Divorce lawyers have truly seen it all. These are some of the most appalling instances of a wife trying to sabotage her husband, and in the process, revealing her startlingly true colors. It was enough to make some of these lawyers quit their practice altogether. Content has been edited for clarity.
"I represented a guy who was on his second marriage. His first wife passed away from cancer, so he and his kids were obviously devastated. My client was a pretty sensitive guy with a big heart. His second wife could be very charming, which was why he fell for her, but it was all a facade. Anyway, to make a long story about a lengthy divorce short, my client met a very kind and affectionate woman during his case. They really hit it off and were basically engaged (even though his divorce was far from over). The fiancée started having health problems and was diagnosed with a form of terminal cancer.
Somehow the second wife found out about all of this and tried to use the cancer diagnosis against my client in court. She developed this crazy theory that my client had killed his first wife by giving her cancer and that he was doing the same thing to his 'fiancée'. The second wife's attorney, who was quite good, refused to be a party to it. The attorney never addressed the argument in court and didn't even ask the second wife any questions about it during testimony. Rather, the attorney informed the judge that the second wife wished to address the court directly about an issue. The judge allowed her to do so (in a highly irregular move). The second wife told her crazy conspiracy theory to the judge, adding that she was certain my client had try to give her cancer at some point as well.
I wish I had an artist's rendering of the scene, capturing the second wife's crazy eyes, her attorney's look of shame and embarrassment, the judge's look of confusion and ennui, and my look of awe-inspired disgust."
"I had a client whose wife wanted him out of the house. I told him not to leave, just to move to a different bedroom for the time being, because once he was out, the chances of him ever getting back in were slim. He texted his wife and told her he was staying in the house. She called back and left a voicemail that she wanted him out, and if he wasn't out soon, she would start taking out her unhappiness on the children. She would remind the children that mommy was being mean to them because daddy wouldn't leave. You bet I played it for the mediator and judge.
The divorce was concluded through mediation. If we had taken it to the court, the outcome would have been the same. It is very hard to get a court to deny a parent access to their child. That is the reality. It is not black and white. We used it to get him as the custodial parent and she was ordered to pay the statutory child support. It is very hard to make a case that a parent should not be allowed to see their kids. There is a presumption in my state that it is in the child’s best interest to have contact with a parent.
It ended in the standard custody arrangement where the ex-husband and wife alternated, and she had the kids every first, third, and fifth weekend. They ended up selling the house and splitting the money. He got his car, and she got her’s. They had a bank account and savings. She got most of the savings, but he kept his 401k. He had a job and she didn’t. He was college educated and she was a drop-out, so we threw her a bone on the money. It was a decade ago. He is fine, both have remarried, but the guy she married is trashy and all of his shirts have the sleeves cut off.
Believe it or not, the woman got unsupervised visitation. She said she didn’t mean what she said on the voicemail. In my state the law is clear that there is not a presumption that a child is better off with the mother, but in practice that is not true. Even when women are clearly the worse parent, they are more often given the benefit of the doubt. I personally know children who were taken from loving foster homes and people trying to adopt them and dropped back into the hands of parents who abused them.
People are just really dumb and all the emotions around a divorce make it worse. One piece of advice I give all my clients is to interact with as little contact as they can when the divorce is filed, and always keep it to a minimum. If a response is more than ten syllables, it is too long."
"My client had been out of the couple's former home for weeks now. The ex-wife waited until this guy was on a business trip to enact her revenge. She turned on all of the faucets, plugged the drains, turned off the furnace, and just left. It was -10 degrees outside. This guy came back five days later. There was about three feet of water in the basement. It was cold enough that the ice expansion pushed out all of the concrete walls. The house was completely, utterly ruined. The water froze and cracked all of the foundation."
"The mom was an evil mastermind during this divorce. The parents had been separated but were still living in the same house for a while. The two of them wanted to go on a camping trip, so they would break it up so they each got a week with their three kids. During the dad's week, she got her friends to help clear the entire house out. There was absolutely nothing left, not a single clothing hanger, no couch, and no TV. She chose this time quite well too. Camping meant that the rest of the family didn't have access to cell service, so she emptied the bank accounts and hid all of the money away. This woman also maxed out lines of credit. Normally this would take quite a while, but she was quite clever in this approach. While planning the divorce, she had convinced the dad to quit his job and start his own company. This new company needed to cover a ton of expenses, so the bank didn't think twice about an absurdly high amount of money being transferred, as it wasn't out of the norm given the context.
When the dad's portion of the camping trip ended, the wife told him to call her when he returned into cell range. Upon the call, she told him to meet halfway to the house, so the two of them could spare the kids extra driving time. She was adamant about this. They met up and swapped the vehicles. The dad was on his way home alone, while the kids were off to hide away at a different location than what the mom had told the dad. When he returned home, he thought the entire family had been robbed. It didn't sink in. He broke down, not knowing what to do. That's then his father-in-law came by and told him all of the truth. The wife hid the children in an attempt to steal them away. Eventually, it did catch up to her though. The judge was shocked at what she had done.
She went as far as to convince the kids that the dad was abusive. She had the kids interrogated by a cop, hoping that the kids would lie about him. The entire situation was crazy, and she ended up blowing all the money she had stolen on fancy trips and shopping sprees with her friends. When the judge ordered her to pay it all back she just fled the country. Now she lives in Australia and somehow doesn't have to pay a single thing."
"One particularly terrible case came into our office and was based on a couple divorcing on surprisingly mutual terms. The husband had one child with the ex-wife, and the ex-wife had a child from a previous marriage. This guy agreed to pay child support for both children. I guess he really did care about both of these children equally, even though it wasn't technically his obligation.
This judge signs the official order, everyone involved proceeds to set up the child support account, but it gets rejected for some odd reason. The ex-wife can't have two accounts for one child. It is revealed that she has been collecting child support already from the biological father of her oldest child. She had been collecting this money for the entire time and never told her now ex-husband. She basically tried to milk two fathers for one child. Somehow, the opposing attorney knew about this too!"
"During my very first year of law school, lawyers from various sorts of practices came to give us students a peek behind the curtain of different areas of expertise. The divorce lawyer told the story of an exceptionally wealthy couple that spent months and months, as well as tens of thousands of dollars, fighting over absolutely everything. It got so petty that they even fought over a single ceramic ashtray. This was a family heirloom, and it had been passed down through the husband's family.
After literally everything else had been decided, this couple spent even more months and almost $100,000 fighting over literally just this ashtray. Finally, after another brutal curt hearing, the wife won the ashtray. She promptly walked outside onto the white courthouse steps, and she smashed the ceramic ashtray. She just left all the pieces on the steps for the husband to witness on his way out of the court.
The day I heard that story, I immediately decided never to become a divorce lawyer."
"I am an interpreter who frequently works alongside police officers and lawyers. The strangest thing I have ever had to interpret in court went a little something like this:
Lawyer: 'Ma'am, we have known each other for a long time, correct?'
Lawyer: 'As a matter of fact, we have known each other for five years, correct?'
Lawyer: 'And at the end of each and every meeting we had during the past five years, we always agreed on one thing, correct?'
Lawyer: 'Please tell the judge what we agreed on.'
Woman: 'It's not okay to break into my ex-husband's apartment and lick all of his cutlery.'
It was so hard not to burst out laughing in the courtroom."
"While I was working at a family law firm, the worst thing that I saw was a case that lasted for actual decades. The husband had been in a motorcycle accident and suffered serious brain damage. He had a severely limited capacity afterwards. Fortunately, he did receive a massive settlement. The wife spent the next several years stealing the entirety of this man's money and property. She would forge his signature or place documents in front of him that he clearly couldn't understand, and telling him they were something benign, so he would sign it. She then forged lots and lots of letters from a tax authority and convinced him that he was about to go to jail. Furthermore, she convinced him to leave the country alone. He finally returned several years later, only to find out that everything he owned was in her name. Apparently, some of the documents he was told by her to sign were divorce papers. This man got left with absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, I moved on before I found out any more fallout from this experience."
"The assets were divided with the help of another lawyer, and the father was absolutely slammed. The wife was going to get the house, the cars, half of his retirement, and an insane amount of alimony. This was to the tune of $2,500 a month for the rest of her life. Huge surprise, the mom and this lawyer had conspired to rip off the dad and make it seem like a typical divorce settlement. She was going to get more money under the table through some complex legal processes. The father just didn't know how any of these things worked. After much convincing, the dad went and got his own lawyer, who thankfully helped him to get a very fair divorce settlement.
I tried to call the State Bar Association after this blatant display of abuse, but I was basically told to go and fly a kite. I had no tangible proof, aside from the obviously one-sided divorce settlement and what the mom had bragged about to other people."
"This guy was through through the messiest of divorces. His wife had cheated on him and was trying to take him for absolutely everything. She was super spiteful when she didn't get her way. The court instructed her to turn the car over to him. She waited until the very last day of the order, and then she returned it with serious damage done to both the engine and the body. It was quite clear that she had run the car into a tree or a wall out of spite before turning it in. But since she had just left the car parked on the street by his apartment and dropped the keys in his mailbox, there wasn't any clear way to prove this.
I came up with a very sneaky solution: get it stolen. As a favor to this poor man, I drove the car up to Harlem while he followed behind in his other car. I parked it in front of a very sketchy building that I know was occupied, waved outside the windows, tossed the keys onto the driver's seat through the open windows, and then got into the dad's car with him and we quickly left. We drove around the block, waited for about ten minutes, then we returned. The car had completely vanished. The car was never seen again. The dad reported it as stolen and simply collected the insurance money."
"The mother received custody of her two sons. She revealed to the father that she planned on turning their children against him. This broken family went from a large house to a ratty three-bedroom apartment and living in poverty. The children only saw their dad three times a year, and they were only allowed to talk to him over the phone once a week for an hour. It turns out that is exactly what she requested in court, but she lied to her kids, saying that their father didn't want to see or talk to them. This man paid her child support and alimony every month, but she was just pocketing all of the money and keeping it in her personal savings. During the divorce hearing, the mom had over twelve thousand dollars in savings but had no insurance whatsoever. Somehow, the judge didn't see any of this as a red flag?
Even after all of the hording of that money and not having a father, this man still paid for his kids' college tuition, books, and even bought one of them a car when the one they shared broke down. The mom never even bought one textbook for her kids. She also refused to let her kids use her tax information in order to get better student loans for school. In the end, this mom's bitterness was her downfall, because her kids refuse to speak to her despite her best efforts."
"My worst recent experience as a divorce lawyer was when one man was accusing his former wife of forcing him into hooking up with others for money. Text messages revealed the couple was actually just swingers. She also admitted to lying in order to 'make him burn.'
I can't wait to leave my practice area. First, this is not the most evil thing I have seen so far in practice, it's just one of the things that sticks out in recent memory. Second, in my experience, women don't have an unfair advantage or get away with things more than men. The reason this individual was not held in contempt was because judges have an incredible amount of discretion and they tend to exercise their discretion sparingly. Unless someone is making a fuss in the media or publicly lying in order to ruin someone's life, the court avoids exercising their discretion to punish individuals in a divorce context.
The reason courts are hesitant to impose penalties or hold someone in contempt is because the majority of lying that happens (in my experience) comes from victims who shield their abusers. Lots of men, women, and children say things and then recant their testimony, in order to stay in abusive relationships or save themselves and their families from threats of violence or retaliation. Victims need to feel safe to tell the truth. Having penalties gives the court a stick, and having discretion gives the court a carrot. Ultimately, we all want the truth and holding someone in contempt or threatening to hold someone on contempt is one mechanism that helps us uncover the truth.
Finally, women, men, judges, commissioners and lawyers are all human beings. I've met humans who act like monsters and I've met angels dressed as humans. My sincerest hope is that we treat others the way we would want to be treated and remember that we all make mistakes.
Yes, I charge for my services and my duty is to serve my client to the best of my ability. Some clients just want it all to end while others want to fight over the keychain they bought at Walmart five years ago. If that keychain means a lot to my client, I explain how much that keychain will actually cost them in the end and let them decide if it's worth it. I have met attorneys who drag out litigation to run up fees. However, any attorney worth their salt is consulting with their client and actively trying to bring about a speedy, fair resolution."
"A few months before the parents decided to divorce, the mom presented the dad with a life insurance policy out of nowhere. The dad had apparently been suspicious of the mom for a few years, but this latest action sent him into full-blown paranoia. He decided to purchase a device that records phone calls, in order to see what the mom was saying to her supposedly evil sister.
It turns out that they were actually coordinating how to have the dad killed in order to make it look like an accident. I was beyond shocked. But this wasn't the only thing they did to once another leading up to their tumultuous divorce. The mom flooded the dad's house by intentionally breaking his washing machine. The mom stole the dad's work computer, along with all of his accounting files (he ran a business), and she almost put him under because he no longer knew who to bill. The dad would sit outside of the mom's house and record her mowing the lawn, so he could argue that she wasn't too sick to work. The dad refused to pay her any child support or alimony after the divorce was finalized, which cause her house to be foreclosed on. Those were just some of the ways they got back at each other. This behavior continued for years."