Who the (BLEEP) did I marry? This is NOT a question you want to be asking yourself.

by Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.             3 minute read

I was recently introduced to a television show titled “Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry? Being a divorce and family law attorney, I could not resist finding out more about the program.

Nobody should EVER allow themselves to stay in an abusive relationship. Keep your eyes open and trust your instincts before getting married.

Basically, the show is based on marriages where one newlywed has kept a deep, dark secret from their spouse. In fact, sometimes they have more than one deep, dark secret. Unfortunately, the unsuspecting spouse finds him or herself starring in their own real-life horror movie, with no easy way out.

Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry? tells the unenviable stories about people who get married without really knowing the dark details about who they are marrying. Much like the show, I have seen people rush into a marriage for many reasons, and without knowing the other person very well. This is a high-risk gamble with a huge potential downside.

The real life stories are endless. Do your homework.

Some people feel that they “cannot do any better” so they “settle” on marrying their current partner. Some people feel that time is somehow “running out” and they want to get married before doing their homework. I have also seen couples enter into a marriage because their parents, friends, and or family members pressure them to get married. Of course, nobody should ever feel pressured to make a life decision, (such as getting married) unless and until they are ready.

The Evil Beauty, A Dangerous Affair, I Will Control You, Living a Double Life. Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry? You do NOT want to be asking yourself this question. Do your homework. Take your time. Getting married is easy. Getting divorced can be difficult.

Be wary of spousal abuse before you walk down the aisle. Spousal abuse can take many forms. Economic abuse. Physical abuse. Emotional abuse. Sexual abuse. While it is not always possible to completely vet a potential spouse, it is possible to keep your eyes open for tell-tale signs of possible abuse. Take your time. Listen to your instincts. Open your eyes. Wide. Early. Often. Things rarely get better.

I have been contacted by many potential divorce clients who endure abusive marriages, and end up wondering “Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry”? Sometimes they wait for years to take action because they do not want to be alone, or they feel like they would be considered a failure if they initiate divorce proceedings. While it is almost always preferable to work things out wherever possible and reasonable to do so, sometimes marriages become non-functioning or abusive.

In reality, I do not know of one person who escaped an abusive relationship or non-functioning marriage who was not convinced that they made the right decision. Actually, every abused person I ever met who did take action wishes they didn’t wait as long as they did. Most people saw warning signs, but chose to ignore them.

Proceed with caution before getting married. You do not want to star in your own version of “Who the (Bleep) did I Marry”?

While nothing in life is 100% certain, proceeding with caution can help prevent you from ever starring in your own version of “Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry”?

I welcome your comments.

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Protection From Abuse filings in Custody Cases – a Word of Caution

by Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.

Lately, I have noticed an increasing number of persons filing Protection From Abuse (PFA) petitions against each other as a method to gain some sort of advantage in custody litigation.  Unless you are involved in a bona fide abuse situation, filing a PFA is usually not productive. In fact, it can be counter-productive.

Domestic Abuse is NEVER acceptable.

First, most family court judges are sensitive to this tactic. If you pursue a groundless PFA against the other parent, you run the risk of looking foolish and manipulative before the court. This is certainly not something you want. You can also be charged with the court costs, attorney’s fees, and other sanctions associated with filing a bogus PFA petition.

Second, I have seen far too many family court litigants file PFA petitions as a substitute for family therapy, relationship counseling, or mediation. I sometimes see questionable PFA filings occur when one person in a relationship is certain the relationship is ending, while the other person wants the relationship to continue, no matter what. In an ill-advised moment of anger or revenge, one (or both) people file a questionable PFA petition. Filing a PFA petition to keep the inevitable breakup from occurring, or for retaliating against the other person, is never a good idea. It can (and often does) backfire on the filing party.

Third, before, during and after custody litigation, it is almost always better for a child to have access to both parents. Even if one parent believes the children are better off by being only with them, the courts may not agree. Every case is different, but unless there is a clear danger to the child, children should usually have access to both parents. The courts are normally able to distinguish between one parent posturing in advance of a custody battle via a PFA filing, and a situation that actually requires court intervention to protect someone from being abused.

Some counties in Pennsylvania have a PFA intake coordinator. These coordinators help screen out potentially meritless PFA filings before they are filed. One Pennsylvania county (Montgomery) recently incorporated an innovative PFA Friend of the Court program where attorneys help facilitate agreements between the parties after a PFA petition has been filed, but before the matter proceeds before a judge for a final disposition. Basically, the parties voluntarily enter into written agreements (in the form of a court order), which is signed by the parties, signed by the judge, placed on the docket, and then become enforceable orders of court. The original PFA petitions are almost always voluntarily withdrawn on the record upon reaching an alternate, enforceable, written  agreement. The PFA Friend of the Court program is a win-win alternative to the standard PFA filing and hearing process.

PFA petitions are absolutely necessary in certain situations. It is important to remember that using a PFA petition for purposes other than what they were designed for, is never a good idea.