Sometimes marriages don’t work out, and the best solution is a divorce. It could either be an easy path or a straight nightmare. These divorce lawyers share stories on the pettiest spouse they've ever met. Content has been edited for clarity purposes
"One divorced couple came in because the ex-husband wanted to lower his spousal support payments, due to his lowered income, great financial responsibilities, and the fact that his ex-wife was declining to seek paid employment, all of which sounds reasonable on the face.
It turned out that while his income had been lowered due to 'cuts', his new wife, who technically worked as his 'assistant' (and had done so prior to the divorce) was now making quadruple her salary, more than he ever had.
He claimed that his ex-wife had 'unpaid renters' living with her and could have money to survive if she charged them rent. It turned out they were the couple's shared 18-year-old twins who were living at home, having just graduated high school, and were going to keep living at home while starting college in the fall. It also later turned out that he allowed his stepdaughter and her two children to live with him and his wife rent-free and paid for her college. His ex-wife produced evidence that he told his own kids to figure out paying for college themselves.
He claimed that his ex-wife worked as a nanny for free by choice and should be getting paid for work elsewhere. The kids she watched for free were their three joint grandchildren from their eldest child, two of which were severely disabled.
He claimed that when he married his new wife he gained over fifteen new dependants, which was technically true, but those dependants were all in Mexico and included his new wife's grown siblings and their families, none of whom he had ever met.
This dude was shocked when spousal support wasn't decreased."
"I represented a guy who was on his second marriage. His first wife passed away from cancer; he and his kids were obviously devastated. My client was a pretty sensitive guy with a big heart. His second wife could be very charming, which was why he fell for her, but it was all a facade.
During his case, my client met a very kind and affectionate woman. They really hit it off and were basically engaged even though his divorce was far from over. The fiancee started having health problems and was diagnosed with a form of terminal cancer.
Somehow the second wife found out about this and tried to use the cancer diagnosis against my client in court. She developed this crazy theory that my client had killed his first wife by giving her cancer and that he was doing the same thing to his 'fiancee.' The second wife's attorney, who was quite good, refused to be a party to it.
The attorney never addressed the argument in court and didn't even ask the second wife any questions about it during testimony. Rather, the attorney informed the judge that the second wife wished to address the court directly about an issue. The judge allowed her to do so in a highly irregular move. The second wife told her crazy conspiracy theory to the judge, adding that she was certain my client had tried to give her cancer at some point as well.
I wish I had an artist's rendering of the scene, capturing the second wife's crazy eyes, her attorney's look of shame/embarrassment, the judge's look of confusion/ennui, and my look of awe-inspired disgust."
"My friend's dad 'Alan' is a lawyer and does mostly divorces and custody cases. He had a couple come that had already figured out the division of property, custody, support, etc. Alan figured it'd be a quick afternoon and he'd be home in time for dinner. He was reviewing everything with them and got to the question of which parent should be called first if the child gets hurt or sick at school or camp. Well, for some reason this turned into a huge issue.
Each parent wanted to be the one who was called first. The couple argued for an hour (for which Alan was being paid hundreds of dollars). After an hour, Alan suggested that they split, take a break, collect themselves, and start discussions anew on another day or maybe talk about it on their own and come see Alan when they figured it out. Nope, the couple insisted on ironing it out right then and there. They fought for six hours while Alan just sat there and listened. They refused his help and refused to come to an agreement.
By this time, it was almost eight pm and Alan said, 'I don't care what you two do, but I'm going home to my wife right now.'
For some reason, that seemed to make something click for them and they did eventually resolve it. Not sure why it took six hours and a couple of thousand dollars to do it, but they did. Guess everyone has a hill to die on."
"We represented a guy who believed vehemently that his wife was assaulting the children. The authorities were involved and Child Services. It was never clear what the truth was or if anything at all was going on, but our client was sure. He shot his wife dead at a custody exchange in front of the children. He then sat down and waited for the authorities. We visited him in jail with his criminal defense attorney.
As we were leaving, he told me, 'Well, I guess the divorce is over now.'
And he laughed. This was the first time I had ever been speechless.
He was in jail. I wasn't sure of his final sentence, however, I doubt he would ever leave. The children were put in the custody of a family member. They are safe and well. Although, will no doubt need extensive therapy as they get older."
"This couple was breaking up and the Mister left the house. The missus went to work the next morning as usual. When she returned home in the evening she found Mister had been to the house and removed his clothing and belongings as she expected.
What she didn't expect was that he had also Gorilla glued all her belongings together. He glued the tv remote to the table, the phone to its cradle, the couch pillows to the couch, and even glued the vacuum cleaner to the carpet. She called the police and reported this as property damage. The police went with her through the house, documenting dozens of items glued to various things but for days she was discovering random things and she would call to amend or update her report. 'My oven mitts were glued to the wall.' 'He glued the sheets together in the linen closet!'
I've seen people do and say really awful things to each other but that was diabolical."
"The plaintiff was a quiet young woman, perhaps in her mid-thirties. The accused was absent, being represented by his lawyer, who immediately asked the court for an adjournment, saying that the accused was a medical doctor, performing surgery in a big town two and a half hours away, but he wanted to have an opportunity to testify, albeit in another date. The lawyer handed the court an official document by a state hospital, confirming the operation by the doctor. It was already 10:00-11:00. I considered the adjournment a certainty.
The three-judge court rejected the request. The presiding judge seemed stricter than in previous cases. The court started the trial in absentia.
The plaintiff testified. She came from a Balkan capital, the daughter of a university professor and she was herself very much educated (post-graduate). She talked in a soft, fragile voice, looking mostly down, or at the presiding judge.
He locked her in their apartment. He left her with not enough food or money to buy food for her and their some-months old baby. He had his parents, his brother, and his sister-in-law, who lived in the same family-owned apartment building, bring her food and check her out. He locked everybody else out of her life; her friends and her parents. One by one. Obviously, she was not allowed to work, she didn't even seem to have access to a bank account. She was ashamed and afraid for a very long time, increasingly reluctant or unable to call for help or inform her parents, although they suspected something was very wrong. On one to two occasions, she half-asked her husband's sister-in-law and his parents for help. They obviously told him, instead.
One day, a Friday afternoon, he came home. She dared to ask for milk for the baby. He grabbed her and locked her inside. Then he left.
Her father-in-law visited the house and all he had to say was, 'He's gone too far.'
I can't remember who was the one to eventually get her to the hospital or how she managed to escape. But he soon found out. He immediately went to the police and filed a complaint about parental child abduction. She was stopped at the borders by the police while holding their baby and a handful of belongings. It was New Year's Eve so it was freezing and snowing outside. She didn't have milk, warm clothes, or diapers for the baby. The border police were perplexed and felt sorry for her, so they brought them to their offices. They put them by a stove, brought diapers and food, while they informed the prosecutor. She was set free and continued her travel.
I listened to all this and I was thinking, 'This can't be true, it's all too textbook. The power-hungry husband, the totally unprovoked violence, the victim's alienation from their supporting environment, the shame, the secondary ignorance by the attacker's friends and family. Is all this real?'
Then the judge read the medical findings on the victim's injuries. Oh, it was real.
And then, miraculously, the doctor showed up. He obviously wasn't operating on anyone, he wasn't even that far away. And he looked like a cliche prick. Something out of a Rated R mafia movie, nothing like a respectable medical doctor. He looked annoyed to have to be there while his lawyer looked desperate. He denied everything. He was arrogant, over-confident, bullish to the plaintiff's lawyer, even to the presiding judge but she shut him down every time.
He was convicted, got a jail sentence, and was suspended until his possible appeal was concluded. I'm afraid I can't be sure about his medical practice being suspended, though."
"So it was already a disaster of a divorce because the ex-husband was a prick. But it got so much worse when the wife started dating someone new with a severe cat allergy like a year after they split up. Her psycho ex-husband bought a cat during his time with the kids, except he was not allowed pets at his apartment. He sent the kids back to their mom’s house with the cat and all its stuff. The mom was ticked off because she didn’t want a cat at all plus her boyfriend is crazy allergic.
She called us asking what to do because her kids were bawling, saying that she couldn't get rid of their new 'sibling' and she had the cat in the garage.
The ex-husband told their kids, 'If mommy loves you, she’ll let you keep the cat since daddy is not allowed cats at his house.'
"This couple got divorced and the ex-husband was awarded the house with a set date for the ex-wife to vacate 10 days later. In the meantime, the ex-husband went on vacation to marry his much younger girlfriend the day after the decree was signed. This was right before July fourth.
Day One: The ex-wife got all her stuff out of the house and into her new place.
Day Two: The ex-wife threw a huge party with a shrimp boil to celebrate July fourth at the old place. This party was massive with lots of food, people, and fireworks. Just a rager.
Day Three: The ex-wife collected all the shrimp tails from the boil and hid them all over the house. I mean everywhere. In the walls, vents, and even the furniture. She then turned off the A/C and left it for her ex-Husband and his new wife to take possession of seven days later.
The second he and the new wife opened the door, they were greeted with an unholy wave of stench. I have no clue how or if they were able to clean it up."
"During my first year of law school, lawyers from different practices came to give us a peek behind the curtain of different areas.
This one divorce lawyer told us about a couple that spent months and months and many tens of thousands of dollars fighting over absolutely everything. All the way down to a single ceramic ashtray. He couldn’t remember the significance, but somehow it had come through the husband’s family.
Even after everything else had been decided, they spent many more months and nearly $100,000 fighting over just this ashtray. Then, after a court hearing, the wife finally won the ashtray. She promptly strode out to the white courthouse steps and smashed the ceramic ashtray. Left the pieces all over for the husband to see on his way out.
I decided that day I would not be a divorce lawyer."
"I was contacted by a woman after her judgment was final. She and her ex-husband had a pretty short marriage of maybe seven to eight years. In the divorce, she was awarded four years of spousal support (alimony) at a modest of 400 bucks per month or something like that. They also had a dog. Their divorce lawyer said the ex-wife would have 'primary custody' of the dog but the ex-husband could request time pretty much whenever he wanted. The ex-wife then promptly moved across the country to be with her family.
In the ensuing several years, the ex-husband never once requested time with the dog. He paid his alimony, and the two went on peacefully hating each other like most divorced couples.
Fast forward to the final few months of his spousal support obligation. The ex-husband got into his feels and told the ex-wife he was not going to pay the final few months of spousal support. His basis was that the ex-wife was dating, and because she had a boyfriend, he shouldn't have to pay his court-ordered spousal support.
She told him, 'No, that's not how any of this works. You have to pay.'
She later told me that she really didn't care about a couple of months of support and she was going to drop it.
A few weeks later, the ex-husband requested visitation with the dog. It was the first time in years. The ex-wife was surprised but hey, that was his right. So they made plans to meet at an airport where he could pick up the dog and take her home for a few weeks. He's an airport employee.
The day after the exchange, the ex-husband (in his magnificent wisdom) texted my client that if she did not repay him the 20k something in spousal support he had paid over the last several years, she would never see the dog again. She flipped out, told him she needed the dog back at the end of his three weeks, and if he didn't she would go to the court. He appeared to back off and they made plans for him to return the dog.
The day before the scheduled exchange, the ex-husband told the ex-wife that he couldn't make the exchange as he was in Mexico. The ex-wife asked him when she can expect the dog back. No response. The day after the original exchange date, the ex-husband texted the ex-wife that he was back home in the States and the dog was gone. It ran away from him in Mexico and was lost. He apparently hung around for a few hours looking and then caught his plane home. This was when she brought me in.
Now, a quick word about normal remedies here. In family court, we basically resolve everything regarding a property with money. But with a dog (which is property) that won't really solve anything. So we decide to pursue contempt of court, which is a pseudo-criminal action. So basically even though it is a family court judge, we treat it like a trial. There is an arraignment, criminal protections, the whole nine yards. Now, any family law attorney who knows their stuff will tell you contempt actions are basically just empty threats. Most family court judges aren't going to send people to jail over divorce things. But my client insisted because she was convinced this moronic candidate was just hiding the dog somewhere."
"So I proceed with the contempt action. His lawyer treated the whole thing as a huge insult to everyone's intelligence. They showed up to the arraignment, literally having prepared nothing. Him and his lawyer were just sitting there with smug grins on their faces, expecting the matter to be dismissed. Lo and behold, I actually know how to string a few sentences together and the judge asked for his plea. His lawyer again scoffed with the pure rudeness of the concept that his client did anything wrong and we set a trial date.
During the prep phase, I subpoenaed what I could and tried to nail down this guy's story. When combined with my client's background information, things pretty much looked like this:
After disproving his entire itinerary, I also got the 'Give me 20k or you'll never see the dog again' text admitted into evidence. Which, if his attorney wasn't such an arrogant prick, probably could have been kicked. Oh well, you old prick.
At the end of the trial, my guy actually got convicted of contempt of court. He was sentenced to five days in jail. After he left, both the court clerk and court reporter told me they had never seen such a clearly guilty person. I actually saw the court staff shaking their head when he was answering my questions on the cross.
Another fun trial tidbit: Several opposing counsel objections were raised several times and repeatedly overruled. At one point, his lawyer requested a continuance of the trial after we had rested our arguments. His basis was 'that his client and he had no idea that the Court would allow the text message and other evidence, and they needed time to prepare a defense for that evidence.'
Yes, you read that right. The Court said, on the record, 'Well counsel, that might be an argument for your insurance carrier but it doesn't work here.'
In the end, the ex-wife never did get her poor dog back. The prevailing theory was that he just gave the dog to a friend or something and couldn't ask for it back. But he did spend a whopping three hours in jail and had to pay my fees. One final kicker though, he was a TSA (Transportation Security Administration) employee. A TSA employee, who suddenly found himself with a criminal record. Whoopsie! Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.
If he was going to be returning the dog to the wife the day after he lost it, surely he would have had a plane ticket from Cancun to Atlanta for the next day right? But he called the ex-wife from Los Angeles the day after the exchange to say the dog was gone?
I asked, 'Well, show me the airline ticket change?'
The ex-husband said, 'No, I won't do it.'
I said, 'You never intended to return the dog, did you?'
So when we called him on it, he stated that was how it happened. While in Cancun, they called a repairman to fix the A/C and the repairman left the door open. And 'dog runs away.' Poof. This apparently happened the day before the scheduled exchange.
I asked, 'So how did the dog get to Mexico?'
He then changed the story to state that he drove the dog to Houston and then his mother drove from Texas to Cancun with the dog while he flew. Cancun is roughly a 40-hour drive from Texas. My client pointed out that you need a certificate to fly with a dog, and she had provided him with no certificate nor had he contacted the dog's vet for a flight certificate.
The ex-husband picked up the dog at the Atlanta airport. He claimed he then flew with the dog home to LA, and then later flew with the dog to Mexico. Clearly, all of this sounds bananas."
"The husband cheated and left his wife then proceeded to file for custody of the dog. After two hearings just about the dog, the judge ordered that they share the dog alternating one week at a time. On his first round of visitation, he collected this sweet dog and then immediately had it put to sleep. The following week he gave his ex-wife a canister with the dog's ashes. Obviously, she was devastated. It was heartbreaking. The judge was not happy. He sanctioned this man and then gave literally everything to the wife in the Judgment.
This guy was such a nutball, he even tried to claim the condiments in the fridge as property. Literally wrote it out in his property claim: Ketchup, mustard, mayo. He also claimed that his ex-wife’s adult toys should be awarded to him. Real classy guy."
"There was one case that came in about a couple divorcing on mutual terms. The husband had one child with her and the wife had a child from a previous marriage. He agreed to pay child support for both children, I guess he really cared about this other child enough to support her even though it isn’t his obligation.
The judge signed the order.
They went to set up the child support account, but it got kicked back saying, 'You can’t have two accounts for one child.'
Turns out, she had been collecting child support from the biological father the entire time and never told him. She basically tried to milk two fathers for one child and the other attorney knew about it."