What constitutes harassment by an ex-spouse?

Divorce inevitably brings a lot of emotional strain. In some cases, this heightened turmoil can lead to harassment by a former spouse. Harassment can take many forms — it’s important to understand what constitutes harassment in order to protect yourself.

If you believe you’re being harassed by your former spouse, call our experienced Fairfax family lawyers at (855) 541-4867 for personalized legal guidance.

Recognizing harassment by an ex-spouse

Harassment is defined as any kind of unwanted conduct that causes emotional distress, nuisance, or alarm. It’s a broad category that can include a range of behaviors, but the impact remains the same — it causes one person to obtain a state of power over another, and the harassed person feels annoyed, intimidated, threatened, or humiliated.


When harassment occurs between two former spouses, it’s often used as a means of control. People who struggle to regulate their emotions may refuse to accept the end of the marriage and use intimidation to force their ex-spouse into submission. Other times, a former spouse might turn to harassment to gain an advantage in a custody or financial dispute.


You can often recognize harassment by its effects. If you feel frightened, anxious, overwhelmed, or powerless due to your ex-spouse’s behavior and their patterns of behavior, it may be a sign that harassment or domestic violence is occurring. Harassment by an ex-spouse can also lead to physical symptoms, such as headaches, sleep disturbances, or changes in eating habits.

Common types of harassment

There are several categories of harassment that may be perpetrated by an ex-spouse. Some are subtler than others, but all can be emotionally damaging and shouldn’t be ignored.

Verbal harassment

Verbal harassment typically involves offensive or abusive language, either in person or via digital means. This can include name-calling, aggressive speech, threats of violence, or repeatedly calling or texting.

Physical harassment

Physical harassment involves the aggressor’s physical presence. Examples include blockading the victim’s entry to a location, gesturing in a threatening manner, or throwing objects.

Stalking and surveillance

Stalking is a form of harassment that involves continually and unlawfully monitoring or pursuing someone. This may involve repeatedly appearing at their home, office, or other places they frequent and using tracking devices to monitor the victim’s movements.

Steps to take when being harassed

You don’t need to suffer in silence. If you believe you’re being harassed by an ex-spouse, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and those you love.

Take safety precautions

Safety should always be your first priority. If possible, avoid being alone with the harasser, and create a safety plan to protect yourself and your family. This may include changing your daily routine, informing trusted friends and family of the situation, or blocking the harasser’s phone number, email address, and social media accounts.

Gather evidence

Documentation of the harasser’s behavior, including emails, text messages, voicemails, videos, and photos can be invaluable evidence in court if you need to take legal action. Each time the harasser makes a threatening or intimidating remark, record it in a notebook with details like the date, time, and location for additional documentation.

Obtain witness information

If you’re harassed in public, try to get witness information from bystanders in case you need testimony in court down the line. This can include their names, contact information, and an account of what they heard or saw.

Report the harassment

Unfortunately, not all forms of harassment are illegal. However, if their behavior crosses the line into a criminal act, it’s important to report it to local law enforcement. You can also contact a domestic violence hotline for assistance if you feel unsafe.

Seek therapy

The emotional effects of harassment can linger long after the incident is over. To cope with the trauma, it’s essential that you seek treatment from a qualified mental health professional who can help you process your experience and heal.

Consult a lawyer

You may have legal options for dealing with the harassment, such as seeking a restraining order or modifying the terms of your child custody order. A Fairfax family lawyer can help you understand your rights and develop a plan for moving forward.

If you’re being harassed by your ex-spouse, contact Select Law Partners PLLC at (855) 541-4867 to schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers. Together, we’ll work to protect you and your family from further harm.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

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