Divorce is never something anyone really wants. There's a reason we say "till death do us part," during the wedding ceremony: a marriage that ends with divorce can bring a whole lot of pain, anger, and confusion for all parties involved.
Aside from meaning the end of a family unit and the failure of what was likely once a promising relationship, divorces can also bring out the worst in people. Sadly, there is no shortage of individuals who choose to use their divorce proceedings as a tool for inflicting harm and vengeance on the spouses they’re divorcing. The process of ending a marriage can be a truly ugly thing, and some participants can be bitter and downright brutal towards their exes-to-be.
Don’t believe me? Here are some stories of personal experience with such cases from people who had front row seats to watch it all go down.
35. That’s Quite the Back Story
Not a lawyer.
Parents divorce seemed simple: dad cheated on mom, mom gets custody of me. Dad didn't like paying alimony and child support to the tune of $2k a month after he gave up rights. Dad had great idea, pay a hitman $15k to kill soon to be ex-wife. Dad goes through with it, idiot actually pays undercover cop the money. Dad then flys back to Canada (home) and wait for results. International task force is formed to try and detain him. Geraldo Rivera covers story, idiot dad gets arrested in Toronto and flown back to California.
In this process I was three in care of family back down south, mother in protection by police. Dad's family, apparently wealthy, gets good lawyer and he is charged with 17 felonies—can't remember how many he was convicted of. He gets 18 months. After all of this mom still had to sue for divorce it took two years.
Mother is ok, is bipolar now and had to move out of state. I moved back after the military. Father is out just not allowed in country, never met him. Have talked four times. Found out when I was 18, after issue in military.
34. Now That’s What You Call Commitment
A woman in my town is a Principal at a local elementary school. She is in her mid 70s (at least). I asked someone why she doesn't retire and they explained that she and her spouse went through a very contentious divorce about 15 years ago and she has to give him a portion of her retirement so she has decided to NEVER retire so he gets nothing ever! Hahahahaha.
33. Choose Your Partners Wisely
I currently have a client who makes a sizeable salary, north of $200k/yr. His spouse has separated but will not leave the matrimonial home, despite her overtures that she wants to become independent. She has actively depleted the joint bank account of hundreds of thousands of dollars, which she has siphoned into personal bank accounts and she uses to finance her lifestyle of expensive yoga classes, buying luxury purses and shoes, eating at fine dining establishments and spending recklessly to deplete her net family property.
She was literally taking every penny that he deposited from his paycheque on the advice of her lawyer, which she then used to pay for her lawyer. He was literally financing opposing counsel. That has now stopped. She will not allow him to see the kids when he comes home from work, or even read them bedtime stories. She refused to allow him to take his sons to see their grandfather in hospital, who passed away shortly thereafter, and she continues to alienate the children from the paternal aunts and grandmother.
She has no extensive family that still speaks to her. Both her and her counsel are bloodthirsty.
Even though they signed a prenup, she wants to take half of the $2.5 million home, wants full custody of the kids, and wants him to pay her $8,000 a month in spousal support.
She could work full time earning as much as $95,000/yr, but she'd rather live life like a real housewife of Toronto.
I just took this file on, but it has the makings of a nasty divorce already. I want nothing more than to take her and her counsel down hard. Files like this make my blood boil, because sometimes other lawyers take stupidly aggressive positions to force the matter into litigation. Perhaps, I'll provide an update in the near future.
32. Nothing to Lose
My dad basically appealed custody over and over, bringing in new friends to back his character. This forced my mum to seek a barrister/lawyer to defend herself.
My dad is/was a massive problem gambler—had no permanent home and was pretty bad at practical life stuff (nutrition, education, etc.).
This forced my mum to dig into all her savings to pay legal fees to keep a child anybody with a sound mind would know is much more capable than my dad.
So in the end my dad basically made my mother bankrupt trying to get custody over a child he wouldn't have been able to raise.
31. A Less Than Ideal Family Situation
My mom was a real piece of work in this department. My mother is mentally unstable and was very abusive to me as a child. When my father finally moved out and asked for a divorce I was luckily old enough (13) to legally decide who I wanted to live with. I, of course, chose my dad and that enraged my mother. By court order, she was allowed to live in our four bedroom house while me and my dad had to move in with my aunt into a two bedroom house.
We lived there for four years while my mom did everything she could to slow down the divorce proceedings. During this period my father was court ordered to pay the mortgage and utilities on the house my mother was living in. She would leave all the lights on and crank the heat with the widows open just to drive the utility bills up. She once left the garden hose on for a week into a drain to even make the water bill outrageous.
When it was finally all over and she had taken my dad for as much as she could she decided to sue him for my college fund. I called her and told her if she went through with it I would never speak to her again, she told me if I wanted it I needed to move in with her before I turned 18 so she could get child support from my dad. I refused, she won the case for the money and my dad had to use most of what was left of the fund to pay for her lawyers costs.
30. Absolutely Awful
A bit of a different perspective here, from someone viewing the whole mess as a relative. The husband was severely screwed over by the wife purely because she could. She divorced him in a no-fault state, providing her with immediate out-of-pocket support from him until the end of the divorce, as well as all bills paid.
Now this doesn't sound so bad... if the wife wasn't an abusive, vindictive, bipolar monster. He's a gentleman, you know... the good husband type. But she just kept at it, arguing with family, abusing children, attempting suicide by sleeping pills, the works. The woman was an absolute train wreck. And due to the laws of the state, despite firing four attorneys, and telling all of them "oh just send the attorney costs to my husband, have him pay," the court just shrugged their shoulders.
And the divorce carried on for nearly four years because the state did not require a settlement be made, so she just kept declining all of his offers while continuing to bask in free income. It even got to the point where he was offering half a mil over the next four years and she said "go f*** yourself." Over those four years his appearance and personality was like that of a president serving a term. It was absolutely awful to see.
29. Revenge is a Dish Best Served... Cheap?
Not me, but a guy I worked with 10 years ago. I guess it counts as a revenge. I worked with a guy who really stuck it to his ex wife. When I met him he was working in a sporting goods store making 8 dollars an hour. He was not really like the other retail monkeys. He was older, well groomed, well spoken, clearly educated etc. One night after work he gets into his car, and I couldn't help but notice that it was a very very nice newish Jaguar. I asked him how he could afford it and he explained it to me: He had been an SVP at a well known fortune 50 company (which I will NOT mention the name of!), pulling in 300k with bonuses and stock options. He was married but the marriage fell apart and in the divorce, she demanded that she get the house and 40% of his wages. He and his lawyer somehow managed to get her to agree to let him keep the house in exchange for 75% of his pay..no dollar figure or employer specified lol. As soon as she took the settlement he quit his job and looked for a minimum wage job. He said to me that "She gets 75% of nearly nothing now". He had other money stashed away, so he didn't even need the job and he had the house and it's equity as well. Also, no kids, so there was no child support. Just alimony. She was furious of course, and tried to re-sue him but failed at least once and when she claimed that the settlement was not keeping her in the life style she was accustomed to, he simply told the judge that the divorce was traumatic to him and he could no longer do his old job as a result. At least at that time, she did not manage to get out of the deal. Not sure how it all ended. But I thought it was fucking brilliant if not crazy-level spiteful. He was a good employee too...good with customers, showed up on time, no bullshit absenteeism or anything like that. He claimed he loved each payday because it reminded him how little she was getting.
28. Lawyers Can Go Mad Too
Worked at a law firm that was subpoenaed as part of a divorce between a partner at the firm and a partner at another major law firm.
The woman issued more than 70 subpoenas to banks, firms, investment companies—you name it—because she was convinced he had squirreled away $20+ million overseas behind her back. It got so bad that she dug up receipts from 25 years ago to try to put together this grand conspiracy puzzle.
In the end, after she racked up $1.5 million in legal fees, and seven different lawyers, the judge said this s*** is ridiculous—there was no conspiracy, and you are not entitled to a portion of this phantom $20 million.
Mind you: this was a major law firm partner who was acting this way. She made millions per year in her career. But she apparently lost her mind.
27. Life Turned Upside Down
Not a lawyer but got divorced. During divorce proceedings, when we didn't live together anymore, my wife filed a frivolous police report saying that I "threatened" her. In the police report, she wrote my apartment's address as her place of residence. A court immediately issued a restraining order against me, prohibiting me from being in my apartment (that I rented).
While the restraining order was active (several months) I had to live in hotels and Airbnbs, which of course is 2x-3x of normal rent, without having access to my clothes and other stuff. I also was paying the rent for the apartment that was empty all that time (she never actually went there during that restraining order, even though she claimed it as her residence). The restraining order was lifted as the case was dismissed after she never provided any evidence or even testimony to DA.
I didn't sign lease extension in time during this process because I had no information how long the restraining order will be for; even though it was lifted right before my lease expired, I ended up having to move (and pay a broker fee).
Of course this also delayed divorce proceedings because we couldn't communicate while the restraining order was active.
Besides that, she refused to sign tax form for "married filing jointly." I ended up filing as "married filing separately," which meant quite a few thousand dollars extra in payment to IRS.
This was the biggest case of "screw you over without any gain for me" that I have seen.
26. Now That’s Just Cruel
My ex and I separated before the divorce. She agreed to watch the dog while I found a new place.
She had the dog put down instead.
25. Subtle, But Effective
My ex-wife gave me all my Blu-Rays back, which was nice. A year later I realized she had removed one disc from each of the Trilogy box sets.
24. Race to the Finish
No lawyer, but at the time I worked on bank equipment, my favorite was opening safety deposit boxes for the bank. So I was asked to get there before the bank opened which was odd. I show up and greet the bank employee along with a lawyer and a very angry looking woman.
I get the lock open and swing the door open as the angry woman shouts "let me in there!" And I step outside the vault. "That MOTHER F***ER!" And storms off, but she threw down a piece of paper that said "F*** you b****." It had been a nasty divorce and the ex husband got there before she did.
23. Nothing Like a Final “Screw You”!
Not a divorce lawyer, but my father went through the process recently. Amounts of money aren't the real concern. The assets must be split as close to 50/50 as possible. So the f***ing over generally comes in the form of inequitable distribution of one-of-a-kind things.
My father had a precious set of old, inexpensive kitchenware that his late mother gave him before he even married my mother. When the divorce went to mediation and she told the mediator that she wanted those pots and pans, she got them. She got them because she was willing to give up something else of equal monetary value (so, something worth less than $10), and was willing to sit in mediation for hours, racking up thousands in lawyer fees for both sides, until my father consented. Again, an even financial trade, but a sentimental trade of overwhelming disparity. Just as a final "screw you."
22. Don’t Get On This Woman’s Bad Side
Not a lawyer, but I met with a scummy one when I was looking to get a divorce. The first lawyer I met with, who had been recommended by a coworker as an amazing divorce attorney, suggested that, if I wanted full custody, I should make sure people knew the relationship was abusive. Tell my friends/family, make sure the neighbors heard me screaming/begging him not to hit me, document every bruise even if I wasn't sure it came from him.
The thing is, my relationship wasn't abusive and I'd already told her that multiple times. She never outright said I should fabricate evidence or anything, but she ignored my repeated statements that there was no abuse and kept on with her detailed instructions of how to document any abuse that might happen. I got the distinct impression that she was letting me know how to create an abusive relationship out of thin-air in order to get custody of my kids.
I ended up not using her as an attorney, for obvious reasons, and in the end my ex and I shared 50/50 physical and legal custody of our children and raised them together despite whatever issues we had with each other. I can't help but wonder, though, how many dads lost a relationship with their kids because of her zealous coaching.
21. Not Exactly Nuclear Physics
A friend of mine in high school worked at a pizza place. One of the delivery drivers was just ridiculously smart when I talked to him. Later I found out that he used to be a nuclear physicist. His wife was also a nuclear physicist, but left him for her lawyer.
He got screwed out of his kids, most of the assets, and had to pay a lot towards alimony/child support. He did the math, and figured out the tips he didn't get taxed on plus his minimum wage delivering pizza was more than keeping his job as a nuclear physicist. Plus he got a little satisfaction not having to pay her as much. The guy was really nice. I always felt bad for him.
20. Stubborn as a Mule
My dad actually got screwed by his divorce lawyer during my parents' divorce last year.
My dad and my sister have never gotten along, and over the years it got more and more strained. They eventually got into a physical fight which led to a CPS report and him getting slapped with a child abuse record (they labeled it as "confirmed but isolated," so he's not on the registry and you can only see it with certain background checks).
In this case, my mom was OBVIOUSLY going to get full custody of my sister. My mom also wanted to give my dad the house, and his cars, and his money pit of a boat.
Lawyer decided, because my dad is stubborn as heck, that he would string ol' dad along. Lawyer spent HOURS with my dad trying to convince him that Dad could get more money and custody from my mom.
They did a divorce mediation (so they wouldn't have to go to court), and lawyer dragged it out for four hours. The whole time he was riling my dad up, thinking he could get things like the original down payment on the house, half custody of my sister, my mom's car, etc. At the end of the four hours of mediation, Lawyer told my dad he should take the deal that my mom and her lawyer had originally offered in the first place, and Dad signed that.
So he paid about $12,000 in completely unnecessary legal fees.
19. No Going Back
Not a divorce lawyer, but I did surgical rotations with an OB/Gyn, and have personally seen the lowest of the low:
In divorce hearings, people say a lot of wild stuff when trying to place blame or get custody. A lot of it is straight up lies. Not all lies can be erased or taken back. The worst one is an accusation of sexual abuse. YOU CAN NOT REDACT AN ACCUSATION OF SEXUAL ABUSE AGAINST A MINOR.
It happened ridiculously more frequently than I can stomach. A spouse, trying to get the upper hand, makes the claim. Now the lawyer/court/state is bound by law to investigate. And suddenly that precious, innocent child that mommy is trying to gain custody of is brought to the OR, sedated, and then investigated inside and out for evidence of abuse.
Those are about the only days that nobody in the entire wing says anything. No jokes, no smiles. Just a sick feeling in your stomach that takes away all appetite and joy.
So many times, the parent who makes the accusation finds out what they're about to put the child through, and tries to take it back. Tries to cancel the procedure, tries to say they may have been confused or mistaken, or even admits they flat out lied. Doesn't matter. Once that box is opened, the investigation must continue.
Of the couple dozen cases I saw, I can only recall one that supported the accusation.
18. No Limit
Banker here; had heaps of situations where joint overdraft/credit card comes up just before divorce to the absolute surprise of one of the parties. Drained down to zero, of course. Especially sad when it's students/young kids who find themselves heartbroken after the break up AND with a debt they can't afford.
17. Some People Just Don’t Want to Be Helped
Dad was a real a**hole and mom tried to save him a lot of money during the divorce. They have three kids who were 16, 13, and 8. Dad wouldn't sign ANY agreement my mom’s lawyer produced. It had to be his idea and from his lawyer or it wasn't getting signed. Dad’s lawyer was incompetent and sends an agreement that states he will pay $2,000 a month in child support until all kids are 18. Mom tried to explain to dad that it needed to be revised to lower every time a child turned 18. Dad called mom a c*** during that negotiation so mom said screw it and signed the agreement and dad paid the $2,000/month for ten years when he should've been paying around $1,400/month for five years and $700/month for the last five years.
16. Doesn’t This Guy Have Anything Better To Do?
Story from my parents who are lawyers. So throughout the divorce proceedings, there was a car that was a huge point of contention between the husband and wife. After months and months of saying he would never let the wife have the car, the husband concedes in exchange for something great, like one of their summer houses. It turns out he had been driving the car for three hours everyday in a big loop around the city, putting thousands and thousands of miles on it basically making it worthless. The amount of planning and spite that went into that was amazing.
15. That’s Just Wrong
Am an attorney, but this wasn't my case.
My ex's brother helped his friend (he was friends with the couple, but clearly "chose" the guy) hide assets and wash cash in the six months leading up to a "surprise, I'm divorcing you!" by the friend to his now ex and deceased wife.
Oh yeah—he did this because she had just been diagnosed with cancer, was not going to live, and he didn't see why "his money" should go to "her health care" when she was going to "die in a few years" anyway.
My dad divorced his first wife and promptly took his name off of all the credit cards. She proceeded to buy all kinds of shit thinking she'd stick him with the bill.
She was not happy to hear she was the only one on the account.
13. A Sentimental Loss
I'm not a divorce lawyer, but my father built the house I grew up in with minimal help. He spent two years working on it and did the hardwood floors, staircase, bathrooms, and hung every cabinet by himself. Every piece of trim in the house was run through a lathe with his own two hands. He even did the spackling for all the ceilings and all of the paint work.
Then my mom cheated on him for a year and bought him out of the house. Now my mom and step-dad have a pretty sweet place to live, and I can tell it hurts my dad whenever he has to go by to pick up my sister and stand in the entryway of the house that he built and watch their fat dog scratch up the hardwood that he was so proud of.
12. What Goes Around Comes Around
Over here in the Netherlands most legal costs are paid for by the government if your income is below a certain threshold. In practice this means that if one of the spouses in a divorce has little to no income and the other one has a normal income, the one with the normal income will have to pay a lot if the process drags on.
Considering there are plenty of ways to drag it on, I've seen cases approach ridiculous amounts of billable hours. There is a catch to this however. Your lawyer is paid a set amount if he/she is paid by the government. However, should the money you receive after a divorce or w/e exceed a certain number, you are expected to pay your own lawyer (which is the reason we still keep track of the hours in these cases). So this one woman who thought she was screwing over her ex husband by dragging the divorce over multiple years got a payout of ~€40k by the end of it. Unfortunately for her she had to surrender most of that straight back in lawyer costs. There was a certain sense of justice in there.
Also proves time and again that when there is conflict the only true winners are usually the lawyers.
11. Tragic Ending
Not a lawyer but saw how divorces can get ugly. My neighbor brainwashed her kids to think their father had molested them, etc... so every-time he came to get his kids they would make it hard (run around the car is one example)
Well one day I came home early from college and the son shot his dad in his car. Ten years old, killed his dad. They found out that mom was supplying the son with Prozac (not prescribed to him) and she was brainwashing him. They still live next door and the kid got out at 21 I think.
10. Crash Landing
I did some consulting work for two divorce attorneys when I was in grad school.
Their client was a career airline pilot. His wife worked part time so there was a huge income disparity. It was an ugly divorce.
During the process but before the final decree, tax time rolled around. The wife's attorney calls my guys and says, "Her accountant just called. If they can just share their W-2's and file jointly, they each stand to save about $8,000 over married filing separately."
My guys took that info to the husband. He says, "Screw her. Losing $8,000 is going to be way worse for her than it will be for me." Cold as ice, man.
9. Some People Are Heartless
Bad separation, wife filed a restraining order on the husband (very common, wasn't a terrible guy but not great either). A year into the divorce his mother was dying, he asked his sister to speak with his ex-wife and ask to bring the kids to see her in the hospital before she died. The wife never did, instead she went to the court and said he violated the restraining order by trying to contact her (you can't contact someone through another party).
He admitted it and explained the situation, but was found in breach of the order. His mother died while he was locked up and the wife never brought the kids to see her.
8. Hitting Where It Hurts
My in-laws are mega into food and wine, as in they literally travel the world on food and wine tours, are part of clubs, etc. They told me about a nasty divorce where the husband was the wine aficionado, not the wife, but the wife was pissed off about getting divorced. The husband got all the wines in their extensive cellar, but before he was able to collect them, the wife soaked every bottle to remove ALL of the labels. So technically the wine was not damaged, but the husband had no way to know what he was drinking for aging and pairing purposes (which is a huge deal to wine drinkers).
7. Not Your Average Legal Loophole
My uncle represented this guy getting a divorce from his wife of 15 years. Super toxic breakup and they split everything 50/50, even the land that the house they lived in sat upon. Well she decides to build a house right behind the other house, mind you this was a lot of land probably 200 yards separating both home sites, so that the back of the houses faced each other.
The house gets built and my uncle gets a call from his client asking about the legality of a situation he had gotten himself into. Apparently his ex wife would spend a lot of time in her backyard, so he saw her all the time. What he did was buy a female dog and name it the same name as his ex-wife. Anytime he would let his dog back in from letting her out he would yell "Susan you b****! Get in here!" He would also yell if she was peeing on the flowers,"Susan you b****! Quit pissing on the flowers!" or "Susan you b****! Quit digging in the dirt!" The ex-wife called the cops on him a couple of times, but there was nothing they could do because the dog was registered under the name of Susan, and it was in fact a b**** so there you go.
6. Sweet Revenge
Not a lawyer. Wife cheats on her husband during his frequent travels for work. She files for divorce and gets to keep the house. Months elapsed and the husband is still rightfully pissed but has no recourse. Then he has an epiphany: "I wonder if she changed the password to the Nest Thermostat?" She did not.
For the next year he continues to mess with the thermostat. In the middle of summer when they're sleeping in HIS bed, he turns the heat on to 90 degrees at 3 a.m. Middle of winter? Time to shut off the heat and hope the pipes freeze. Away on vacation? Turn the air conditioning down to 55 and let it run 24/7 for a nice surprise bill when they get home.
5. Worst Case Scenario
We had a couple that were both lieutenant colonels in the Air Force. They had one daughter that was about 11 or 12. Both had graduate degrees and were generally intelligent people. Well the husband had an affair and things went sour with the relationship. The daughter was at that age when her relationship with the mother was starting to get a little strained and she mentioned how she wanted to stick with her dad because he was about to be stationed elsewhere and the parents would be going their separate ways.
The mother absolutely freaked. The first thing she did was go to the local police department and claim the father had been hurting the daughter. They investigated and couldn't find any evidence so they dropped the case. The mother still furious then goes to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and reports the same thing. The Air Force then suspends the husband from duty and conducts their own investigation, same result no evidence of wrong doing and the case is dropped. The mother then goes to the next state over where the husband is about to be transferred and contacts the local police there with the same story about molestation and rape. They of course do their own investigation but same result, case is dropped
Of course this whole time the daughter has been interviewed a dozen times by psychologists, various therapists, the police, the Air Force, and who knows else. The daughter is straight up traumatized by this. Not to mention the harm it did to her father's career. He was basically screwed from any possible promotion just because of the allegations. As well as the fact that infidelity in the military is a big no no. But that was his own doing.
Well once word of all this gets back to the judge he is furious. He's a former Air Force Jag and still has contacts in the ranks. Well anyway the couple comes in front of him one day for a hearing and he outright tells her she better stop this behavior or he's going to hold her in contempt of court for the maximum amount of time he can lawfully hold her in a cell, contact the DA and recommend the filing of charges, contact her Air Force superiors and recommend reprimand to the fullest extent possible, and basically anything and everything he can do within his power.
It was one of the most messed up things I've seen during my relatively short experience in the legal world.
4. Hide and Go Seek Gone Wrong
I'm an accountant not a divorce lawyer. Had a client hide Ziploc bags of ground meat throughout the house (in air vents, the attic, behind water heater etc.) I think it was at least 20-30 bags that took months to find all of them.
3. Like Riding A Bike...
Not a lawyer but my two bosses were married and opened a bike shop together. He was the brains and the backbone since he was a former Olympic mechanic, she just sort of balanced the checkbook and worked a couple days a week. Unfortunately, he had no credit and she did, so when they opened everything was in her name.
All he wanted in the divorce was the bike shop and was willing to buy her half. She wanted the bike shop too, but didn't want to buy him out for his half. Mind you, her father passed away and she was sitting on like $300k in the bank (and also had the audacity to take out student loans for her daughter to go to college).
He lost the bike shop and I think he got a little bit of money for his share. What she didn't expect was that all of the high-paying customers would stop going there. They were all his friends or they only wanted him to work on their bikes (so I don't know why she would have had that notion). So he opened up his own bike shop and all of the "regulars" have become regulars at the new bike shop.
EDIT: I've been seeing a lot of comments asking how he gained the credit to open a new shop. Ever since he moved out of the house he shared with his ex wife, he started putting money away and got a credit card. So over the course of a year+ some months he built credit and was able to open a shop on his own. People have tried to "buy-in" to the business as an investment but he doesn't want anyone else involved since that screwed him over the first time.
2. Absolutely Evil
She took the cats. He wanted the cats. Looked like courts would give him the cats. She had the cats put down.
1. I Guess That's One Way to Deal With Your Problems
The couple separated ten years ago but didn't officially divorce until a couple years ago. She was going to get his house so he burnt it down then faxed her the transfer of ownership forms. He might be going to jail for arson though.