Few experiences in life can fuel angst, animosity and anger more than divorce. The range of emotions people feel runs the gamut, from feelings of deep hurt, sadness and paranoia to a burning desire for revenge. These raw emotions prompt some people to do crazy things they wouldn’t normally do, like using sneaky divorce tactics to damage their ex’s finances, mental health, reputation or parental rights.
If your marriage is falling apart—or you’re already in the midst of a divorce—now is definitely not the time to stick your head in the sand. While not every ex will resort to fighting dirty during a divorce, you should educate yourself about potential sneaky divorce tactics and how to fight them.
As a divorce attorney, I also caution you to avoid sinking to the level of a cruel or vindictive ex. If you or the other party resort to sneaky divorce tactics Texas, courts will frown upon that behavior and could impose serious penalties on you. This could include anything from an unequal division of the marital estate to fines to jail time, depending on the offense.
What sneaky tactics can be used against you in a divorce?
With over 15 years of practicing family law, I’d like to say I’ve seen it all but I know that’s not the case. People continue to astound me with the lengths they will go to “give it to” their exes. However, there are different variations of the following sneaky divorce tactics that our Fort Worth family law firm sees on a regular basis.
Hiding assets, refusing to be transparent about finances or financial accounts
If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you’ve probably heard me harp about the fact that both parties in a marriage should know what’s going on with the family finances. Unfortunately, some spouses don’t take the time to find out or their spouses deliberately keep them in the dark about the marital finances.
Can bank accounts be used as a sneaky tactic in a divorce? Yes, but it can be difficult to hide the “paper” trail. Sometimes, spouses who pull the financial strings in the marital relationship will secrete bank acount information in hopes they can manipulate shared funds during a divorce. They may even start moving money out of a shared account into another bank account or somewhere that money won’t be easy to trace, like cash, cryptocurrency or certain financial institutions that don’t report to credit bureaus.
We also see some parties over-inflate their income and assets for ego-boosting purposes. Either way, if you’re in the dark about your finances and suspect your spouse is misrepresenting or hiding assets, an experienced divorce lawyer can help with uncovering sneaky divorce tactics involving finances. For example, along with pulling credit reports, we often bring in forensic experts to track down assets and liabilities for complex marital estates or when a family business is involved.
You should also know that both parties are required to share any pertinent financial information during the discovery process of divorce. Your divorce lawyer can help you prepare a financial inventory and take the legal steps necessary to get any documents, passwords or other information you need pertaining to your marital finances.
On the upside, I generally find it takes a very calculated and educated person to be able to manipulate finances outside of their general bank accounts, credit cards, checking accounts and the like (those accounts are typically easy to trace). Of course, there may be accounts or assets they’ve hidden, forgotten about or don’t show up on credit reports.
That’s why it pays to get a forensic experts involved. I also believe forensic experts can do a great job of acting as a neutral party for the lawyer and client because they can expose issues the client needs to know about when the attorney doesn’t have a good set of facts out of the gate.
TIP: The best way to avoid falling victim to sneaky divorce tactics like hiding or misrepresenting assets is to be proactive about understanding your finances. This is a good idea whether your marriage is on the rocks or not.
Transferring assets to family or friends
One of the most common sneaky tactics used to hide assets during a divorce involves the hidden transfer of money or other assets to family and friends. Sometimes it’s intentional and sometimes it is not but it doesn’t really matter. It’s not a good look for a party to a divorce to be transferring assets without their spouse’s knowledge, especially if it occurs around close proximity to the divorce filing.
When can transferring assets to family or friends be considered a sneaky divorce tactic and how does it “work?” Let’s consider an example. A husband starts transferring smaller amounts of money from the couple’s shared bank account to his father’s bank account over a long period of time. Eventually, those smaller amounts start to get bigger, say to the tune of $2,000 to $3,000 per month.
The husband in this example claims he was helping his father buy an RV. At first glance, it does look like he was helping his dad out. Come to find out during cross-examination of the elderly father, he no longer drives and doesn’t have any plans to go RVing. The court concludes the husband was siphoning off marital funds to purchase an RV and put it in his father’s name but intended to transfer the title back to himself after the divorce.
What might the court do in a case like this? After filing a wasting of community funds claim on the wife’s behalf, her attorney could (and should) ask for reconstitution of the marital estate by awarding the RV back to the estate. If the court finds the husband’s behavior egregious enough, the judge could take things a step further and award the wife a larger portion of the marital estate at his or her discretion.
For the record, sneaky divorce tactics involving transfers of assets to family and friends frequently backfires, especially if the other party has an astute attorney. Even if a party gets away with it, they can run into difficulty getting that asset back if the friend or family member decides to keep it—and that happens all the time.
TIP: Always keep an eye on your bank accounts and what transactions are occurring. If you see regular withdrawals and your spouse can’t explain what’s going on, you may want to consult an attorney.
Using a family business to get creative with money
When a couple owns a business together, you often find one spouse is super involved in the business, while the other spouse is not. This sets the stage for unscrupulous parties to move money or assets in and out of the business without the other party knowing. While some business dealings and real estate transactions are easy to trace, others are not.
For example, interest in small business entities that were bought behind closed doors or transactions handled with crypto can fall under the radar more easily. However, when fraud is exposed in these cases, the courts do a really good job of imposing a remedy, which may include costly fines and jail time, among other penalties.
Another important aspect of a divorce involving a family business is coming to an agreement over a business valuation. Doing things to minimize the value of the business so the uninvolved spouse gets less value out of the business in the divorce settlement frequently happens.
For example, we often see business owners moving business assets into vehicles or other non-cash-flowing assets so the other spouse can’t benefit from those assets. While this may sound sneaky, it isn’t necessarily illegal. This is just another situation where bringing in an experienced forensic expert is critical.
Another common tactic we see is the prepayment of attorney’s fees or taxes out of a business account, prior to filing for divorce. The prepayment is for the one party’s benefit, though the funds come from an account belonging to both parties. Again, if it comes out of a family business account, that could easily fly under the radar for someone who doesn’t have hands-on involvement with the business.
TIP: No surprise here, if you own a family business do not hesitate to get a forensic expert involved to help track business affairs and transactions. That way you can establish an appropriate business valuation and detect any potential fraud that has occurred.
Making false accusations of infidelity, domestic abuse or other untoward behavior
During heated divorces and child custody battles, there’s no question that emotions run high. Some people get so angry or are in so much pain they want to make the other party pay. So, what do they do? They make false accusations about the other party. Their goal may be to cause embarrassment, damage the other party’s reputation out of spite or sway the court into giving them a preferential custody arrangement, among other reasons.
What impact can false accusations of infidelity have on a sneaky divorce case? Or false accusations of domestic violence? Clearly, false accusations of infidelity, family violence or other untoward behavior can seriously damage a party’s reputation if such accusations are believed.
False accusations could even have a detrimental impact on a party’s livelihood if clients hear about it, believe it and don’t want to pursue business with that party. False accusations of family violence can also be very detrimental to children who deserve to have the love of and access to both loving parents but are denied access to a parent due to false allegations.
These reasons compel Texas courts to come down hard on people who make false accusations. In fact, if false accusations are found to be slanderous (spoken words) or libelous (written words), those actions are considered illegal and the party could be sued via a tort claim in the civil courts. Believe me, judges and juries take tort claims of libel and slander very seriously, just look what happened in the Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard case.
Juries understand how important peoples’ reputations are to them, and people found guilty of defamation, libel and slander can and often do face heavy fines.
TIP: If you have been falsely accused of infidelity, family violence or another offense you need to act quickly to shut those accusations down. Consult your divorce lawyer and a civil litigation attorney experienced in handling tort claims to discuss next steps. Your divorce lawyer should be able to recommend a civil litigation lawyer if you need one.
Manipulating children to undermine the parent-child relationship (and custody)
We haven’t discussed child custody at length in this post because we go deeper into custody issues in other blogs. However, this wouldn’t be a blog about sneaky divorce tactics without talking about parental alienation, which is a horrible thing for any parent to do to a child and the child’s other parent.
Parental alienation can be subtle and passive in nature or it can be very direct. Either way, parental alienation involves actions of one parent to disparage the other parent in front of a child, so that child fears, grows to dislike and/or doesn’t want to spend time with the other parent. Ultimately, parental alienation undermines the parent-child relationship.
If the parent responsible for these actions is successful, and the child doesn’t want to be with the other parent, that could complicate child custody. The parent who is on the receiving end of the parental alienation can bring the issue to court but will need to prove the alienation has occurred in order for the court to take action against the other parent.
TIP: If you believe your ex is using a sneaky divorce tactics process that includes parental alienation, contact a child custody lawyer to discuss next steps. You can also learn how parental alienation affects child custody in this previous blog.
Don’t let sneaky divorce tactics undermine your divorce outcome
Whether you’re in the midst of a nasty divorce, battling over child custody or are seeking an uncontested divorce in Texas, it’s critical to seek advice from an experienced family law attorney. If you live in the Dallas / Fort Worth area and suspect your spouse is using sneaky divorce tactics or you have other questions about divorce or child custody in Texas, the Sisemore Law Firm can help.
To schedule a confidential case review with a family lawyer at our firm, please call our office at (817) 336-4444 or connect with us online.