Depending on the circumstances, the dissolution of a marriage can be a step forward for amiably separating partners or represent the start of a prolonged and embroiled legal battle. More often then not, divorce is an emotionally charged affair driven by feelings of animosity that can elicit egotistical behaviors and sneaky retaliatory reactions.
“All is fair in love and war” may be a quaint saying used to rationalize dishonest schemes during divorce proceedings, but it’s certainly not a view that the legal system endorses. While it may be understandable that separating spouses would want to direct the narrative in their favor, engaging in dishonest tactics to gain an advantage can have severe legal consequences for the offending party.
Given that both partners stand to lose something significant in the process, some individuals may be driven to employ sneaky tactics to unfairly gain more out of the divorce despite the risks involved. Therefore, it’s of the utmost importance to recognize when such strategies are being used to prevent further complications that can irreparably affect family dynamics, finances, and one’s physical, emotional, and mental integrity.
1. Stalling for time
This is the most frequently used strategy to drag out litigation for as long as possible to either buy more time to gain a better outcome or make the other partner give in to their demands and avoid lengthy and costly litigation. Tactics meant to prolong divorce may include delaying paperwork signing, refusing any offer to negotiate, or tacking trivial matters back to court.
2. Rushing the settlement
On the other hand, another tactic that dishonest spouses may employ is trying to hurry things along and push for a quicker conclusion. This often signifies that the impatient party may be trying to keep something out of the proceedings, such as hidden assets or income. Their goal may be to achieve the most advantageous agreement for themselves by creating an alleged time constraint.
3. Concealing income and assets
Properties and wealth acquired throughout marriage may become the subject of an even split among divorcing partners, especially in no-fault divorce states such as Florida. Equitably distributing assets and determining spousal support can be challenging even in amicable separations, particularly in high-net-worth divorces not backed by a prenup or postnuptial agreement. Some individuals may aim to conceal assets and finances that they want to keep to themselves, such as:
- Reassigning assets or valuables to family members or friends
- Hidings assets in undisclosed locations (safety deposit boxes, offshore accounts)
- Making substantial purchases in another person’s name
- Undervaluing businesses, assets, or properties
- Reporting inaccurate earnings or holdings
- Reporting false debts and expenses
4. Using frequent visitations to reduce child support
When children’s custody and timesharing are discussed, negotiations are often mired by the ensuing child support proceedings. In an attempt to decrease their child support payments, some parents commonly resort to requesting more time with their kids. However, kids are often deprived of quality time with their parent during this allotted time, as they are usually handed off to other family members.
5. False or defamatory accusations
A devastating and oft-used tactic that can have lasting consequences is making false or defamatory allegations. This is most commonly used when one spouse is dissatisfied with the court’s ruling or believes hearings are not going their way. They will attempt to smear their former partner’s reputation and character and manipulate the court to grant them full custody or limit their partner’s parental rights.
Some of the most common and slanderous allegations that spouses try to dishonestly exploit in their favor include:
- Child abuse/neglect
- Domestic violence
- Criminal activities
- Drug/alcohol abuse
- Failing to follow the custody agreement
6. Turning children against their parents
One of the most damaging tactics that some irresponsible separating parents resort to is turning their children against the other spouse or drastically cutting down the time they spend with their kids. This approach is meant to achieve two goals:
- Showing the court they invest more time in their children than their partner, thus situating them in a better position for primary custody.
- Manipulating children into choosing them as their primary parent to the other spouse’s detriment.
Individuals dealing with a disgruntled and unreasonable soon-to-be ex may be tempted to employ their own retaliatory tactics to fend off the other’s efforts or get back at them. However, this can have unforeseen legal consequences and negatively affect court proceedings.
As tempting and justified as it may seem, it’s better for divorcing individuals to avoid vicious retaliatory approaches that can easily backfire on them, such as:
- Delivering divorce papers with the intent to embarrass
- Emptying shared bank accounts and canceling credit cards
- Leaving the city or state with the children
- Jeopardizing the former partner’s occupation
Embittered spouses are likely to use any resources at their disposal concerning the partner’s conduct that may jeopardize their standing in front of a judge, including:
- Lavish spending during the separation process
- Lying about assets, businesses, or income sources
- Activity on social media platforms
- Incriminating communications (texts, emails, letters)
- Romantic relationships that adversely affect children
About the Author
Sean M. Cleary, Esq. is the owner, founder, and head attorney at the Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary, headquartered in Miami. Florida. On top of representing clients’ interests in cases of debilitating injuries, Mr. Cleary and his team of legal professionals also specialize in handling challenging high-net-worth divorces, helping clients throughout every step of the process.
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