Not every marriage is a match made in heaven. In fact, it's widely acknowledged that 40% to 50% of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce.
Divorce battles can get ugly, petty and messy, especially when large sums of money, children or properties are involved — with lawyers, accountants, friends and family there to watch the foundations crumble into dust.
Here, 31 Reddit commenters talk about some of the most outrageous divorces they've ever seen --- and it isn't pretty.
Comments have been edited for length and clarity.
1. Devious divorce tactics
I work as a divorce lawyer in Australia.
I once saw a divorcing husband who hid $10 million by making an overpayment to the tax office.
Auditors thought it was a tax payment and processed it — you know, business as usual.
Six months later it was refunded — meaning he got the money back plus base interest rate.
He actually made money on his divorce.
I can’t believe it worked, it was so slimy and devious. He never faced any penalization for doing this.
Don’t try to pull this off nowadays, though.
Auditors have since caught on to this scheme, and you most definitely could face penalties or even jail time.
2. He really rigged it
The husband in a very high stakes divorce managed to hide two apartment complexes, an ocean-front penthouse in a very expensive city. Oh, and an offshore oil rig.
He was a high rolling business executive-type that really knew his way around the law. It was practically criminal what he got away with.
All his assets were held in two offshore companies that the wife did not know about.
It only came out very recently, about two decades later, when the husband died and left some of that property to their two sons (who were able to see the property histories).
Still no word on who inherited the oil rig.
3. Double agent, triple crossed
This wealthy husband had a listed income of $1.5 million. He made most of his money here on the East Coast.
At the end of the divorce process, it was revealed that the husband had another family in Seattle. He went by a different name, and had an additional $14 million salary.
How was he discovered living the double life?
Seattle wife posted a picture on Facebook and tagged him with his West Coast name. East Coast wife posted a similar photograph of him — the facial recognition software tagged him as his West Coast name.
But wait, there's more! Turns out he has a third wife and two children in the Czech Republic. He had moved to the United States to avoid family court and is still being pursued for extradition.
4. Keeping it in the family
During my dad's last divorce, it came out that his wife had been having an affair.
The thing is, her last three marriages had ended because of her infidelity. Yes, she cheated throughout her last three marriages, and they all ended acrimoniously.
It was with her first boyfriend.
Who was also her step-brother.
Neither her nor my dad wanted to settle, and it ended up coming out in a hearing or trial in front of the court.
The look on the judge’s face was absolutely priceless. Why go through three marriages just to end up with the same guy?
5. What a gas
A married couple got their gas utility account turned on at their house back in 1972, but the gas company never finished the paperwork properly.
They had free gas service for about 40 years, because their account was active but the billing was never set up.
Later they divorce and the husband gets the house with the free gas service.
The gas company finally caught the problem sometime around 2014, and they sent him a bill for a decade’s worth of gas.
The guy told the company to send the bill to his ex-wife.
There was a clause in the divorce settlement that said that if the gas company ever was notified or discovered the free gas deal, the ex-wife would have to pay any past bill payments.
The arrangement was made so that the wife could never alert the company to their error without having to pay herself.
What was amazing was that two lawyers and a judge signed off on this while fully knowing what the guy was getting away with.
6. Lost the wife, won the lottery
Not a lawyer, but my husband's uncle (they're close to the same age) was going through a divorce. It was messy and he got completely blindsided, but it’s still kind of a funny story.
Anyway, his wife had just packed up her stuff and their kids and moved out one day while he was at work. With no warning — she was just gone.
It came to light that a few weeks before she left, she'd won a “$5,000 per week for life” lottery ticket.
She hid it, and thought she could divorce him without splitting her winnings.
That didn't work out very well for her.
7. Ten years in the making
My parents' divorce took an ungodly amount of time (and, therefore, money).
My mom found out about 10 years after the fact that her lawyer and my dad's lawyer were colluding to drag the case out as long as possible.
Mom didn't want to have to deal with dad, so she never went after the lawyer.
The judge didn’t take too kindly to the fact that they were wasting so much time, and ordered that an agreement be reached by such and such a time.
It was terrible watching them put each other through financial ruin.
I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.
8. I pronounce you man and wife, or not...
I’m not a lawyer, but this happened to a friend-of-a-friend of mine and boy is it a doozy.
Girl keeps nagging her boyfriend about marriage, but he doesn't want to marry her. The thing is, he doesn’t want to break up either.
So he tells her they'll have a “destination wedding” on a tropical island with a local ceremony. Says it will be very romantic.
They fly out there to tie the knot.
Here’s the kicker: there was no legally binding ceremony.
He just hired some resort staff to pretend to officiate a fake marriage ceremony and no marriage contract was ever drawn up.
The guy then dies years later, and that’s when his “wife” finds out she was never married and is not in the will.
9. Pay your taxes
Buddy of mine got divorced. He had a contracting business and was doing quite well.
During the divorce proceedings they decided to sell the business and divide the proceeds. They sold it for over $2 million, and she got 60% in lieu of alimony.
Well, the selling of the business triggered a tax audit and when all was said and done they owed over $700,000 in back taxes and penalties.
Back to court they go.
He claims, "Since she took 60% off the business she should take 60% of the debt. The judge agreed with him.
Unfortunately for her, she had pretty much spent all the proceeds from the divorce and now owed $420,000 to the government, plus accumulating interest.
10. Bring down the house
My mother divorced my dad when I was around two years old.
My parents had bought a house together, and my dad’s family offered her fair value to buy the house from her.
She denied the offer and put it up for sale publicly.
My dad’s family bought it for 40% less than what they offered my mom in a public bidding auction.
Twenty years later and my mom absolutely hates this story, but my dad still jokes about it to this day.
They’re still friends, but it’s a bit of a sore spot.
11. Justice was served
I’ve worked as a legal assistant for two family law attorneys for the last eight years.
One of the cases that made me the angriest was a man who cheated on his wife when she had cancer.
He then leaves his wife and attempts to hide all his assets while she’s undergoing chemotherapy.
Fortunately, my boss is an absolutely ruthless lawyer.
She teamed up with a forensic accountant and they took him to the cleaners. Found everything, all his receipts and assets he tried to hide.
He wound up paying out the nose for the divorce. He even had to pay the forensic accountant’s bill and attorney’s fees.
Let’s just say, make sure you think twice before cheating on a lady with cancer.
12. If you hide, they’ll find you
One of my father's friends tried to salt the earth before getting divorced.
A rental house and a cabin were deeded to relatives, the cars they drove every day were sold to other relatives for tiny sums, stocks handed over to a trust “for the children” and so on and so forth.
He even vanished a chunk of cash from the company he co-owned with his wife using phony invoices and stopped paying himself a salary, electing to burn through their personal savings for over a year instead.
He learned that judges really, really hate when you try to hide or intentionally diminish assets, and they will absolutely refer you to prosecutors for fraud.
I don't think he did any jail time in the end, but his ex-wife got EVERYTHING, plus the satisfaction of firing him from his own company.
13. Get ready for round two
My parents got divorced when I was 12.
I am sketchy on the details but I remember it was drawn-out and acrimonious.
It took well over a year for the divorce to be finalized, and the whole process was a lot more complex than it needed to be.
My mom was awarded a massive settlement, my dad was basically left with a superannuation and nothing else.
After the ruling was handed down my mother’s own lawyer walked into my father and his lawyer’s meeting and said, “That ruling was total garbage. If I were you, I would appeal.”
Has to be pretty bad when a lawyer wants his own win overturned.
14. Bad taste in women
I’m an accountant, not a lawyer, but I’ve still seen some pretty messy divorces in my time. The messiest divorce happened to a friend of mine.
He divorced one woman and then quickly fell into a relationship with another girl half his age. She messed around on him.
They had started a business together but all the designs were his. She wanted the designs.
I went in as his witness and testified about the amount of money they had invested and that yes, the designs had all existed before the marriage.
Well, they spent months fighting about it.It ended up costing them $35,000 each in legal bills. Both ended up filing for bankruptcy.
Luckily, he got the designs and business. Not so luckily, he had to sell his house and leave town.
15. Caught on camera
I know a man who was falsely accused of domestic violence during the separation from his wife.
She lived in the marital home and he paid for everything, despite her having a full time job. She got a boyfriend who didn’t work and allowed him to live in the house — while she was still married.
My friend went to meet her at the house for a final time to decide who would take what from the house.
He was recording everything on his phone without her knowledge, as he was afraid something would be said or happen that might be held against him.
He left and found out she had called 911 and reported that he had made death threats and assaulted her.
The divorce went downhill from there.
He spent $14,000 on lawyers to have the charges dismissed. During his criminal ordeal she sued him for $250,000 in alimony.
The recording saved him with the police and to this day she insists he assaulted her. An unbelievable mess.
16. Lawyer up
Not a lawyer, but I remember my friend’s mom’s divorce from her second marriage.
I guess there is a rule where if an attorney has interacted with Party A while on the clock, they can’t offer services to Party B.
I suppose it’s a conflict of interest thing.
So, my friend’s mom called every divorce lawyer within a 100-mile radius and essentially boxed her ex out of a lot of decent representation within a reasonable distance.
If you’re going through a divorce, definitely don’t do this. The judge was not happy when he discovered the little stunt she pulled.
I’m not sure what happened during the divorce proceedings, but I’m sure it wasn’t pretty.
17. A dog-eat-dog divorce
A man came into the family law firm and says his wife is cheating on him. He's extremely rich and wants to get divorced.
The lawyer proceeds to ask him about his assets and what he wants to keep. He says that she can have the house, the car, the boat and the kids.
The lawyer asks him what he wants to keep then, given that he doesn't seem to want anything.
The man angrily responds, “That woman only loves her dog. I want her to suffer, so I want the court to order that the dog be taken away from her and cremated. She can have 50% of the ashes, and I'll have the other 50%."
At this point, I’m beginning to sympathize with the wife and think that this supposed “affair” may have been completely justified.
And despite the crazy, somehow I'm still interested in practising in family law.
18. Years down the drain
My 90 year old client (the husband) and his son retained me to initiate divorce proceedings with his 88 year old wife. They’d been married 60 years.
The wife had recently taken to beating him with his own cane, because their daughter poisoned her into thinking he was hiding money from them.
The battle came down to husband and son versus wife and daughter.
At their first court appearance, my client showed up in an old 1950s style pinstripe suit and fedora.
He was a farmer his whole life, and this was clearly the only suit he owned. He was such a meek and lovely old gentleman.
I had to pass my client onto a new lawyer midway through the proceedings because I accepted a job in a different country, but I understand the divorce was eventually granted.
19. Now this one is just cruel
She was kidnapped in Mexico and he refused to pay the ransom.
Eventually her family managed to pay and she was left on the side of the road.
It may not be the pettiest reason to divorce someone, but it sure is the most outrageous thing I’ve ever heard.
I don’t know how much the kidnappers wanted as ransom, but it was substantial.
From what I understand, the husband had enough money to cover it. Her family, on the other hand, had to liquidate assets and sell their house to get the amount they wanted.
This happened about 7 years ago and she still gets distraught talking about it.
20. Second life, second wife (or husband)
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.
The wife got heavily involved with the game, like 10 hours a day, and wouldn't reduce her time playing no matter how much he begged and pleaded.
What tipped things over the edge, however, was that he set up a fake profile and went online to stalk her in the game.
He found her avatar having an affair with some random guy's avatar.
Nothing ever happened in real life (they were both pretty awkward people) but that was enough for the guy to initiate a fairly bitter divorce.
21. Deals with the devil
Client had an inner ear condition that caused chronic vertigo, but symptoms could be treated with medication. Husband was an evangelical who was convinced his wife:
Had become possessed, and that her vertigo were evidence of demonic possession.
The medications she was taking were enabling the devil to hide inside her .
The only proper recourse was exorcism. He would hide her meds until she got dizzy and then try various methods of exorcism.
Sweating it out — He put her under blankets while incapacitated and locked her in an overheated room.
Freezing it out — pretty much the reverse with AC, fans and bags of ice.
Surprising it out — he would jump out and scare her like it was the hiccups, but instead of yelling “Boo!” he would recite the Lord’s Prayer or Psalms.
The final straw was that he tried to “surprise it out of her” by pushing her down the stairs when they were heading out for dinner.
The final, final straw was when he spent thousands of dollars to have a priest come and try to do an exorcism for real.
22. A real low-life
My client put his wife in an assisted living facility based on a misdiagnosis.
The doctors had put her on the wrong type of medication, and it left her unable to take care of herself.
While in the facility, my client started messing around on her. (Shocker, I know.)
He began dating another woman. It’s also suspected that he may have started drinking heavily.
He wasted a lot of money on these things, thinking he was getting a free vacation from being married.
As you can probably guess, the wife was eventually properly diagnosed, got off the medication and got better.
Suffice to say, she was not happy about what had transpired.
23. Completely bowled over
This happened during the divorce proceeding.
Neither husband nor wife would follow the court orders.
When they had to go back to court they were fighting over the husband's grandmother's bowls.
I assumed for weeks that these bowls were some sort of family heirloom or expensive, fine china.
When they finally brought the bowls in to swap they were freaking Tupperwares.
I heard a story once of a man that married his wife, woke up the next morning and saw her for the first time without make-up.
He thought she was an intruder and freaked out, and ordered a divorce on the grounds of “fraud.” He also tried to sue her for $10,000, citing psychological trauma.
24. The dividing line
I dropped into court to visit a family friend who was a judge and witnessed quite a treat.
A wealthy area farmer and his wife were in court that day fighting about possessions and assets.
The judge had had enough. After briefly reviewing the history of their case he offered the couple one last opportunity to retire to a conference room and come to an agreement. Both refused.
Their lawyers were clearly as weary as the judge. The judge then asks each party which room in their house was their favorite room.
She picked the kitchen and he picked his gun room.
The judge then informed them that because the matter had dragged on for so long with both behaving like children he was going to decide the matter of the property.
She was awarded everything in the kitchen and he the gun room. Everything else was to be sold at auction with the profits equally divided.
Then the judge then said, “Now neither of you are happy, right?”
They clearly were not.
26. Splitting up the assets
Not the most outrageous, but I had a client incur about 20 additional hours of billable hours because he and his ex-wife were battling and went to trial over their "Star Wars" collection.
This was the only issue at trial — they were able to work out custody, child support and the house, but the "Star Wars" collection went to trial.
The judge ended up splitting up the collection in the worst way possible, basically giving each side half of what they wanted, and then mixing and matching everything else.
This broke up entire collections and diminished their value substantially.
When speaking about it at a conference, the judge admitted she did it because if they were going to act like children, she would treat them like children.
The thing is, the value of this collection was well over $100,00, so it was hardly “kids' stuff." Neither side had it in them to appeal.
27. Not her proudest moment
He got too inebriated at the wedding, she did not like it. She decided to divorce him right after the honeymoon (which she went on without him).
This was all an elaborate scheme of divorce-robbery, because the guy was loaded and so was his entire family.
She thought she would get in, get out and walk away with half his money and maybe a free house.
The thing is, they were loaded because they were a family of EXCELLENT lawyers, and he was a third generation lawyer, with all the smarts and experience of his predecessors combined.
Let’s just say it did not go well for her.
28. Housed in
A good friend of mine got married. His parents were extremely well off, and they bought the newlyweds an extremely glamorous home to get them started.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, right after the honeymoon she started acting distant.
After six months she stopped attending family events. On their first anniversary, she served him divorce papers.
She thought she was in for a windfall, given that she thought she’d automatically get 50% of all the assets, including the house.
Apparently the look on her face when she was informed the title of the house was in the name of the parents was priceless.
29. Jell-O, goodbye
I'm not a divorce lawyer, but one of my high school friends told me that his parents had a pretty ridiculous reason for getting divorce.
His dad was using the stove to make Jell-O. His mom said Jell-O is too fattening and tried to grab the pan out of his hand to dump it down the sink.
He pulled the pan back while she was trying to snatch it, and she called that act of refusing to throw out the Jell-O "spousal abuse."
He packed his bag and left that night — moved to a town 1,500 miles away where he knew literally no one, just to get away from her.
They had been married for over 20 years, and I think that was just the last straw.
Their divorce also ended up costing them thousands of dollars. It was the most expensive Jell-O I think anyone’s ever had.
30. She needed to practice her calligraphy
I took my now ex-wife to court because she had used my Social Security number to sign up for cable.
I found out about it when she stopped paying for the service, and the debt collectors started calling me twice a day. She really didn’t think this one through, and I’ll explain how she messed up.
We show up to court, I turn in the contract from the cable company, showing that indeed my Social Security number was indeed on the contract, but her own name was signed on the dotted line.
She didn't even try to forge my signature! She signed her own name and then tried to deny that she had any part of it.
The judge tore her apart and it was extremely satisfying.
31. Reality check
My friend is a lawyer that specializes in family law and divorce. I hate to be a party pooper, but many of the stories here are outliers.
Divorce is actually pretty easy, if both members are normal and even-keeled.
He said many people come in peacefully together. It's not necessarily the standard, but it happens, "way more than you'd expect."
Sometimes two people just want to get a quick divorce and move on with their lives.
He said that sometimes they'll devolve into a bit of a battle over assets, but not usually.
He said one couple, after their divorce, sent him a Christmas basket one year. Basically they wanted out and he helped navigate the legalities of it.
There was no fighting or long, drawn-out court battles. Everyone left happy.