People talk a lot about dirty tricks in divorce. You can find articles and resources about the usual dirty tricks all over the place. Most of them will also get you in a lot of legal trouble if your hijinks are discovered.
Not so with my favorite dirty trick.
I don't usually get to give people mischievous advice. I value my law license, after all. Plus the time that people spend on revenge is a waste of valuable emotional resources. And I really don't endorse that.
But there are some things you can do which are above-board and which may actually facilitate settlement. This topic came up as a close friend asked me for advice about her upcoming divorce court hearing. My friend happens to be a woman with a son, so I'm going to use those pronouns here, but it works just the same for men and daughters.
Here's what I told my friend, who is having trouble getting her former husband to pay for their child's extracurricular activities and sports as well as simple school expenses, like book rental:
Take a photo book to your hearing. Better yet, take two.
Assemble a bunch of photos of Junior doing all his extracurricular activities: prom, sports, show choir and all the stuff you're asking Dad to pay for half of. Include that great photo of Junior in his baseball uniform, and the team photo after he got the home run. Don't forget prom, with that sweet girl he's known since kindergarten and who Dad probably remembers. A photo of Junior with his 1st car, your brother's 15-year-old mint green Bonneville. Make a photo album scrap book.
Tons of places can make prints really cheaply. Get 5x7's if they're not too much more expensive. Buy an inexpensive album at Big Lots or the 99 Cents Store.
Include straight A report cards and notes from Junior's teachers saying what a great kid Junior is. Include an art project. Basically, make it a scrap book.
Maybe even make Dad a "care package" of Junior-related stuff -- really turn up the Bunsen burner. Does Junior cook or is there a special food they enjoyed together? If so, you and Junior can make Dad cookies and you can take them. Don't give Junior a blow by blow about court, just say, "I'm going to see your Dad tomorrow. Let's make him something special!"
Copies of college brochures? Copies of Junior's applications to colleges?
Or something you know he'd really melt over from Junior. Maybe a DVD of his choir performances, baseball game, or science fair exhibit. "I'm going to see your dad. Let's put something special together from you he can enjoy."
For something like cookies, give them to Dad yourself at the beginning of the day. Just to be nice. No strings attached (except the ones he'll form in his head without any help from you).
You get my drift... a Guilt Package. And you'll be so innocently nice when you give them to him. At the beginning of the day.
Give one album or scrap book to your attorney to show Dad's attorney. Give the other album to Dad as a gift. You'll be sitting around the courthouse hallway for a long time the morning of your hearing. He'll have plenty of time to leaf through the album.
Then let Dad say he doesn't want to pay for those activities and those book rentals.
If you end up testifying and you're asked to provide receipts, be sure and have all the receipts you can find. For the activities for which you can't find receipts, you can say you don't have receipts, but you do have proof Junior participated. Bust out the photos.
I think this will make a great impact. Dad's lawyer likely has kids. So does the Judge. That lawyer will have to stare at Junior's photo while telling Dad he shouldn't have to pay for all the stuff talented, accomplished kids like your son is involved in. It will be all but impossible for the lawyer to do so.
I like this because it's:
- Evil without appearing to be so. After all, you're giving a gift, right?
I love the visual; we use photos of the people's kids all the time in mediation. It makes the issue real and brings people back to earth. It's pretty hard for parents to be jerks while they're staring at photos of their kids.
If only I had these great ideas when I was a litigation attorney.
Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation and community on our video blog and check out Diana's divorce blog on the Huffington Post
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