by Marilyn Stowe
Divorce is an emotional rollercoaster, and when people are really hurting, particularly if they have been "swapped" for somebody else, self-preservation becomes all-important. For some, however, this state of mind can lead to an all-consuming desire for vengeance.
After more than 25 years as a divorce attorney, little surprises me. Drawing upon my own experiences over the years, here are examples of the worst kinds of divorce tricks I have encountered. I wish to stress that none of them are recommended--in fact, some are illegal!
==Hiding money or assets for a "rainy day"==
Many people know that they are going to get divorced long before proceedings are set in motion. Some decide to take pre-emptive action. I recall one case in which a couple ran a small neighborhood store. After the wife filed for divorce, my firm discovered that the husband had been leading a double life. In addition to that small neighborhood store, he had an extensive portfolio of properties and owned several supermarkets! The wife had apparently known nothing of this.
Others do what they can to hide their money. Wealthy people do this by shipping it offshore into untraceable bank accounts, owned via a warren of trusts and companies channelled through several countries. Those on more modest incomes do it by depositing funds in the bank accounts of relatives.
The most extreme case I have come across was that of a spouse who had placed almost everything the couple had into an untouchable, offshore trust. He then began to borrow against all the rest of the non-trust assets onshore. Fortunately his wife became wise to his ploy. She was able to obtain an order to freeze his assets worldwide, and put a stop to it.
==Damaging, destroying or selling the household's most valuable contents==
Lady Sarah Graham Moon acquired legendary status among family lawyers after exacting revenge upon her two-timing husband. She cut the arms off 32 of his bespoke suits, poured white paint over his BMW car, raided his wine cellar and left bottles of fine wine on her neighbors' doorsteps.
Cases I have personally encountered include a wife who sold the Steinway piano, without the knowledge of her pianist husband, a wife who sawed the legs off a Chippendale cabinet and delivered it--along with its removed legs--to her husband, and a wife who ran a bath of scalding water and bleach, in which she dumped all her husbands' suits and ties.
Some clients claim to have sold assets for remarkably low prices. Miraculously, these same assets reappear in their ownership once the case is over. I have known it to happen with valuable furs, jewelry, art, and even a yacht! Would you be surprised to learn that these assets are often "bought back" once the case is over?
==Spending money wildly, as a form of "payback"==
Some spurned spouses choose to take revenge in a different way. One client of mine, with an Amex Centurion card, received a credit card bill for $80,000 for jewelry purchased by his wife from Cartier. Her explanation? If he wanted to spend money on his girlfriend, he could also spend it on his wife. Take heart if you live in England: the court has the power to add back "wasted monies."
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