Divorce court can get ugly real fast. On one hand, there's a fight to see who gets what in terms of estate, cars, and other assists. On the other hand there's a fight to see who gets primary care of the children, if there are children in the picture. Normally, in a fair world, these things are settled outside of court. However, there are times when the judicial system has to get involved. When that happens, things tend to get even uglier. In that ugliness, there is a lot of room for moms and dads to sabotage themselves trying to one-up the other when it comes to throwing dirt.
Don't just take our word for it. Check out these stories from Reddit told by lawyers and family members who witnessed someone self-sabotaged themselves in person. Content has been edited for clarity.
"I once mediated the legendary case (at least for me) between 'Bob vs. Chu.'
It must have started out as the perfect dream for Bob. He landed a hot Asian wife, brought her to this country, but once that green card came through things changed. They had a daughter together and the case was mostly about her. Chu had zero respect for this guy, and try as I might to maintain my empathy, I've never felt a greater urge to stuff another human into a locker.
Two of his demands really stood out. He asked for the following injunction: 'Chu shall be reframed from discussing Bob's weight in a derogatory manner, specifically, Chu may not refer to Bob as fatty, tubby, pudgy, or Baymax.'
Normally, I wouldn't take an offer like that to the other side. I'd normally help a guy come up with something more sensible, but everyone, including his lawyer just could not take this guy seriously so I wrote that out verbatim and trotted over to Chu's room. Of course, she thought it was hilarious. She had a super thick accent and said, 'My daughter calls him Baymax because he looks like Baymax. I can't fix that. He has to fix that.'
Then there comes a point at the end of the day when everything is pretty much settled and people are dividing up the stuff in the house. Of course, Bob has a meltdown at this point and it's over a dang Nintendo Switch for the daughter. Chu made the very sensible proposal that the daughter take the Switch with her to each parents house as she goes back and forth. Bob freaks out and demands the Switch stay with him at all times because, 'There's no way Chu can take proper care of it.'
Mind you the attorneys are billing enough to pay for three Switches an hour at this point. I don't know what happened to the guy after the trail, but I do know calling him Baymax could land one lady in contempt of court after the most hilarious enforcement trial of all time. Plus, he owns what's probably the most expensive Nintendo Switch in the world."
"A friend of my wife was divorcing him because he’s an unreliable idiot. He truly believed that he was smarter than everyone so he dragged out the process as long as he possibly could, making it as difficult as possible on her. He scheduled and rescheduled meetings, sometimes he didn't show up. He'd promise to do a thing and then back track later. He refused to negotiate at all. I think his plan was to make the divorce so difficult on her that she would just stay married. He was also doing all this Pro Se (litigants or parties representing themselves in court without the assistance of an attorney) so her lawyer had to deal directly with him.
After a year of this, his wife had had enough. She told her lawyer to make it happen. The lawyer set a date and the court served him notice of the divorce proceeding. She showed up to court and he wasn’t there. So, as the only party there, she got a very one-sided deal. She got their business, custody of the kids, the house and all contents, her car, and rights to their joint bank account. He got his car, his clothes, and half the proceeds of the sale of the house when she decides to sell it. That’s it. He found out about this when he called the court a week after it happened.
What had happened is her lawyer served the divorce notice to an address in a different town with a similar name. Normally, this would have been caught by his attorney who would have received notice directly from the court, but since he had no attorney, there was no one other than him that the court could send the notice to.
He finally hired a lawyer and tried to get the settlement tossed as he claimed he was never served, but the judge said there was nothing he could do."
"In my country, lawyers, attorneys, and advocates are three separate professions. I am a lawyer. A husband and wife were 50/50 co-owners in business. Unbeknownst to us, the husband gave 1 extra share to his wife.
(In my country, South Africa, we have laws called Black Economic Empowerment, where female are worth more points than males in certain situations)
Anyway, fast-forward a year, he is caught having an affair. She wants a divorce. And the attorneys stumble on the 51% shareholding. Since she technically owned majority of the company, she was able to make all the decisions regarding the company. Within a week, she sold everything, and when I say everything I mean EVERYTHING. This includes their house in the city, their vacation place in Mauritius, and even their game farm. EVERYTHING.
Of course, he got his 49% of the profits, but she sold it for less than 10% of its value. To an unknown trust. Later it came out the trust was her attorney's setup. She sold it to herself for nothing, gave him nothing, bought it back and has all their stuff now."
"More of an estate issue, but I once worked on behalf of a man (now deceased) who was married 9 years ago to a woman. These are what I like to call, 'late in life marriages' where a woman with nothing marries a retired man with a house, retirement income, and time to vacation.
Man brings a fully paid for house into the marriage. He takes out a mortgage to presumably afford vacations and new wife expenses. Bank requires both names on the mortgage, so he deeds it to them as joint tenants.
Two years later, she leaves him for another man and was never heard from again. A couple months ago, he finds out he’s going to die. He immediately files for a divorce (but it was never finalized), he created a deed to his children (not valid because it would need her signature), and a will which describes in detail how terrible she was and disinheriting her completely (doesn’t matter because the state allows a wife to avoid the will and take 1/2 of marital property).
He died before anything could be done. She now owns the only remaining assets of the house and a marital car. Even though the son moved into the house and took care of his dying father for two years, no heirs will receive anything. She will receive a hefty house and a car worth $20K."
"I met a girl in college who was not incredibly bright, and was suddenly in a blind panic to make money.
The reason why she was in such a panic is because she had just been kicked out of the place she was staying and needed emergency money. She had been kicked out because she was living with her 'boyfriend' in his house, while his wife was in the hospital due to brain cancer.
So when she came home, still very much not likely to live long, he booted this 19-year-old out of his house saying she could, 'move back in when she dies.'
His wife ended up beating cancer once she came back home, which was a surprise to many. After she beat cancer, she started receiving mail for a strange name and eventually tracked her down on Facebook. From there she found out that her 47-year-old husband had been dating a 19-year-old for 'just over a year officially' (likely actually longer) and put him through the wringer.
During the divorce, since the evidence was so over whelming, she needed up getting half of everything. Plus he had to cover half of her medical bills, which was an extra throw in by the judge."
"I represented a woman whose husband had attacked her with what was essentially a broomstick but instead of a broom at the end there was a metal scrub brush. When the time came for trial, I figured the other attorney (an old professor of mine) was going to ask for and get a continuance. Why? Because there were pending criminal charges for the assault, and the guy can't just remain silent in civil court as he can in criminal court. If you refuse to answer a question in civil court, the court can take a negative inference against you.
When the husband's lawyer and I were talking prior to the hearing, he told me he was going to have the hearing today unless I was willing to drop the alimony claim. I think he took my questioning him if he wanted a continuance as an indication that I was unprepared. Since I wasn't, I told him I was going to have the hearing, and that his client was going to be my first witness. Husband's attorney said his client would plead the fifth, and I told him the chancellor (judge) would take a negative inference if he did. Husband's attorney said, 'The chancellor will do what the chancellor will do,' clearly trying to intimidate me into backing down on alimony.
So when the hearing starts, the husband's attorney is looking a little miffed that I'm still pushing for alimony, and at this point I have an assistant bring in the broken weapon used to attack my client. The wooden handle stood propped next to my desk and the scrub brush lay on it. I called husband as my first witness.
Husband's attorney jumps up and objects that this is improper and that I have to call my client first. I tell the chancellor I'll respond when he cites a rule (there is no such rule in this court). The chancellor smiled, turned to husband's attorney and asks him which rule he's referring to. He withdraws his objection, and then says his client is pleading the fifth. I respond that this is fine, but that his client still needs to take the stand so he can invoke that on each individual question he doesn't want to answer, so the court knows where to take a negative inference against him. The chancellor sides with me, and husband takes the stand.
So after my warm up questions, I ask husband what happened on X date (the night of the assault). He contends wife had driven donuts in the yard he had been working on, and that she then got out of the car and started swearing at him.
Me: 'That made you angry didn't it?'
Him: 'It was disrespectful.'
Me: 'That...made...you...angry, didn't it?'
Him: 'It would have made anyone angry.'
Me (slow enough that it sounds like I'm talking to a foreign toddler): 'That...ma....de...YOU...an...gry...didn't it?'
Him: 'It sure as [redacted] did!'
Chancellor: 'If you swear again in this courtroom I'll have you arrested.'
Me: 'You said she was disrespectful and her actions would have made anyone angry, right?'
Me: 'You didn't just take that lying down, did you? (Here's where I'm figuring he'll plead the fifth and I'll get my negative inference and move on, but before his lawyer can jump up to do so, husband answers)'
Him: 'Of course not, I hit her!'
Me: 'You didn't hit her with your hands, did you?'
Him: 'No, I hit her with that stick you got over there (he actually pointed at it)'
Me: 'You hit her more than once didn't you?'
Him: 'I hit her until she got the point. Probably three or four times. (his lawyer is literally facepalming at this point)'
Me: 'You hit her hard enough that the end broke off, didn't you (I'm holding up the metal scrubber)'
Him (turning to his lawyer): 'Is this where I'm supposed to say I don't want to answer cause my criminal case?'
Needless to say, my client got her alimony."
"I represented a husband whose wife was extremely, extremely bitter against him. Her first affidavits in the custody action were like 50 pages of angry ranting about his various failures as a husband and father, including WAY too much information about his jacking-off habits (the first thing the judge did was strike all that from the record). Husband was not the greatest husband or father, but he certainly wasn't the type of violent deadbeat who deserved to never see his kids again, which is exactly what wife was going for.
The property division and custody fight dragged on for about four years before I got on the file. By that time, the husband hadn't seen his kids for about three of those four years. The wife made application after application for parental evaluations and supervised visitation and restrictions on the husband's new girlfriend from being around the kids and on and on and on. Simultaneously, the property division was extremely contentious as well. These were solidly middle class folks; the only reason wife could afford to drag it out so long was because she had a ton of her own exempt money that she was perfectly willing to burn on making sure the husband was stretched as thin as humanly possibly.
Quick side-note: her lawyer, my God, what a piece of work. I hated the wife's lawyer so dang much. Absolute dragon of a woman, she drove me all the way around from bat crazy to Stockholm syndrome by how hard she refused to ever compromise. She's the number one lawyer I would recommend to anyone who wants to skull bash their ex, but also has a spare $100,000 sitting around to pay her.
Eventually, we got the property divided, the divorce finalized, and set up the first visit for the husband with his kid which he hadn't seen in a couple years. Surely everyone was tired of fighting by this point? Haha, no. Wife immediately filed to move with the kids to another jurisdiction, where she had more family support. Husband was plain out of money to fight at this point. He was pretty defeated. We were off the file by then, so I don't know if the wife succeeded in moving the kids, but she probably did.
In the wife's defense, one of the kids had some pretty severe emotional issues that the husband probably exacerbated; I don't necessarily think she was wrong to want some degree of supervision or restrictions on the husband's parenting of the kids. Wife absolutely did need family support to care for that kid and hold down a job, and Husband was the type who talks more about wanting to be a good parent than he was actually willing to put in the effort, either before or after the split. But, my God, couldn't they have reached a compromise on the parenting and property, and then spent all that money on therapists and visitation supervisors and parenting classes instead of on lawyers? Jeez."
"My wife's ex-husband played himself in court regarding child support. Originally, they agreed to work on a payment agreement outside the court system because it would save both parties money. He told her he could afford $200 a month, maybe $250 a month but that would be the absolute most he could do. She felt that was a little low but told him to let her think it over and she would get back to him. He then spent the next several days asking her if the $200 figure would work because he knew someone who would type it up and then they could both sign.
She ended up finding the state guidelines for calculating child support payments. She plugged in all the numbers, and was shocked with the outcome. The guidelines said his payment should be between the $800-850. If this information, she countered the original offer by asking for $400 because we didn't need the full amount to take care of the kid, buy him things he needs on top of doing fun things. This dude outright refused and said there was no way he could afford that much because it would impact his life style too much.
She pointed out the fact that she was offering less than a quarter of what the state said was the minimum amount he should be paying. Dude still refused. So then we had to get the legal system involved. Lawyers were hired, numbers were discussed in mediation and still he refused to budge. He was told by the mediator, 'If this goes to court the judge isn't going to care if it impacts your lifestyle.' Mediation failed, a court date was scheduled. The date arrives and he walks in with a brand-new lawyer. The hearing got pushed because the new lawyer didn't have time to prepare for the case properly having been hired like two days prior. Next court date they tried to bypass the custody hearing by pushing for a change in custody. That fell through because it was based on him having a picture of my wife standing by a mutual friend of ours.
Next court date he walked in with a third lawyer and the date got pushed again. Rinse and repeat this cycle like for 8 months before finally a hearing was held. It lasted long enough for the judge to look at the numbers involved, she set his child support at the 800+ figure and that was the end of things. It was the most ridiculously petty thing ever. He ended up paying over twice what my wife was asking for and managed to rack of thousands in legal fees in the process."
"During my dad's recent divorce of my stepmom, he voluntarily gave her the house, 2 of 3 cars they had, and most of the assets. He only wished to take his mechanics tools, personal items, and some necessities like clothes, towels, some dishes and cooking utensils etc.
My step mother demanded in court that he reimburse her monetarily for all of these items, to include the 6 towels he had taken with him, which she had apparently valued at $1,000 a piece. When the judge heard this after being informed that my dad had basically voluntarily given her about 85% of his net worth, he had to hide a laugh when he said that no, he would not be requiring my dad to pay $6,000 for 6 Walmart brand bath towels."
"I used to be a divorce lawyer but it was not something I was proud of, plus the partner I worked for was such a bully I. I was the eleventh associate that worked for her in 10 years. We used to go through 2-3 secretaries a year.
Couple messed up cases I remember:
1). Our client and his wife were Mormon. During the divorce, she used to tell him that he had to give her what she wanted in the divorce because they were sealed in the church and would be spending eternity together. We had to fight him not to give her more than she deserved.
2). Represented the wife of a minor celebrity and said celebrity would file for divorce regularly when she 'acted up.' Once he determined she was behaving as he liked, he'd cancel the divorce. Rotten bully."
"Dad did a couple divorce cases in his early career and had a few fun ones. If I'm going off of who was the most 'bogus' I do remember one case where the mom was arguing for full custody with no visitation under the allegation that the dad abused the child or something. However, when they spoke with the child and got the doctors reports and whatnot, it was textbook coaching. She told her kid what to say to make it sound like dad was touching them when nothing inappropriate was actually going on. Needless to say, that's what pushed the judge in favor of granting dad primary custody. The judge really chewed both of them out because the whole time they were both just doing whatever they could to get at the other, but the judge really didn't take too kindly to dragging the kid into their squabble.
Another one he told me about was actually HIM being the dummy. He was defending this poor battered woman divorcing her abusive husband, and not shockingly the judge was siding with her more on the division of stuff. After all was said and done the dude went up to my dad and basically told him he was going to track him and his family down and kill them, or something to that effect. He ended up in jail on unrelated stuff eventually, but my dad was so spooked at the time he made sure my mom knew what he looked like and told her if she ever saw him in public or anything to avoid him and call 911 if he ever approached her.
I found out about this story because my dad was facebook creeping on the guy, because he apparently had just gotten out of jail, but he said he doubted that after 20 odd years the guy even remembered him.
Lastly I'll tell one of my favorite stories my dad likes to tell. Basically a husband and wife were arguing over the furniture in their house, and there was a HUGE blow up over this living chair. Wife was arguing that the chair should go to her because it matched the sofa and she was getting that. Husband argued that the chair should go to him because, 'His butt fit the chair perfectly.' My dad always called it the 'Butt fits the chair' defense. Things ended up with judge getting fed up and auctioning the dang chair off. He asked the wife how much she would be willing to pay him for the chair. She said $10 bucks. He then asked the husband, 'Are you willing to pay her more than $10 for the chair?' Husband then just grumbles, 'Fine she can have the dang chair.'
My dad was like, for heaven sake neither one of these people even cared about the dang chair... It wasn't worth more than $10 bucks to either of them, they just wanted to fight over it.
Which is why my dad said he never wants to go back to doing divorce cases, because most of the ones he's seen is usually about a bitter couple just wanting to have one more fight before parting ways."