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. Here are my top five dirtiest tricks:
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: traveling around the world doing business deals to support your mutual lifestyles. He doesn't even see the kids much, and frankly, neither do you since you hired a second nanny. Life is hassle-free and your tennis pro is a real cutie.
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 plan for the children to see their father that may interfere with your schedule?
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 her lawyer informs her 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 and 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 want closure, they are alive and well.