5 of the Dirtiest Divorce Tricks

Some divorcing spouses treat each other deplorably. In these sad cases, it is actually hard to believe they were once in love. Candour and kindness are replaced by artifice and cruelty. Divorce lawyers are well aware of the grab bag of dirty tricks spouses inflict on each other. My top five dirtiest divorce tricks are:

1. Conflicting Out All of the Top Divorce Lawyers

An age-old practice for a spouse who expects a long, drawn out divorce battle is to ensure their estranged partner can’t retain a top divorce lawyer. It goes like this – husband or wife makes appointments with the top lawyers in the area. At each meeting they reveal enough about their situation that the top lawyer, who they have no real intention of retaining, cannot act for their spouse. If each top lawyer charges them $500.00 for a one hour consultation, they only spend a few thousand dollars to ensure they have defanged their spouse by preventing him or her from hiring a “gun” equivalent to their top-tier counsel. Yes, this happens in the world of high net worth divorce.

2. Firing Your Lawyer Just Before Trial

Another effective divorce trick is to fire your lawyer weeks before your divorce trial is set to commence. How does this work? It’s easy. Let’s say you are the wife of a wealthy husband. Since you obtained a court order ejecting your husband from the family home, you now reside in luxury with peace and quiet; you are receiving thousands of dollars a month in tax-free child and spousal support; and your life consists of tennis lessons, lunch with the girls at the Club and evening soirees. Meanwhile your husband is doing what he always does: travelling around the world doing business deals to support your mutual lifestyles. He doesn’t even see the kids much, so there’s no hassles at all.

Why would you spoil all this by taking a chance that a judge may eliminate some part of your lavish lifestyle or impose an access schedule for the children to see their father that may interfere with your plans?

3. Transferring Your Assets Off-Shore

While you may live a life of champagne and caviar, it is unlikely you can maintain that level of opulence if your spouse has arranged to stash all his liquid assets off-shore in trusts set up in any number of tax havens such as the Bahamas, the Isle of Man, Turks and Caicos or Switzerland.

In many jurisdictions a Court may make an order that off-shore assets be divided between the spouses, but just wait until you see how difficult it is for you to convince the foreign jurisdiction they must obey the order of a North American Court. All I can say is good luck!

4. Arranging Multiple Mortgages on Your Real Estate

It is not uncommon to see marriages where the “little lady” has no idea of what she and her husband are really worth. Imagine a spouse’s disappointment when their lawyer informs them that the family home and their summer cottage are mortgaged to the hilt and have little or no equity. Their once middle-class standard of living evaporates as Mrs. now looks for a basement suite to house her and her two children.

Another real estate divorce trick is to build a lavish home on leased land that is situated on property that is in the agricultural land reserve, so that while it may have cost $3 million to build, it has no real market value since nobody in their right mind would purchase this property. Yes, this is a true story.

5. Building a House of Cards

For a time life is grand, but inevitably problems arise in your marriage. In an effort to please your spouse you try you to spend your way back to the marriage you once had. Little does your spouse know that the trips to Europe, Hawaii and the Super Bowl were leveraged, courtesy of American Express or Visa. The marriage does not survive and you discover your net worth is much less than you expected as you have tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt all used for the family. Let’s just hope the Sistine Chapel was worth it.

Perhaps you think that with the explosion of mediation and collaborative divorce, these tricks have lost their lustre? Think again. For spouses who need revenge more than they need closure, they are alive and well.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang


11 thoughts on “5 of the Dirtiest Divorce Tricks

  1. Of course, there is a flip-side to your commentary.

    The dirtiest trick of all, which happens with so much regularity that it’s almost a stereotype:

    a) Wife remains home with the children as establishes herself as a stay-at-home mother;
    b) Husband throws himself into his job, doing his best to support his family;
    c) Wife and Husband divorce – and the net result:

    Husband is saddled with a significant child and spousal support obligation – which obligation is not only based upon his base salary – but assumes continued long overtime hours typified in the last years of the marriage.

    At the same time, Husband is granted marginal parental involvement as his “reward” for spending so much time away from home working.

    Over and over again, we see the Courts making father’s “week-end dads” because they don’t deserve to be fathers in a full sense because of how they “neglected” the children in working so hard to support the family.

    Of course, when the father recognizes what he is losing and seeks to change his work circumstances to allow him the time it takes to be a more involved parent – the Courts uniformly see that as an effort to avoid a support obligation and penalyze the father accordingly by refusing to consider a reduced support obligation and refusing to allow for an increased parental role.

    Word to the wise, fathers – do NOT remove yourself from your children to increase your family’s lifestyle. Do NOT work overtime. DO assert a need for your Wife to find employment outside of the home as soon as reasonably possible after children are born and continue to support your Wife in improving her education or job prospects.

    Almost half of all marriages will fail – and you DO NOT want to be on the receiving end of what too often is a “lose/lose” situation for fathers – unmanageable support obligation and unfair division of parental responsibilities.

  2. At best, this article is unrealisti­c. Worse, it doesn’t even attempt to highlight the real tricks people play or messes they get themselves into by fighting with each other through the legal process. For seven years I’ve hosted seminars for people considerin­g divorce in arizona. If you’re curious about the seminars take a look at http://www.azcde.com

  3. Arnold My number 4 trick entails naive wife signing documents put in front of her without realizing she is adding more debt on the mortgage or line of credit. Cheers! Georgialee

  4. You can go with any divorce lawyer and they can use their tricks what they use and how they treat your spouse depends upon you. If you will tell bad things about your spouse definitely they will use it against him/her. Today getting married and then divorce is a business for many so take care of your self.

  5. The system is messed up. The only people that benefit from a contentious divorce are the lawyers…..the longer it goes on, the more $$ they make! It is set up to do this, so it needs to be changed if it is ever going to be fair. Just how that would be done, I am not sure, as I am not well versed with the legal system. But,……a panel that does not represent either side…..a neutral group of say, 3 that would hear the case, and the panel would be able to access the parties finances and social security earnings history, etc….Each party would talk to this panel in front of their soon to be divorced spouse, telling the panel and their spouse what they feel would be fair and equitable and the reasons they feel this way. It would not be set up as one side against the other…….The panel should be paid by the state, with a set salary, so it would not give them monetary gain if a case lasted 2 months or 2 years. Course, there would be some people this may not work for, as they would not be happy no matter how fair a settlement would be, but if this was the first required action, perhaps it would help keep people from being financially devastated.

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