Please help me break the chains

Posted 09 January, 2020 at 17:29

Author Michelle Garner on behalf of Sally Herdman International Services


In 1995 I met a man who I believed shared my values and dreams of having children and a rural content family life on a farm.  It was a few years before I found that my dreams weren’t quite panning out as we had planned.  By that time my husband (I married him) had moved us (my son and I) into the depths of the countryside and closed most of my previous life doors!  We had married when I gave birth.  I thought this was his strong family value and with hindsight realise it was just an ownership thing.  Slowly and insidiously he stripped me of my self-worth, confidence and esteem.  The only time of the day I didn’t receive emotional or psychological torment was when I was working and paying money into the bank or cashing in my savings to make ends meet because the farm just ate money and didn’t produce an income.   For years I kept putting in money and effort and attempting to fix the family and keep the image of a happy family. I worked at my own business, managed the home and built the farm business as much as possible. I believed this was the best thing for us all and gave my all to try and make it work.  As my savings ran out I was the one who got loans and credit to make ends meet!  Finally, exhausted of emotion, money and lack of response by my husband to my entreaties to change, I applied for a divorce.  I believed it was the best way for my son to have a chance to finish his education without being berated for being stupid every day and for me to go to work and make ends meet and not have the constant drain of debts from the farm.

Over five and half years later and I am still not free.  The whole legal system is broken and completely fails to address issues around coercive control and financial abuse!  I engaged a lawyer to help as I was finding it impossible to get my ex-husband to negotiate or take any action.  As the new laws on the criminality of domestic abuse had just come into force and there were many media stories of awareness of this type of abuse, I had faith that the lawyer and the court system would be supportive and understanding of my needs and would recognise the abusive controlling situation I was in.  Sadly. this is not so.  It seems that it is only the victims of abuse who have any understanding and their therapists.  However, this does not help my financial situation.  I have had to take my ex to court to try and get the money which was agreed at the financial order in 2016. I started this action in 2014 and was divorced in 2016 and this is continuing.  So far I have had to apply to the court five times to try and get my ex’- husband to end this control. Each time ex-husband has used the system.  He has acted in person, but then instructs a solicitor to ask for deferment to prepare, and then he disinstructs the solicitor. So, the pattern continues.  All of these delays cost me a fortune both emotionally and financially as I have to keep returning to court with a solicitor /barrister.  To create further delay, he has made up expenses and monies that he says I owe to him and this has caused the court to grant adjournments for him to prepare his list of debts. (Back at the time of our divorce and the financial remedy order in 2016, all our finances had been agreed and ordered by the court.  3 years later he is still managing to continue his abuse of me by controlling the distribution of the monies and creating delays and fabrications.)

Not only is his behaviour totally unacceptable and he continues to attempt to control me (and succeeding) as he is preventing me from 1) moving on with my life emotionally and financially 2) calling the shots with all the delays meaning I am “waiting” for him …..

 But the court and legal system is ignoring his bad behaviour, is not protecting me as someone who is being abused … even in the waiting room before going into court.  I have to suffer his glares, loud spiteful comments and constant attempts at trying to bully and control me.

 Whilst all this is ongoing, I am I am still stuck in a business partnership with him and so he is still controlling my life and enjoying it!   He has got the court to hold  monies due to me from the sale of our farm, while he makes up more and more fictitious debts.  In the meantime, I have mounting legal bills for each appearance and am now nearly out of funds, trying to get my money!  

 Financially he is secure, there is a relatively small amount of money that needs to be settled between us, and this amount of money is being eaten up with lawyer’s fees and expenses.  He has no intention of me getting what is rightfully due to me and seems intent on delaying for as long as possible so, should I get what I am due, he knows I will have to pay it all and more in lawyer’s costs.

 What do I do? I am not in a financial situation where I can afford to lose what is rightfully mine, but equally I do not have endless funds to go to court and pay barristers and lawyers.

I feel completely let down by the “system” and once this is all over, I want to pursue this inequality and unjust way of attempting to end financial abuse and coercive control.  I want the government to urgently review this as a satisfactory way for couples in these situations to end their relationships. I also want a guarantee that those in positions such as legal teams and advisers and court staff are more aware and trained in how to recognise and manage this type of hidden abuse.   

 … I have to find a way of funding to get to the final hearing which should be sometime after 10th January 2020.  The judge has directed a half day’s reading and a one and a half day’s hearing.  I desperately want to get to court to present my case to the judge.  I want to make it clear that this is continuing abuse and coercive control and that ex-husband is using the courts to collaborate with this abuse.  

 I want a chance to state my case and be heard and get the system changed.  Not just for me but for anyone else who is suffering this kind of abuse and who mostly likely give up on cases like mine, because of all the anxiety, stress, expense …. But why should they?  I am being failed by the system, which is allowing someone who has controlled me for 20 years of marriage and even now having been divorced for 3 years continues still.  Currently the legal system is facilitating his continued abuse, and maybe many others are in this same situation.  It is easy to see how people “give up”, the stress and anxiety and worry about what do I do if I lose all this money which is rightfully mine.  I am at an age (59) where this kind of worry is too much.  I even left the country to live somewhere else, to be away from this man, his family and allies in crime and to seek a healing from the trauma.  All these court appearances and delays means he gets his control by bringing me back each time and it also makes it very difficult to resume my career.   He is jeopardising my life, and my health both emotionally and physically

I have a barrister’s bill for £4920 which they want me to pay now (for a court case that was adjourned!!!) and they project another £8000 to £9000 for the final hearing in court… how do people carry on?  I hope there are some people out there who would like to help me speak out and have my say in court and finish the control and abuse.  In return for any help I promise not to stop until I have got the government to review the way it deals with this hideously damaging form of cruelty.

In the interim I am still stuck in a farm business partnership and so he is still controlling my life. He has got the court to hold monies due to me from the sale of our farm while he makes up more and more fictitious debts.  In the meantime, I have mounting legal bills for each appearance and am now nearly out of funds, trying to get my money!  

I have to find a way of funding to get to the final hearing which should be sometime after 10th January 2020.  The judge has directed a half day’s reading and 1and a half day hearing.  I desperately want to get to court to present my case to the judge.  I want to make it clear that this is continuing abuse and coercive control and that ex-husband is using the courts to collaborate with this abuse.  I want a chance to make a noise and be heard and get the system changed.  Not just for me but for anyone else who is suffering this kind of abuse.

I have a barrister’s bill for £4920 which they want me to pay now and they project another £8000 to £9000 for court.  I hope there are some people out there who would like to help me speak out and have my say in court and finish the control and abuse.  In return for any help I promise not to stop until I have got the government to review the way it deals with this hideously damaging form of cruelty.

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