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Divorcing the Passive-Aggressive Spouse

Divorcing the Passive-Aggressive Spouse

Divorcing the Passive-Aggressive Spouse

Jeff J Horn, Divorce Lawyer


What is the Passive-Aggressive Spouse in divorce? The Passive-Aggressive Spouse in divorce is a dangerous opponent. Oftentimes, the Passive-Aggressive Spouse seems quite nice and agreeable. Don’t mistake niceness for passive aggressive behavior. Some long divorces are caused solely by the Passive-Aggressive Spouse.

Passive-Aggressive Spouse clinical definition

Let’s start with Webster’s definition. 

Definition of passive-aggressive

: being, marked by, or displaying behavior characterized by the expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive passive way (as through procrastination and stubbornness)

It is passive-aggressive behavior, the donning of a mask of amiability that conceals raw antagonism toward one’s competitors, even one’s friends.

— Hilary De Vries

The example hits the nail on the head.

The Passive-Aggressive Spouse offers empty agreements.

Usually, you know if you are divorcing a Passive-Aggressive Spouse. He or she plays games.

  1. Divorce is on the table. Immediately, you both agree there will be no war.
  2. Next, you receive an absurd and aggressive letter from your spouse’s lawyer. Utterly puzzled, you address the letter with your spouse.
  3. A plausible alibi is offered – “I didn’t think the letter would say all of that. That must be lawyer talk.”
  4. Mistakenly, you relax for a moment.

Hmmm – “I think we agree to sell the marital home.” 

Empty Agreement – quick sale of the marital home. 

Amazingly, Agreement is reached. Shockingly, your spouse agrees to sell the marital home right away. You know this is a key step in settling your case and dividing your assets. Suddenly the green lights of progress turn yellow. Never quite red, always yellow.  Your realtor is frustrated.   Already, she has buyers lined up. Of course, tour mortgage broker – for your new house purchase is driven to madness. You had a rate lock with great terms.

The Passive-Aggressive Spouse never says to the realtor quote you can’t come over. 

Instead, the spouse says “Oh I’m not feeling very well I doubt the buyers want to see me on the couch.”  Or,“I will be out of the house at that time it’s not safe with the dogs in the house.”

The excuses flow like an endless pool. unfortunately, you must be ready for action.

What happens next with the passive-aggressive spouse in divorce?

Frustrated, you force the action and go to court. Be emotionally prepared. The Passive-Aggressive Spouse and lawyer will finger you as the bad guy.” we agreed to sell the house your honor but the other side had to have it all their way.”  Let It Go. Just Win.

Remember:  Family Court Judges love Selling Houses. Randazzo.

But, my fingers were crossed behind my back when I agreed.

New Jersey courts do not like passive aggressive litigants 

…who agree and then change their mind. The New Jersey courts have dealt with this issue in a number of interesting cases, such as Harrington. Harrington involved the ultimate Passive-Aggressive Spouse in divorce. The lawyers and the litigants agreed, orally. Regrettably oh, there was no written agreement.

Until one spouse, the husband, turned tail and ran away.

Shockingly the spouse claimed there was no agreement because there was no writing. Furthermore, the  husband fired his lawyer who witnessed the building of the oral agreement.  Fortunately, the New Jersey Appellate Division would not have it. Although written Agreements are preferred, the reneging spouse will not be rewarded. The family court judge can order and hold a hearing to determine if there was a binding agreement. Interestingly, the lawyers can be  called as witnesses. 

Tip – Gather little agreements with your passive-aggressive spouse. If the spouse will not sign, there is no agreement!

Photo by Oscar Söderlund on Unsplash

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