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How Threats Influence Family Law Cases

Posted by Mattis Law, A.P.C. in Contentious Divorce, Divorce

Divorce and custody disputes can be contentious and emotionally charged. It is not uncommon for one spouse to make threats against the other. The first thing to know is these threats are often empty, with no legal validity in most cases. The other thing to know is making threats against the other party to get what you want in a divorce can leave you open to sanctions by the court.

What Are Some Common Empty Threats Made by Divorcing Spouses?

When a marriage is being dissolved, the situation can become heated. Spouses may hurl threats and accusations at each other, but typically, these threats carry no real weight. For example:

  • “You won’t be able to see your children.” This is almost always an empty threat, as the courts rule on the basis of the best interests of the child. In most cases, the courts consider this means both parents having time with the kids.
  • “I’ll go to jail before I’ll pay you a dime.” This is not likely to happen. A spouse could get jail time for refusing to pay child support, but when it comes down to it, most people would rather pay than go to jail.
  • “You can’t take what I earned.” Not true. California is a community property state. All property acquired by either spouse during the marriage must be divided equally.
  • “I’ll tell the court what you did, and you won’t get custody of the kids.” If your spouse threatens to reveal details of your personal life, chances are good those details will have no bearing on your ability to be a good parent.

When Do Threats Against a Spouse Become Extortion or Unethical Conduct?

When a couple is going through a divorce, one spouse who knows something incriminating about the other spouse may be tempted to threaten to reveal the incriminating information in exchange for some concession in the divorce. For example, a spouse may be guilty of some type of illegal act of which the other spouse has knowledge and evidence and threatens to make it known. This conduct is strictly taboo with family courts for both divorcing spouses and their attorneys. Rule 5-100 of the California Supreme Court’s rules regulating attorney conduct states:

“. . . A member shall not threaten to present criminal, administrative, or disciplinary charges to obtain an advantage in a civil dispute. . .”

Not only are family law attorneys prohibited from making such threats by the Rules of Professional Conduct, but their clients risk extortion charges if they make them. A judge may order monetary sanctions against a party who threatens the other party to get what he or she wants in a divorce.

What Should You Do If Your Spouse Threatens You?

If your spouse threatens you, the best thing may be to not respond. More likely than not, your spouse does not understand California family law governing child custody, child support, and community property, and the threat is completely empty. If you do not respond, he or she may lose interest and go away. If you are concerned about the threats, speak with an experienced family law lawyer for the knowledge you need to ease your mind.

Contact Us to Discuss Your Divorce

Call us at (858) 458-9500 to schedule a free consultation to speak with a San Diego family law attorney. We are dedicated advocates for our clients going through divorce.

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