The Most Common Dirty Tricks Husbands Use During Divorce

Some are illegal. Others are sneaky, spiteful or just plain mean

by Jeffrey A. Landers • Divorce Financial Strategistâ„¢ and founder of Bedrock Divorce Advisors, LLC

At Bedrock Divorce Advisors, we've seen the full range of underhanded tactics used by disgruntled husbands and/or their divorce teams –and to be honest, it’s not at all pleasant to see adults act so irrationally.

But, please, don’t misunderstand.

I’m not saying that all divorces are bitter battles. In fact, some are relatively amicable, and most are settled in rather straight forward fashion, outside the courts. Still, dirty tricks are much more common than women think, and I always tell my clients it’s best to enter divorce with both eyes open, aware of what some husbands will do to gain an upper hand in the process.

Here’s a small sampling of the most common dirty tricks I see. Your husband may try to:

“Conflict out” all the top divorce lawyers

“Conflicting out” divorce attorneys is becoming more and more popular, especially for those involved in financially complex divorce cases. Why? Because by “conflicting out” certain attorneys, your husband can make it difficult for you to hire the lawyer that’s best for you.

The strategy for conflicting out is simple. Your husband makes appointments with all the top lawyers in your area. Then, he meets with each one –but only for a brief session. All he needs to do during those meeting is share enough information to create an attorney-client relationship. Once he does, that particular attorney will be prohibited from representing you.

Of course, your husband doesn’t actually have to hire any of these attorneys. The entire goal with this tactic is to “conflict out” the best attorneys so you can’t hire them.

The only way to combat this tactic is to hire a divorce attorney as quickly as you possibly can. That doesn’t mean you should rush into a decision. But, it does mean you need to recognize the potential pitfalls of procrastination. If you wait too long to hire an attorney, your options may be limited.

Stall and delay

Some husbands stall and delay, dragging out routine divorce proceeding so they last one or two years --or even longer! By repeatedly rescheduling court hearings and/or filing excessive motions and requests for evidence, your husband can force your legal costs to skyrocket, while extending the time during which you must cover living expenses. What’s the motivation? He’s hoping you'll run out of money and be forced to agree to his settlement offer, which is probably extremely unfavorable to you.

Rush to settlement

While some husbands stall and delay, others do just the opposite --they exert extreme pressure to wrap up the divorce quickly. Why would a husband be in such a rush? Often, it’s because he has something to hide. Here’s how this tactic works: Very early in the process, your husband’s attorney sends over a settlement proposal for you to review and counter.  More often than not, this means he wants to get the divorce over and done with quickly, and he wants you to settle for what appears to be a reasonable offer. 

The problem, of course, is that since you haven’t had the time to receive (nor comb through) all the discovery documents requested, you don’t have complete knowledge about key financial matters involving your marital assets, income sources, expenses, debts, etc.  Plus, rushing to get a settlement is especially sneaky if your husband has been busy hiding assets and/or income, and now he is trying to get you to agree to a 50-50 split of only a portion of your total assets. Don’t make the mistake of agreeing to a settlement based on only partial information!

Deny, deny, deny access to financial resources

If your husband realizes you’re not particularly savvy about the family finances, he can use your lack of knowledge to his advantage.  For example, he could make sure he’s the only one who can access family funds. He could cut off your credit cards, move funds from family accounts and even change beneficiaries on his life insurance policies.

In some states, mandated Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders(called “ATROs,” for short) prevent either party from changing the financial status quo of the marriage once a divorce action begins. But, automatic protections like this are not the law in every state, so check with your divorce attorney about the specifics of your case and what you need to do to maintain access to family funds.

By denying his wife access to financial resources, a husband can leave his wife without the money necessary to buy groceries, much less hire the right divorce team to represent her . . . all while he hires an excellent team to represent him.

This is especially problematic for abused womenwho live in constant fear of harm—to themselves and/or their children.

Hide assets 

Hiding assets during a divorce is sneaky, unethical, illegal –and quite common. Be on the lookout for certain telltale signs that your husband has some dirty tricks up his sleeve. He could be stashing money in a safe deposit box (or elsewhere), underreporting income on tax returns and/or financial statements, overpaying the IRS or creditors (so he can get a refund after the divorce is settled), deferring salary, delaying new contracts and/or holding commissions or bonuses . . . the list goes on and on.

Fail to pay court-ordered support or refuse to relinquish assets

If your husband doesn’t follow court orders, he’s breaking the law, and he’s forcing you to try to extract the promised payments --at considerable legal cost. What’s more, all this financial and legal wrangling is terribly time-consuming. Some women put their jobs in jeopardy because they have to take so much time off to deal with these issues. Making matters worse still, many family courts do a poor job enforcing such orders, even when a woman follows its requirements to the letter, and unfortunately, even for a well-meaning judge, deception on the part of an ex-husband can be difficult to decipher or prove.

Divorcing women need to understand the full range of tactics some husbands use, and they need to be proactive –not reactive --as they work to secure the best possible divorce settlement. Because there are so many different dirty tricks, I recommend that women maintain their own emergency fund in a separate bank account, even if divorce has never entered their minds.

If you are contemplating divorce, make sure you start organizing your personal finances and important documentsunder the guidance of a qualified divorce financial planner.  During the divorce, you’ll need to Think Financially, Not Emotionally®so you can keep your finances intact while planning for a secure financial future.


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Jeffrey A. Landers, CDFA™ is a Divorce Financial Strategist™ and the founder of Bedrock Divorce Advisors, LLC ( a firm that exclusively advises affluent women throughout the United States before, during and after divorce.  He assists women and their divorce attorneys with deciding on the most advantageous way to divide marital assets and enable them to negotiate more favorable settlements, especially when there are complicated financial and tax issues.

Jeff also advises happily married women who have seen their friends blindsided by a divorce initiated by their husbands and wonder (wisely) how financially vulnerable they’d be in that situation. Jeff developed the nation’s first Just in Case(TM): Secure Your Financial Future,a one-hour program, which quickly shows married women how to be prepared in the event of a future divorce with immediate, practical steps. He can be reached at

All articles/blog posts are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice. If you require legal advice, retain a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author, who is not an attorney.

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Photo courtesy Muellek Josef/ Shutterstock

First Published Tue, 2012-09-04 11:42

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