Navigating Emotional Turbulence: Recognizing Verbal and Emotional Abuse During Divorce

I recently was listening to a recording of a call between a client who is getting divorced. The pure rage emanating from the voice caused me to have a visceral reaction. I can only imagine what it felt like to the recipient of the call. Even if you feel your spouse has betrayed you, lied to you, and generally made you feel like hell, it’s not an excuse to heap verbal and emotional abuse on them. From a legal perspective, it’s not going to play out as, “they deserved it”. The person who is going to look bad is the one who is being abusive.

Signs of Verbal and Emotional Abuse

1. Cursing and using otherwise foul language while yelling or screaming.
2. Manipulation, otherwise doing or saying things to make someone do something you want them to do.
3. Threatening to tell the kids or family members about specifics of the case to hurt them.
4. Taking away money or other necessities to hurt them.
5. Accusing them baselessly and endlessly arguing about the same things while yelling and/or screaming.
6. Blaming and name calling.
7. Catastrophizing the situation in order to induce feelings of guilt and shame.
8. The silent treatment or stone walling when conversation or replies are warranted.
9. Following, eavesdropping, or going through personal belongings.
10. Speaking in front of the children about the issues or where the children can hear the conversations.

Healing and Moving Forward

If you have slipped up and acted in a way that’s abusive in the heat of the moment or out of momentary pain, forgive yourself. But it’s not appropriate in any way to keep it going to punish your spouse. It’s only going to cause more dissension and trauma for everyone.

The better tactic is to speak to trusted friends or a professional. Focus on how you can feel better. No matter how badly you’ve been hurt, taking it out on your partner is not going to make you whole. I know it can seem impossible to leave the issues alone and you don’t have to stop working through it with a counselor or to stop processing it on your own.


A respected Huntsville family law attorney with more than 20 years’ experience, Leigh Daniel is known for her positive attitude and her skills in the courtroom. She prides herself in the care and compassion that she and her team put into every case. Her goal is to instill a sense of confidence in her clients so they know success is on the horizon. As an author, inspirational speaker, coach, and founder of Project Positive Change, Leigh stays focused on the positive impact she can make on every client’s case.