No one ever wants a divorce that turns ugly. That scenario is stressful and can take a toll on your money, your time and your mood. You may want to take actions and make decisions that minimize the drama in your divorce, but despite your best efforts or how civil your soon-to-be ex seems, there is always the chance that they are engaging in actions meant to harm you and impact your settlement in underhanded ways.
Whether you are just starting your case or are in the middle of it, here are some “dirty” divorce moves you need to be aware of so you can see them coming and protect yourself and your post-divorce future.
The Wasting of Marital Assets
Generally, the courts do not have power over any money that was wasted before your divorce was filed and the papers were served. However, if your spouse has wasted assets on things such as gambling and you have evidence of that behavior, the court may consider it a factor in your property division. Further, it is not uncommon for a spouse to claim money is gone or wasted but it has, in fact, been converted to an asset that can be divided. For instance, your spouse may have taken community funds to invest and claimed to have lost that investment. If it can be determined that the investment money was actually used to purchase a car, additional investments or other assets. Be sure to share any wasted assets with your divorce attorney. Make copies of any documentation you have regarding wasted assets as soon as possible, and always include any assets that were wasted after the proceedings started.
The Transfer of Assets During the Marriage
Sometimes, a spouse will transfer assets to someone else before the divorce action is officially started to prevent them from becoming part of the community property division. These transfers commonly include the sale of a car, boat or land to a friend or family member for very little money or gifting friends or family money from the community property. As with wasted marital assets, you must collect evidence of transferred assets for your attorney to investigate.
The Increase of Debt During the Marriage
Like property accumulated during the marriage, debt incurred during the marriage is divided during the divorce. This typically includes debts solely in one spouse’s name, although there may be some exceptions, such as gambling debt or debt that can be shown to not have benefitted the community in any way (e.g.: an expensive vacation in anticipation of the forthcoming divorce). This means your spouse may run up debt prior to filing for divorce knowing that you will be partially responsible for it later and attempt to increase that debt. Document any debt your spouse intentionally racked up due to the divorce or during it, and share all of that with your attorney as soon as possible.
The Hiding of Assets
A spouse may attempt to hide assets during the divorce so they do not become part of the property division. This is something the court does not allow, as both spouses are required to fully disclose all debts and assets during the proceedings in order to ensure a fair division of marital assets and debt. If you think your spouse is hiding assets, your attorney and other professionals that may be hired for your case–such as an accountant–will work to uncover that property.
If you think your spouse is pulling any “dirty divorce moves”, let your attorney know right away. While it can be tempting to do the same thing yourself, you need to keep in mind that these actions can backfire on you. Attempts to disadvantage one party or the other financially is something judges have seen time and time again in divorce cases, and both parties may be “punished” for engaging in such conduct. The wise move is to disclose everything you know to your attorney and keep them updated on any suspicious moves you think your spouse may be making. This allows your attorney to handle the problem for you and keeps your credibility and case position on the right side of the judge.