Divorce brings out the very worst in people and no one knows that better than the lawyers who represent the former lovers. Divorce lawyers see all kinds of crazy stuff behind the scenes, from people who leave their spouse for super sketchy reasons to couples who take their case to court just to spite each other.
These divorce lawyers to Reddit to spill all the juicy details about the most outrageous cases they've ever had to deal with. Content has been edited for clarity.
"I was sitting in the lobby of the courthouse while my parents were in the courtroom getting divorced. The couple before my parents had come out of the courtroom and were consulting with their lawyers on opposite sides of the (very large) lobby. The woman and her lawyer decided, for some reason, to stop and talk directly in front of me. She was completely wild with rage. Her lawyer finally got her to shut up for a minute and explained to her that her husband was offering her a settlement in which she gets the house, the car, all the money, all the retirement savings, full custody of the kids, the child support she asked for, the alimony she asked for, all the possessions, ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, and all he wanted was his clothes, a few dishes, and the microwave. The lawyer told her that she'd better take this offer because she certainly wasn't going to get anything better, and the husband had made clear that if there was any argument about this at all he was going to fight tooth and nail for everything because he was offering this, so he could walk away, and if she made him go through a court battle over those few meager things he was going to make her pay.
She started screaming in rage that 'THAT'S MY MICROWAVE! HE CAN'T HAVE MY MICROWAVE!' The lawyer told her to shut up and take the offer because she could go buy another microwave for less than the cost of the time he will bill her for just to have this discussion. But no, she returned to screaming about 'MY MICROWAVE! HE CAN'T HAVE MY MICROWAVE!' and demanded they go back into court and battle it out for the freaking microwave – no matter the cost.
People are stupid."
"This happened to a friend. He woke up really early, one reason because middle age. So while he made coffee, he checked the lottery numbers, and he didn't get a single number. He realized he needed milk for the coffee and ran to the corner store. He started to buy lottery tickets for the next drawing and came up with what should have been a funny idea – he bought another ticket and played the numbers that had already won the night before. He went home and put the ticket on the fridge where the other ones were, thinking his wife would have no reason to pay attention to the day they are for.
An hour later, his wife got up and made some coffee, and he yelled from the living room that he hadn't checked the lottery numbers yet and for her to see if they won anything last night. He heard her use the laptop to check the numbers, and then she was quiet for a minute. He said he had this big grin on his face waiting for her to start yelling they won and thinking how funny it would be (I actually think fake winning lottery tickets, and the prank he was pulling, are mean, but that is beside the point).
She yelled from the kitchen that they didn't win anything. She headed back upstairs and 15 minutes later she came through the living room with both their elementary age kids in tow and said she forgot to tell him she had to go to her mom's for the day and was taking the kids and just left.
He was shocked. He went and checked, lottery ticket was gone, not in trash or anywhere else. He realized she thought they won the lottery, and she was trying to run off with the winnings.
She wouldn't return calls or talk to him, and when he called the house, the grandma confirmed she was there, put the kids on the phone, but that was it. She finally showed up with the kids a couple days later and just walked in the house and screamed at him and walked into her bedroom and wouldn't talk to him! The kids confirmed that mom thought she had won a ton of money. Realizing what kind of person she was, and that she also wasn't very smart to think she would have gotten away with it, he divorced her."
"Divorce lawyer and mediator here. I once mediated the case of Neckbeard v. Tiger Mom. It must have started out as the perfect dream for Neckbeard. He landed a hot Asian wife, brought her to this country, but once that green card came through things changed. They had a daughter together and the case was mostly about her. Tiger Mom had zero respect for this guy and try as I might to maintain my empathy, I've never felt a greater urge to stuff another human into a locker.
Two of his demands really stand out. He asked for the following injunction: 'Tiger Mom shall be enjoined from discussing Neckbeard's weight in a derogatory manner, specifically, Tiger Mom may not refer to Neckbeard as fatty, tubby, pudgy, or Baymax.'
Normally I wouldn't take an offer like that to the other side. I'd normally help a guy come up with something more sensible, but everyone, including his lawyer just could not take this guy seriously, so I wrote that out verbatim and trotted over to Tiger Mom's room. Of course, she thought it was hilarious. She had a super thick accent and said, 'My daughter call him Baymax because he look like Baymax. I can't fix that, he have to fix that.'
There comes a point at the end of the day when everything is pretty much settled and people are dividing up the stuff in the house. Of course, Neckbeard has a meltdown at this point and it's over a Nintendo Switch for the daughter. Tiger Mom made the very sensible proposal that the daughter take the Switch with her to each parents' house as she goes back and forth. Neckbeard freaks out and demands the Switch stay with him at all times because 'There's no way Tiger Mom can take proper care of it.' Mind you the attorneys are billing enough to pay for three Switches an hour at this point. I don't know what happened to the guy, but I do know calling him Baymax could land one lady in contempt of court after the most hilarious enforcement trial of all time, and he owns what's probably the most expensive Nintendo Switch in the world."
"I represented a woman whose husband had attacked her with what was essentially a broomstick but instead of a broom at the end there was a metal scrub brush. When the time came for trial, I figured the other attorney (an old professor of mine) was going to ask for and get a continuance. Why? Because there were pending criminal charges for the assault, and the guy can't just remain silent in civil court as he can in criminal court. If you refuse to answer a question in civil court, the court can take a negative inference against you.
When the husband's lawyer and I were talking prior to the hearing, he told me he was going to have the hearing today unless I was willing to drop the alimony claim. I think he took my questioning him if he wanted a continuance as an indication that I was unprepared. Since I wasn't, I told him I was going to have the hearing, and that his client was going to be my first witness. The husband's attorney said his client would plead the fifth, and I told him the judge would take a negative inference if he did. The husband's attorney said, 'The judge will do what the judge will do' clearly trying to intimidate me into backing down on alimony.
So when the hearing starts, the husband's attorney is looking a little miffed that I'm still pushing for alimony, and at this point I have an assistant bring in the broken weapon used to attack my client. The wooden handle stood propped next to my desk and the scrub brush lay on it. I called the husband as my first witness.
The husband's attorney jumps up and objects that this is improper and that I have to call my client first. I tell the judge I'll respond when he cites a rule (there is no such rule in this court). The judge smiled, turned to the husband's attorney and asked him which rule he's referring to. He withdraws his objection, and then says his client is pleading the fifth. I respond that this is fine, but that his client still needs to take the stand so he can invoke that on each individual question he doesn't want to answer so the court knows where to take a negative inference against him. The judge sides with me, and husband takes the stand.
So after my warm up questions, I ask the husband what happened on x date (the night of the assault). He contends his wife had driven donuts in the yard he had been working on, and that she then got out of the car and started swearing at him.
Me: 'That made you angry didn't it?'
Him: 'It was disrespectful.'
Me: 'That...made...you...angry, didn't it?'
Him: 'It would have made anyone angry.'
Me (slow enough that it sounds like I'm talking to a foreign toddler): 'That...ma....de...YOU...an...gry...didn't it?'
Him: 'It sure as [redacted] did!'
Judge: 'If you swear again in this courtroom I'll have you arrested.'
Me: 'You said she was disrespectful and her actions would have made anyone angry, right?'
Me: 'You didn't just take that lying down, did you?'
Here's where I'm figuring he'll plead the fifth and I'll get my negative inference and move on, but before his lawyer can jump up to do so, the husband answers.
Him: 'Of course not, I hit her!'
Me: 'You didn't hit her with your hands, did you?'
Him: 'No, I hit her with that stick you got over there.'
He actually pointed at it.
Me: 'You hit her more than once didn't you?'
Him: 'I hit her until she got the point. Probably three or four times.'
His lawyer is literally facepalming at this point.
Me: 'You hit her hard enough that the end broke off, didn't you?'
I'm holding up the metal scrubber.
Him (turning to his lawyer): 'Is this where I'm supposed to say I don't want to answer because of my criminal case?'
Needless to say, my client got her alimony. Perhaps the other lawyer might have done better if he remembered me from class. He had no idea who I was."
"One of mine that sticks out is that the husband and wife both played some sort of online role-playing game, sort of like the Sims I think but a little more elaborate and adult ('Second Life' maybe?). I don't know anything about online games.
The wife got heavily involved with the game, like 10 hours a day, and wouldn't reduce her time playing no matter what he said. What tipped things over the edge, however, was that he set up a fake profile/avatar and went online to stalk her in the game and found her avatar hooking up with some random guy's avatar.
Nothing ever happened in real life (neither of them were exactly oil paintings to look at), but that was enough for the guy to initiate a fairly acrimonious divorce."
"The most messed up case I ever handled was my very first case after graduating from law school. My client seemed like a normal woman from our first couple of meetings, but ended up being pretty much a crazy, vindictive psycho. It's a bit of a long story, but here goes:
My client and her husband had two kids, around 13 and 14 years old. My client decided one day that she was done being married, and kicked the husband out of the house, doing everything in her power to keep him away from the kids out of spite. At some point, she took in a 16-year-old homeless girl to be a full-time nanny, despite the fact that she was at most two years older than one of the kids, who was a freshman in high school.
After about a year of living like this, the wife paid for the nanny to begin the therapy to become a man. This is the point at which she came to me for representation. At our second meeting, she brought the nanny, who I think she only referred to as 'Mark.' I honestly believed he was her son.
During the representation, I found out that the wife had tried multiple times to have the husband arrested, thinking it would get her full custody of the kids. She had gotten a restraining order, then kept trying to trick him into breaking it. At one point, she had the nanny call the husband in tears saying their younger child had been in some sort of accident, and she couldn't tell if he was breathing. The husband rushed to the house in a panic, only to be immediately arrested by the police officers waiting at the house (the wife had called the police and told them the husband had threatened that he was on his way to attack her and abduct the kids).
On another occasion, the wife bought tons of illicit substances and paid her father to go and plant them in the husband's car. The father got cold feet at the last minute and confessed to the husband what his daughter wanted him to do.
Less than a week after the nanny turned 18, the wife came into my office with him/her and proudly declared that they were dating and madly in love.
Anyway, in the end, despite all of this, the wife got primary custody of the kids (who referred to the nanny as Daddy), as well as a pretty massive monthly spousal support payment."
"This happened about 7 years ago.
She was kidnapped in Mexico, and he refused to pay ransom. He wasn’t with her on the trip. She was traveling with cousins and went downstairs alone to get ice cream and while she was waiting for them to get ready. I do not know all the details. She was extremely distraught talking about it and it was not necessary to pry. It was clearly traumatic and even tough I had a million more questions I left it alone.
Eventually her family managed to pay, and she was left on the side of the road. I don’t know how much they wanted as ransom but it was a substantial enough amount considering her family had to liquidate investments to get that amount. She may have told me, she may not. Something in pesos and I didn’t know the conversion rate, it was all a random number to me."
"We still refer to it as 'The Soulmate Case.'
A married woman, with children 5-11 years old, got locked up for drinking and driving on a Saturday night. What that means is she was stuck there until a bail review on Monday morning. She was released and on the car ride back to the house, she told her husband and kids, 'I’ve found my soulmate, and I want you all to be happy for me.'
What? Absolutely insane to think that in those few hours behind bars, this woman had become infatuated with an inmate (that was serving just shy of a year for theft and assault on an officer, no less) and had engaged in several intimate encounters.
She wanted nothing to do with the kids and a magistrate granted a non-limited divorce w/ full custody and rights going to the father.
The mother resurfaced about three years later, and looked like trash. She was skinny and dirty, and had been arrested a couple times for substances and passing forged scripts. We presumed her 'soulmate,' got released from jail, and quickly turned mom into an addict. The youngest kid had a few supervised visits with Mom, but that ended when Mom couldn’t reliably attend. The older kids want nothing to do with her."
"I can answer for a friend. His wife was divorcing him because he’s an unreliable idiot. He figured that he was smarter than everyone so he dragged out the process as long as he possibly could, making it as difficult as possible on her. Scheduling and rescheduling meetings. Not showing up. Promising to do a thing and then back tracking later. Refusing to negotiate at all. I think his plan was to make the divorce so difficult on her that she would just stay married. He was also doing all this pro se, so her lawyer had to deal directly with him.
After a year of this, his wife had had enough. She told her lawyer to make it happen. So the lawyer set a date and the court served him notice of the divorce proceeding. She showed up to court, and he wasn’t there. So as the only party there, she got a very one-sided deal. She got their business, custody of the kids, the house and all contents, her car, and the bank account. He got his car, his clothes, and half the proceeds of the sale of the house when she decides to sell it. That’s it. He found out about this when he called the court a week after it happened.
What had happened is her lawyer served the divorce notice to an address in a different town with a similar name. Normally this would have been caught by his attorney who would have received notice directly from the court, but since he had no attorney, there was no one other than him that the court could send it to.
He finally hired a lawyer and tried to get the settlement tossed as he claimed he was never served, but the judge said there was nothing he could do."
"I would never disclose a client's details because, you know, ethics and confidentiality, but I did have a mediation professor who told me this gem and it made an impression. She was mediating a divorce, and the couple was so close to making a settlement. But they never did because of the windows in their house.
You see, they had purchased a lovely Victorian home together. The husband had, I think, lost his job at some point and one of the things he did while unemployed was restore all the old windows. It was very time-consuming and labor-intensive.
Fast forward to division of assets: they agreed to split the sale of the house equally, but he demanded to keep a bit more for the windows, maybe $20,000. She said she should have that money, because she was supporting them at the time. He said she could keep the entire house, but he wanted the windows. She said he could shove the windows up his...anyway, they went back and forth endlessly while my poor professor tried to mediate them into a neutral area. And the whole agreement fell apart.
Even though mediation costs way less than going to court and saves couples hundreds of hours, they decided to go to court because neither party could give up on those windows. Those restored windows had become this huge symbol encompassing the failure of their marriage, financial acrimony, the husband's devotion to the house and the wife's devotion to her career."
"Not a divorce lawyer, but have done marriage therapy. I had a soldier stationed at Guantanamo Bay that met a local. They fell madly in love. They decided to get married so that she could come with him back in the states once his tour was done.
She was working on American dishes and was making spaghetti. He came home from work one day, and she was making it. She put the meat in, put the canned sauce in, and then pulled an unlabeled bag out of the freezer and added it to the sauce.
At this point in the therapy session, she was hysterically crying with broken Spanglish. She was trying to explain that she didn't know any better. Through the hysteria, he informed me her mother and grandmother told her if she wanted to keep her man, she needed to put her menstrual blood in his food. It was so hard to keep my composure. I was trying to hard not to gag.
They both described they were madly in love, but he couldn't let it go. They ended up getting a divorce. Having done this for 14 years, I have found it 100% accurate that truth is stranger than fiction."
"I spent six months costing Legal Aid cases for solicitors in the early '90s in Wales. This included many divorces.
The most notable one was a woman divorcing her husband because he discovered he could talk to the dead on their honeymoon and then later spent all their money on spiritualist groups.
That wasn't what made it notable. During the divorce, the woman left the house. At some point her husband approached her and claimed that as he was letting the house fall into ruin, it would be better for both of them if he sold the house and split the proceeds with her. She agreed to this without consulting her solicitor.
A few weeks later the husband gave her £5. She asked what it was for. It was her share of the house. He'd sold it to his sister for £10 and kept living there. When she went to complain to her solicitors, she found they'd done the conveyancing for him. He'd deliberately used his wife's divorce solicitors and nobody at the firm had realized.
For clarification, I wasn't working for a solicitor, but solicitors would send files to us for costing. I have no legal qualifications. All I needed to do was be able to count and sort documents and apply the fees for work done. The house sale would have taken place about 1989-90 while the UK was in recession and house prices were falling, which may be why the woman agreed to the sale so readily. Most of this story came from the notes of the final meeting between the woman and her first solicitor. I don't know if she took legal action against that solicitor, that would have been a separate case. I don't remember how this was resolved, but it's more than likely the husband didn't get away with it."