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Chelmsford story reflects dangers of divorce and separation

Truth is often stranger than fiction, and when divorce and other emotionally-laden matters are involved, sometimes the truth becomes very strange indeed.

Take, for example, a story reported in The Boston Globe. A Chelmsford man whose wife had informed him that she intended to divorce him was accused of hiring a hit man to kill his wife. Unfortunately, the so-called hit man was an undercover state trooper and he was arrested last Friday.

According to the charges, he tried to pay $20,000 to have his wife killed. He subsequently asked the state trooper/hit man to beat up his wife so she would be unable to attend a court hearing. Earlier this summer, he damaged both his wife's car and some neighbors' cars. He allegedly watched his wife's apartment from the nearby forest, wearing a ski mask and using binoculars.

The man faces charges of soliciting a felony, attempted assault, witness intimidation and violation of a restraining order. He is being held without bail until his first hearing October 21. There is no record of domestic violence in the marriage prior to this summer.

Although this kind of behavior may seem like a not-so-good movie plot, it has been studied extensively by medical and law enforcement professionals. At least one psychiatrist has characterized is as "malignant divorce" in a 2011 article in the magazine Psychology Today. In the article, the doctor analyzed the types of actions that can make a challenging time much more difficult. His categories include truly crazy or drug addicted ex-spouses and those with stress-induced personality disorders.

According to a study released in April 2014 by the Department of Justice, intimate partner violence was greatest between partners who were separated, as was the case with the Chelmsford couple. It is possible that the man's behavior after his wife announced her intention to divorce him was not so strange, after all.

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