10 Dirty Divorce Tricks to Play on Your Spouse
But BEWARE! Each One Can Boomerang
Dirty tricks to get back at your soon-to-be-ex may seem like a good idea at the time. Retaliating for wrongs your ex committed may give you a sense of satisfaction knowing that you are getting revenge or giving your ex what he/she deserves. But the truth of the matter is that these dirty divorce tricks rarely give the perpetrator any advantage and almost always lead to animosity. Much like the bombing of Pearl Harbor awoke a sleeping giant, dirty divorce tricks can also provide inspiration to the other side. During your divorce proceedings, resist the urge to engage in vengeful behavior because you just might find that the joke is on you. Here are some examples of what not to do:
1. Leave Him With Nothing.
A female client is contemplating leaving the marital home. It seems clear that if she lets her husband know that she is leaving, he will prevent her. It must be done without his knowledge. She is mad at him and wants to really stick it to him, so when she leaves, she takes absolutely everything in the house. When he returns home, he doesn't have anything to sit on and nothing to cook with. She thinks she has really shown him, but all she is really doing is provoking him and throwing down the gauntlet for an all-out war.
2. Cancel the Credit Cards.
I represented a mother of three whose doctor husband was fooling around with a nurse. Both had hired lawyers but my client wanted to wait before suing her husband for adultery, hoping things could be worked out amicably. My client was returning from a long trip with one of her daughters and was attempting to pay for gas for the return when her card was declined. Her husband, who makes about one million dollars a year, elected to cancel all of her credit cards without warning. Suffice it to say, the good doctor bought himself an adultery complaint and a temporary hearing wherein the judge was informed of what he had done.
3. Get Him Fired.
I am always amazed at the desire of offended spouses to get their ex fired or in trouble with the IRS or, in one case, the Securities and Exchange Commission. What could they possibly be thinking when they are also trying to recover enough money from their spouse to support themselves? Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!
4. Cutting Off the Utilities.
This is surely one of the dirtier divorce tricks to pull. I have had many phone calls from clients reporting that the telephone, power, or cable has been cut off at the house without warning. A move like this only creates a downward spiral of attacks and counterattacks.
5. Tell the Paramour's Spouse.
A common reaction to the discovery of an affair is to call the paramour's spouse with the sordid details. This in turn can provoke that spouse to file an alienation of affection suit that will place the marital assets at risk. Obviously, this is a very self-destructive move to make. (There are times that it can be advantageous to share this information, but this should be done by the lawyer, not the client).
6. Move out of State with the Kids.
Such a move seems, at the time, to be a really good way to get at your spouse, but some cases prove it may be a good way of having the judge grant custody to your spouse for your wrongful conduct. In some states, it constitutes kidnapping.
7. Clean out the Bank Accounts.
While this may provide some immediate satisfaction and security, it could lead to an emergency hearing and the attendant cost. It also might attach a stigma of unfairness to the perpetrator which they may never be able to shake. (There are times when this may be a necessary move, but only with the advice of counsel and only for very good reason.)
8. File an Accusation of Child Abuse.
I suspect that few people knowingly file false reports of abuse, but it is very prevalent for people caught in the heat of the moment of divorce to stretch normal occurrences to suit their benefit. Judges know this. When there is the possibility of abuse, do not allow anyone to speak to your child, and get them to a professional specifically trained in interviewing children for abuse. Allegations of abuse can go both ways, so be careful before you start hurling stones. Let the professionals handle it.
9. Embarrass your Spouse.
Many people want to teach their spouse a lesson by having them served with summons or subpoenas at work or other embarrassing places. I know of one case where a woman specifically instructed the process server to serve her husband right before he boarded a plane for an overseas hunting trip. There may be satisfaction in such gestures, but they can lead to retaliation and an escalation of the war. Remember, they will someday have the power to attempt the same embarrassment on you.
10. Pull the Trigger Just Because You Can.
There are many times in the course of a divorce when there is the opportunity to file something, take some legal action or move for some sanction, but the better choice is to delay or forego the action. For example, your husband is guilty of adultery. You have clear proof. You may think you must file suit on adultery since the opportunity presents itself. However, experience often proves that waiting to assess the situation and determining when or if such action is most beneficial. For example, the mere threat of litigation may prove more powerful in negotiation than the actual filing of litigation.
All of the foregoing rules come with the caveat that no rule should be followed if it would be imprudent to do so. Sometimes, you have to do certain things. The key is to seek the advice of experienced counsel and make sure you and your counsel are not adversarial just for the sake of it.
Instead of focusing your efforts on hurting your ex, make sure that every
move you make is truly designed to help you move closer toward a positive
solution and is not simply designed to seize a purely temporary advantage or
satisfy an unproductive emotion. Let's keep it clean!
Return to top of Dirty Divorce Tricks
Article by Mark Chinn. May not be copied or distributed without the written consent of the author.
Mark Chinn is a recognized lecturer on family law matters and is a contributor to various legal periodicals. He is also a recognized author, having written "The Constructive Divorce" as well as two other books published by the American Bar Association. He was selected for membership into the Outstanding Lawyers of America and is currently a family attorney practicing in Jackson, MS. For more information on Chinn & Associates, please visit: www.chinnandassociates.com.
As you can see, dirty divorce tricks can definitely backfire on the person who pulls them. Instead of seeking revenge in your divorce, try to work out an solution that leaves everyone with their dignity intact. For more ideas on how to get the best outcome from your divorce, check out the following articles: