When criminal law is involved
If your ex-partner has been charged in criminal court, he might bully you in family court by:
- Trying to delay the family court proceeding until the criminal case is over.
- Offering to “make a deal” with you that he won’t fight you for custody if you won’t testify against him in criminal court.
If you have been charged, your ex-partner might try to use this against you in family court, even if the facts do not support the charge you are facing. Your ex-partner might also try to interfere with your ability to find affordable housing, to get your children into child care, to enter an employment program, etc.
Managing a legal bully
Unfortunately, much of the responsibility for managing your ex-partner’s legal bullying will fall to you. While both family law and court process offer some solutions, judges are often reluctant to get involved, especially early in the case before they have heard all the evidence.