Divorce can get pretty ugly, especially when spouses have no other option but to settle their differences through lengthy court proceedings. Not only do tempers run high, but sometimes, good sense and ethics fly right out the window. Spouses will do anything to one-up each other — including some very sneaky, underhanded things.
So, is your spouse playing dirty? More importantly, what are your options if they are? If you think your spouse is being sneaky, here are a few things you should know:
Things to know
- Dirty financial moves like hiding assets or accumulating jointly liable debt are among the most common sneaky divorce tactics.
- A sneaky spouse will use anything against you, including any shortcomings, character flaws, or potentially damning current or past behavior.
- Particularly sneaky tactics include turning your children, loved ones, or even employers against you.
Do any of these sound familiar? If they do, then your spouse is definitely up to something. To keep you a step ahead of their sneaky divorce tactics, let’s dive into the following:
- What Can Be Used Against You In A Divorce?
- 10 Most Sneaky Divorce Tactics
- 6 Narcissist Divorce Tactics
- Divorce Tactics To Win
What Can Be Used Against You In A Divorce?
- Reckless financial conduct
- Lying about your income and assets
- Any restraining or court orders
- Misuse of social media
- Text messages, emails, and other written communications containing incriminating information
- Romantic or any other personal relationships that could affect your children negatively
- Behavior that could potentially endanger you or your children
Anything personally or professionally damaging that your spouse knows about you could be used against you in a divorce. A spiteful spouse may use your finances and even your children against you.
They may even resort to blackmail to get what they want. If your ex is out for blood, they’ll try anything to sway the odds in their favor. If they can make you as miserable as possible, too, that's a bonus.
Figuring out who gets what in a divorce can get messy. There's just no telling how low an angry spouse will stoop. An occasional glass of wine or a beer after work could be twisted into an alcohol problem.
Not engaging in toxic arguments could be twisted to paint you as an emotionally unavailable partner. Your demanding career could even be used to label you a neglectful parent.
If your spouse is narcissistic and particularly hostile, they'll try to tarnish your reputation and discredit your character. Their aim will be to do maximum damage to your case and your character.
10 Most Sneaky Divorce Tactics
Here are the top ten sneaky divorce tactics you never saw coming:
1. Dragging their feet
Divorce can be an emotionally and financially trying time. If you have to hire a divorce attorney to fight for what's rightfully yours, the legal costs can quickly add up. By stalling and drawing out the process, your spouse hopes you’ll crumble under the financial pressure.
Common delay tactics include:
- Refusing to sign paperwork
- Turning down reasonable offers
- Drawing out the negotiation process
- Pushing to take every little thing to court
If you suspect your spouse is making use of these common delay tactics to frustrate you or stall divorce negotiations, talk to your lawyer.
2. Rushing things
So maybe they aren't trying to slow things down. If they're trying to rush things, they're still being sneaky. A great way to confuse you and make you settle for way less than you deserve is rushing you to reach a divorce settlement.
This tends to happen if a spouse has hidden assets or certain things they would like to keep out of the proceedings. By rushing the process and not allowing you to understand your rights or what’s due to you, they’re hoping to walk away with the better deal.
So, before you’re sure of your rights and what's lawfully yours, don’t make any promises or sign anything without your divorce lawyer's go-ahead.
3. Dirty financial moves
Dirty financial moves are among the most popular sneaky divorce tactics. In the weeks leading up to actually asking for a divorce, some spouses start hoarding income or stashing away marital assets. Others start to make strange, large purchases in secret.
So, if your spouse's browser history is filled with search queries about how to ask for a divorce and your finances have been a little sketchy lately, they might be trying to pull a few dirty financial moves. If things just aren't adding up on the financial front, and you suspect that your spouse wants to leave you, seek legal help immediately.
If you've already had the divorce talk and the process is already underway, they may still try to get away with these sneaky tactics. They might transfer money into hidden (usually offshore) accounts. They may also attempt to hide valuable items in friends' or relatives' accounts or homes.
If you suspect that your partner is hiding financial assets, you can request a court hearing. Your divorce lawyer can then hire a forensic accountant to review their bank statements and valued assets.
4. Financial intimidation
If your partner is responsible for bringing in some or all of your household income, they might try to put a squeeze on you by slowly withdrawing their spousal support. This might leave you in a desperate situation long before the divorce proceedings even begin.
This is a common dirty divorce trick to get you to accept an unfair settlement. If you’re in this situation, seek legal advice as soon as possible. A lawyer can advise you of your rights and help you gather proof of your spouse's underhanded tactics. As the courts rarely take kindly to such behavior, your spouse's tricks will only backfire.
5. Making false accusations
From attacking your character to coming for your parenting skills, a sneaky spouse will do anything to gain the upper hand. To mess with your head and get you to behave out of character, your spouse might blindside you with some of these:
- Accusing you of reckless behavior
- Calling you a neglectful parent
- Labeling you financially irresponsible
- Questioning your mental health
- Accusing you of domestic violence
- Accusing you of child abuse.
6. Refusing to communicate
Disgruntled spouses often refuse to communicate. If your spouse is avoiding you or giving you the silent treatment, speak to your lawyer so that they can facilitate communication on your behalf.
Your lawyer will also document your spouse's behavior for future reference. If your spouse does not pitch up to proceedings, you will be granted a default divorce.
Although this may be an emotionally distressing ordeal, your spouse's lack of cooperation will only come back to bite them. By refusing to show up, they'll lose their fair share of marital property, alimony, child support, visitation, child custody, or any other rights due to them.
7. Turning loved ones against you
A vindictive spouse may try to alienate you from loved ones. By twisting the circumstances of your divorce, they may succeed in turning loved ones against you.
When you can no longer rely on your support system, the divorce process can be lonely and stressful. By hitting you where it hurts most, your spouse hopes to leave you in a vulnerable mental state.
When you're emotionally distressed, they might gain a slight power advantage over you. This, in turn, may affect your judgment and behavior — which is what they hope to use against you.
So, if your loved ones are behaving strangely or being hostile toward you, your spouse might be using this dirty divorce tactic.
8. Refusing to negotiate
In an ideal situation, you and your spouse should be able to negotiate for the fair and equitable distribution of all your marital assets.
If children are involved, being able to communicate before and after you reach a settlement is crucial. How you treat each other determines whether you can co-parent effectively or compromise to make important decisions regarding your children.
Refusing to negotiate is a common dirty divorce tactic. By doing so, your spouse hopes to frustrate you and prolong the divorce process. A contested divorce (what happens when you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement) can drag on for years, causing severe emotional and financial damage for all involved.
If you are dealing with an unreasonable spouse, consider seeking professional help. A mediation specialist may be able to help you overcome your differences so you can settle outside of court.
9. Using your kids as leverage
Besides alienating you from your loved ones, your spouse could take it up a notch and try to destroy your relationship with your kids. This is one of the most hurtful and damaging divorce tactics that spouses tend to use when kids are involved.
Your spouse might do this by turning your kids against you or by limiting the amount of time you get to spend with them. They may try to convince the court that they are the 'better' parent in order to gain primary custody. If they are better off financially, they may use gifts and vacations to manipulate your kids into choosing them as their guardian.
Some spouses request more visitation to lower their child support payments. However, what usually happens is that they simply hand children over to babysitters, friends, or family members instead of actually spending more time with them.
If you suspect that's what's going on, tell your family law attorney about your concerns. And they will help you act in the best interests of your children.
10. Falsifying documents or information
This tactic is often used by a spouse to reduce alimony payments or to cheat their significant other out of a fair settlement.
Your spouse may attempt to mislead the court about their financial situation by providing false documents or lying about the value of their assets or any businesses that they own.
Hiding, falsifying, or exaggerating information is unlawful. If the court determines that your spouse has done any of the above, they will be sanctioned, penalized, and ordered to rectify the situation.
6 Narcissist Divorce Tactics
Narcissistic spouses engage in damaging emotional, financial, and mental tactics during a divorce. Because they're self-centered, narcissists hardly see the long-term consequences of their actions.
Here are some dirty divorce tactics narcissistic spouses often use:
Narcissistic spouses have a particularly mean streak. If you're married to one, they'll make themselves the victim to garner sympathy from friends and family.
From serving divorce papers at work (when you're scheduled for an important meeting) to waiting for a happy social occasion, a narcissist will do whatever they can to humiliate you publicly. You might want to do them dirty, too but don’t. It’s important to keep a level head at all times, especially when you’re dealing with a narcissistic spouse.
2. Trying to get you fired
If your spouse is extremely toxic, they might go after your career as well. They might put your job at risk by sharing negative (often untrue) information about you with your boss or coworkers. Even if losing your job may put you (and them) in a worse off financial situation, they'll do it either way.
3. Ruining you financially
Leaving you in dire and sometimes embarrassing situations by canceling credit or debit cards is something narcissistic spouses are known for.
If you've fallen victim to this dirty tactic, inform your lawyer right away; you may have strong recourse. In some states, canceling credit cards or engaging in similarly illegal conduct can result in your spouse being sanctioned by the court.
4. Getting rid of your personal items
You may return home one day to find your marital home cleared out. A narcissistic spouse may even get rid of priceless items or heirlooms out of spite. If your spouse has hurt you in this manner, seek legal counsel, their actions will not go unpunished.
5. Clearing out joint bank accounts
Besides ruining you psychologically, a narcissistic spouse might try to ruin you financially as well. They might clear out your joint savings accounts. If they have access to your personal accounts, they'll drain those too. Sometimes, toxic partners rack up tons of debt, knowing you'll be jointly liable. If your spouse is engaging in this sort of behavior, seek legal help.
6. Disappearing with the kids
To cause you emotional distress, a narcissistic spouse might disappear with your kids. They may be too set on inflicting pain to realize the consequences of their behavior. Ultimately, their actions will backfire and result in their custody or visitation rights being revoked.
Divorce Tactics To Win
If these dirty tricks and sneaky tactics do nothing for a divorce case, what does? It might be tempting to retaliate and give your spouse a taste of their own medicine but err on the side of caution. The last thing you want is to get sanctioned by the court and have your character or conduct questioned.
Playing to win involves getting up to speed on your rights and what you’re entitled to. It also involves understanding how to counter your spouse’s tactics lawfully. This is why getting an experienced divorce attorney to guide you through the process early is one of the smartest things you can do.
An attorney will be able to deal with any underhanded behavior through legal means. Their counsel will protect you from your spouse's tactics and help you win what’s rightfully yours.
Even after you reach a settlement, your spouse may keep dragging you to court, harassing you, and calling you a horrible parent. Remember, keeping a level head and not playing into their tactics is how you'll come out on top every single time.