On Thursday, Sept. 17, Cordell & Cordell hosted its latest virtual town hall focusing on the dirty tricks that are sometimes employed during the divorce process.
Cordell & Cordell CEO/Managing, Executive Partner Scott Trout was joined by a nationwide panel of divorce attorneys to discuss some of the more unsavory tactics they’ve seen opposing parties use.
“I tell clients I think I’ve seen it all, and then all of a sudden something else comes in,” Mr. Trout said.
Allegations of Child Abuse/Neglect and Drug/Alcohol Abuse
Perhaps the most prevalent dirty trick is that abuse allegations will suddenly surface seemingly from nowhere during a child custody case. Sacramento divorce attorney Jason P. Hopper estimates that half to two-thirds of the prospective clients he meets with are facing some aspect of an abuse allegation.
“It’s something that we see a lot of,” Mr. Hopper said. “It’s a very stigmatizing type of accusation where even if it is baseless and is ultimately dismissed, the fact that it is raised can really color the judge’s opinion of the case and it something we want to be proactive with in defending against.”
Limiting Custody & Contact
One of the most sinister tricks sometimes employed during divorce is limiting the amount of contact the other parent has with the children in order to get a leg up in a child custody case.
When there are allegations of abuse or neglect, it is often exceptionally easy to obtain a protective order that cuts of access to the children even if the allegations are baseless. Those orders can have the effect of establishing a status quo when it comes to custody that can be difficult to undo.
“Judges don’t like to take risks,” Mr. Trout said, “and when you’ve got a status quo … judges don’t want to deviate. If a child is doing well over those eight, nine, 10 months, what do you think they are going to do? They’re going to take the easy road and say, ‘Well, the amount of time he has under this order seems sufficient.’”
Another common trick is for to take steps to hide income during divorce. For example, a spouse might quit work shortly before filing and then have no income to show, which could be used as an argument for alimony or spousal support.
Albany divorce Asa Neff shared the story of client whose wife was a nurse practitioner who quit working after 10 years in the field. His client agreed and thought the move would help their marriage, but a year down the road he found out she was having an affair and she filed for divorce. Since she had no income to show, she argued to the court that she needed spousal support in order to support herself.
“All I would say is attorneys have a lot of things we can do to make sure courts aren’t going to use zero as anybody’s income,” Mr. Neff said. “In that case, she was a licensed nurse and we were able to hire a vocational expert as to her earning capacity.”
Racking Up Credit Card Debt
Dublin divorce attorney Melinda Johnson discussed how temporary restraining orders can be used to prevent a spouse from running up credit card debt on a shared account.
“These mutual restraining orders that are standard have some very specific language that prohibit either spouse from taking on a certain action such as increasing credit card debt of the other spouse,” Ms. Johnson said.
Ms. Johnson added that if your court does not have a mutual restraining order there is the option to file for an ex parte restraining order.
“This does not require sworn testimony in a courtroom,” Ms. Johnson said. “It’s done on affidavit at the time of filing where you’re asking the court to issue specific orders and you’re really just telling the court what you want, why you want it, and the harm that will be caused if the court doesn’t issue one.”
It is clear there are many tricks that can be used during the divorce process, and if you do not have a knowledgeable attorney in your corner to help protect your rights you could end up being taken advantage of. Cordell & Cordell’s divorce attorneys pride themselves on looking out for the best interests of men and fathers. If you are facing a divorce or child custody case, please get in touch with us for a consultation.