Fifth time’s the charm
My first divorce case was the most memorable. My client was a nice looking, 50-ish waitress who was breaking hearts at the local small town cafe. She was on divorce number 5.
I had a little lawyer kit of things she should do — clean out the joint accounts, change the car title, etc. She had done all of them, plus a few things neither I nor the professional list-maker had thought of.
Husband No. 5 came into my office to cry and concede everything. Now that was a guy who needed a lawyer with a list. No such luck, — she screwed him over gently, professionally (I thought) and didn't overreach too much, but got everything she was or might have been entitled to, plus a little more.
Was easy peasy for me. Helps if your first time is with an experienced woman. I learned a lot
Here we go — law student here.
I worked for a semester for my county counsel's office representing the Public Administrator, which is probate.
A woman married a wealthy doctor in Santa Monica (Californians know where I'm talking about). After a few years of marriage, she runs off with her boyfriend to my county and steals the motorhome in the process.
Not only that, but she changed the mailing address of every bill the couple was responsible for. Doctor files for divorce. But two weeks before the divorce trial, she was hit by a car in a parking lot and was killed.
Her estate is suing the driver for wrongful death. There is a heavy dispute between her mother and the doctor about what (if anything) the estate is owed with regards to the doctor's money. When she changed the mailing address to the bills, her step son's car insurance stopped being paid and he got in an accident. So the doctor is suing her estate for an insurance tort. And for the missing motorhome. Which we still can't find.
My parents divorce was pretty bad. As a side note, it really made no sense how my parents ever got married. Their backgrounds were very different, education was different, and they had nothing in common.
Anyway, it started with trouble when I was in 5th grade and it got around to the school, so my sister and I were thrown into counseling.
It came to a terrible breaking point when my mom decided to get our new dog neutered. It was a rational decision on her part but my dad didn't want it because of male nonsense. As revenge for this he ran the lawn mower over her entire garden and other landscaping, took a baseball bat to all the garden decorations and basically destroyed her entire hobby and all the work she put into it.
She had to come home to that, and I got to sit at the dinner table and watch it happening. It was awful. If I remember right she packed up her things right there and then and left. I don't blame her. My dad was a pretty nasty person, and hasn't gotten any better over the years either.
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No more NASCAR
One guy had his wife served with the divorce papers while she was in the hospital undergoing cancer treatment. She had no idea he wanted a divorce.
One guy wanted a provision in his divorce that said his sons couldn't watch NASCAR because the wife's new boyfriend was into NASCAR.
In the same case, the property division was so contentious that the judge had the parties list every piece of furniture in the house and try to work through who would get what. The guy made sure that he wanted everything she did, down to things like lace doilies her grandma made and some trophy she won in a women's shooting competition — "I bought her the gun so it's pretty much my trophy.”
Another guy wanted no custody and no visitation with his four sons until he learned how much child support would be. Then he wanted full custody with no visitation for the wife in the hope that she'd have to pay him child support.
I only did divorces for about a year before I moved on to mortgage foreclosures. Those are far less depressing.
Finally my moment to shine.
A mother (U.S. citizen) who took her child from Argentina and ran back to the U.S. (child born in AR). I represented the Argentinean father/husband. Federal court and Argentina government got involved. Made the news in Buenos Aires. We won and had the child returned to the father in Argentina.
Also represented a woman who was convinced that her husband had implanted micro robots into her brain and was trying to control her. She would bring us all these nano tech articles trying to convince us that it was possible.
She dragged the case out for four years convinced that he had done all kinds of illegal stuff (like destroying her car brakes so she would crash and putting poison into her tap water). She was nuts, we almost had to get a conservator for her estate.
My dad’s novela
My parents divorced was finalized September of 2014, but the separation of assets is still opened. The short of it is that my dad has always been really jealous. About two years ago my dad got it in his head that my mom was cheating with a baker/police officer in our home town (Mexico).
He hired two guys to watch her 24/7, they confirmed that she was cheating and said they had a video. Well $8k and my dad's sanity later, there's no video and my dad is mentally ill. He hired someone else to kill this baker/police officer, thankfully they too just took his money and did not kill him.
He started going to brothels. He said he would leave my mom on the streets and has attempted to pay off judges. My dad was always a good hard working man, now he is someone I don't know. Some say it's a mid-life crisis, but the guy is 65 years old. I feel if it was a crisis it should've happened years ago.
My dad thinks he lives in an Colombian Novela.
Til death do us part
My grandparents' divorce — I refused to help them with it or get involved. I think my only advice was to burn all of their possessions.
It was truly awful. It went on for at least four years. My grandfather was a shopping addict and hoarder and my step grandmother left the minute that they ran out of cash. They then proceeded to fight about every object they had all while both being in the middle of dying.
She was dying of cancer and alzheimers and he of diabetes and kidney failure, so it wasn't like they had some grand plan about how someone was going to use any of these objects. They owned basically nothing of actual value.
My grandfather was just awful and wouldn't let her go (did she know she was leaving? Not sure...) and wrote her nasty letters weekly. After my grandfather died, my family threw away or donated virtually every last hammer, hat and book they fought over.
What a waste of time and energy their whole divorce fiasco was. I'm sure they greatly annoyed their respective attorneys greatly.
Divorce: the old fashioned way?
An ex-friend of mine had to divorce his first wife via the newspaper. I say "had" because she was one of those "if I can't have you, no one can" kind of girls. For example, she showed up at my work the day after their wedding with framed photos of their wedding, framed copies of their church and legal wedding certificates and told me “You better keep your hands off him! He's mine, and if he tells you he's single, you know he's lying!"
Apparently, he ended up leaving to “visit relatives” out of state and had to post it in the paper to avoid her doing something dangerous to him.
I say ex-friend because he married someone else, pulled the same thing on her and then went on a screed on Facebook to tell us all off because he told us she was abusing him. He went back to her, and blocked us all off Facebook.
My mom's fiancé worked for a major company that delivers supplies/uniforms/etc. to other companies. He had gone through a nasty divorce with his ex, who is completely psychotic from what I have seen and researched in court docs. They have shared custody.
Well one day she calls up his employer's corporate office and says that one of their employees is breaking the job code by taking pictures while on the job as he was driving (mostly from stuff like when the avengers were shooting and he was stuck in traffic going nowhere). This on a corporate level means instant termination if true.
The pictures weren't even public to begin with, and she only was able to access them through their daughter's gmail account while the daughter was logged in. She copied them and sent them to corporate. He then lost his job of 22 years. His boss couldn't do anything to help as it was a corporate firing.
Here is the kicker. She then sees him in court the next week since they were already scheduled to discuss custody (she is always trying to get full with supervised visitation). In court she brings up how he doesn't have a job and then demands full custody since he is an unfit parent.
Judge then tells her that there is no way in hell she is getting custody and she is more of an unfit parent than he is. He continues to tell her that she just caused the main source of support for their child to become unemployed, based entirely off her decision to call in and report it. This was the first time I ever left a courthouse with a grin on my face as she finally got what she deserved.
No more pizza
In the early ‘80s there was a really popular, non-chain pizza restaurant where I lived. Maybe not such a big deal today in the land of snazzy chains but at the time it was a really popular hangout in a small suburban town for the high school crowd and families, church groups, etc.
It had a real soda fountain and the owner/proprietor was a real showman behind the counter, mixing fancy soft drinks and telling jokes as he worked. He was a real personality in a good sense. Anyway, the restaurant owner, who worked behind the counter every day, ended up divorcing his wife.
The wife never worked there that we knew of or even came into the place. Shortly after divorce was complete, the place became terrible — slow service, cold food, dirty dining room, etc. The owner/divorced husband explained, she got the majority interest in the business that he built and she didn't have to work there.
He said it was like slavery to him, he had to work and she got the profits. So he decided to run the business into the ground. If she wanted to come in and work, she could have it, but she just wanted the profits.
It went under within six months and became a taco joint with different owners.
I was in a mediation where it took the couple an hour and a half to split their personal property, retirement accounts, real property and custody of their six month old son.
The rest of the day, about four hours, was spent arguing about how to split the time with the dog.
For the kid they just put "as agreed upon by the parties" but the dog had a strict calendar working out holidays and strict pickup/drop off times.
I was ashamed to be a part of that unbelievable display.
Marrying a milkman
When I was young my parents had milk delivered to the house each week. It was a good deal, the milk was from a local coop and the delivery routes were privately owned. The owner of our route got divorced and told us the story of his mediation.
She and her lawyer had calculated the value of his milk delivery business to be $2.5 million (mind you, this was the mid '80s). She of course is seeking half that amount. His lawyer begins to balk that their estimate is unfair (it was probably legitimate when you calculated assets, inventory, balance, lack of debit and revenue) and they would never agree to it, but he is cut short by his client.
Our milkman then looks across the table and says something to the effect of "I agree to your estimation. Go ahead and cut me a check, everybody shows up at six, you'll have to be there by five to have everything ready for them."
He then tosses the work keys across the table as he sits back down.
They eventually agreed upon a more reasonable number.
Man’s best friend
I've worked on precisely two divorces. They were both awful. The first was just a terrible abusive situation, sadly too common, and not a good source for stories. The second, though, was a mid-40s, DINK situation. Upper middle class engineers, nobody was gonna go hungry at the end of it. Of course, we presumed it'd be a quick, painless negotiation. Nobody told us the husband was a raging alcoholic with no social skills. Nobody told us that the wife was very attached to the dog.
We divided up the house, all possessions, the bank accounts — everything— in under a week, except for possession of the dog. She was convinced he'd put the dog down. He kept saying it was man’s best friend, not women's. This case got slated for trial over who got the dog. I mean, that's downright extraordinary — that a divorce goes to trial at all is weird.
That it goes to trial with no kids is weirder. That it goes to trial where both people are financially stable and well-off is, like, comet-hitting-you unlikely. That it goes to trial solely over the possession of a dog is, so far as I can tell from talking to other attorneys, unheard of.
So, pre-trial conference, and the judge is flabbergasted that any of this is going on. He orders a final attempt at mediation to begin after lunch. The husband sneaks away from his attorney to have a liquid lunch and comes back absolutely trashed. Starts yelling about how he's going to go home and kill the dog to deny her it. Tries to jump over the table. Assaults a bailiff. Runs out through an in-session court, with the presiding judge on the bench.
I never did find out how that one ended as my internship ended before the case did. But I'll always remember it as the moment I decided that I didn't want to do family law. Fortunately for me, my current boss doesn't take those cases whatsoever.
Gold nugget girl
I had a crazy client once involved in a dissolution of domestic partnership (not married, but had been together 20 years). She had an insane amount of stories about the opposing party (drug dealer, he had killed a man and all sorts of other wild accusations).
No idea what was reality vs. what she made up. They had millions between them and were fighting over every last Native American artifact, household item, etc. At one point she offered me gold nuggets as a "gift" because she liked me so much (which I had to ethically refuse as a non de minimis gift from a current client). I eventually got off the case when I changed jobs.
I think it's currently under appeal now so I can't give any further detail, but there was some pretty crazy stuff involved in this case, including accusations that the opposing party was sleeping with his attorney (which shockingly had some basis in reality when investigated, but I got off the case right around then).
I know a couple who are recently divorced. They were together for 20 years, no kids, and worked their way up to become quite wealthy. However, she was the clear breadwinner and in a senior position in an excellent job. He also has a good job, but will never make nearly what she earns or close to what her earning potential is. She spent about two years prior to leaving telling him she wanted out, but found it hard to make the move, he would always find some reason to get her to stay.
She met someone and literally walked out the door one day. I don't think he believed she would ever actually do it, so he was extremely angry, especially learning that she walked out the door into the arms of another man. Her first offer on the table was 50/50 split. He would have come out way ahead on this deal, the house they shared had appreciated by several hundred thousand pounds, along with the flat they rented out.
But his anger got in the way and he spent the next three years insisting on more, at one point having some cockeyed views that he was entitled to 75%. Even worse, some terrible things about their marriage would never have been forced to come out had he just signed straight away. I was glad she stood her ground, although the divorce went on for three years in the end.
At about the 18 month mark, I know he had spent £20k in lawyers so I imagine she was about the same. Lord knows what the final bills were for both. At some point he was to hand over some of the furnishings and when she arrived to collect them, they had been cut up and urinated on, amongst other damage. This guy was seriously shooting himself in the foot with these antics.
I was also pleased to hear that because he was being so difficult, she decided to go for the calculated financial contributions which meant when the divorce was finalized not long ago, she ended up with the lion's share, equitable to what they both put in based on earnings. And he could have walked away at the beginning with a nice nest egg. He deserved what he got, but still, he’s a damned fool.
The coveted tuna casserole recipe
My father sued my mother for, among other things, a tuna noodle casserole recipe. She dropped off a can of cream of mushroom soup at his lawyers office, the recipe was on the back. Nobody in our family even ate it, except during lent. He also wanted my 16 year old sister taken off his life insurance, saying he had to make his new wife his sole beneficiary.
And he asked if he could "run the divorce papers down to the court clerk to save time in getting them filed.”He had honeymoon reservations already made for a cruise, following his new wedding in a few days. Class act!
There’s no divorce in dream house
This is not strictly from a divorce lawyer, but my wife and I heard this story from one of the attorneys when we were closing on our house.
This couple had put an offer on a house and put down $20,000 in earnest money.
So, the day of the closing, in the lawyer's office, they have a huge blow up. Lots of screaming and shouting. The guy gets so fed up, he says "screw it” and leaves the closing.
They never closed on the house, ended up getting divorced, but the seller of the house got to keep the $20k.
The big spoon problem
When I was in school, one of my law professors told us why he'll never work in family law. He called it the big spoon problem.
His coworker was acting as a divorce lawyer for a couple, but the reality was that he was the husband's attorney, so he asked my professor to stand in as an attorney for the wife to protect her interests.
Everything had been worked out and the settlement was ready to go, when the wife suddenly asked "Wait … what about the big wooden fork and spoon?"
See, the couple had one of those big fork and spoon sets you hang in your kitchen, and they hadn't included who got it in the settlement agreement. They exploded at each other, each arguing heatedly why they should get the pair and both agreeing that they couldn't be split up. Eventually, they almost came to blows, my professors stepped in between and it got him punched in the face by the woman.
Settlement agreements broke down afterwards and it had to go to court. Obviously, the problems were more serious than who got the big wooden fork and spoon, but it's amazing how a catalyst like that can set some people off.
Condensed milk murder
I was a legal assistant a few years back and we had a divorce for a couple from Hong Kong.
The wife was irrational, demanding and was nothing but (understandably) contemptuous toward her husband, who had been cheating on her for a long time. We had to send our process server to his mistress' house at least three times.
The time it had gotten truly ridiculous was around Thanksgiving. The guy was quite a cook and liked to entertain. While the couple was not speaking to each other, they were still cohabitating. He had been boiling up a tin of condensed milk, a traditional if dangerous way to make dulce de leche, and had forgotten about it and went to work. He had called the home landline, her cell and her work phone to tell her to turn off the burner but she ignored it.
She had gotten home and saw the mess it had made on the ceiling and called us to ask if we could sue him for attempted murder.
They were both just terrible people who shouldn't have been married to each other, let alone anyone else.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Unmarried woman comes in and asks, "So, what do I have to do to get his house?"
"Um, you really shouldn't be getting married if you're already planning to end the relationship."
"Yeah, but what do I have to do?"
"Well, if you're married and live in the home, it become a matrimonial home and you have an equal right to possession upon divorce."
Client calls again: "He wants me to sign a prenup."
"Well, this would limit what you would be able to get in a divorce, and it doesn't really give you anything. Why are you getting married if both you and he know that you're only in it to get his house?"
"Okay so I shouldn't sign it?"
Client calls again a month later: "Okay, we're married now, but he won't let me move in."
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