Divorce Lawyers Share Stories from the Nastiest Cases They Ever Handled

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: MiamiAccidentLawyer/Pixabay

While many married couples enjoy fairytale endings and lifelong marriages, some spouses end up trapped in what can feel like a never-ending nightmare. When all efforts to save a marriage fail, divorce may be the only logical step left. In some divorce cases, both spouses may simply be ready to move on with minimal fuss, but that isn’t always the case.

Sometimes, spouses can turn downright nasty to their former lovers. When the worst happens, dissolving a marriage can turn into full-on warfare, and no one is safe from the brutality. From lawyers to other involved parties, these Redditors discuss some of the wildest divorce cases they ever saw.

Show Me the Money

The woman issued more than 70 subpoenas to banks, firms, investment companies — you name it — because she was convinced he had squirreled away $20+ million overseas behind her back. It got so bad that she dug up receipts from 25 years ago to try to put together this grand conspiracy puzzle.

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Photo Courtesy: sallyjermain/Pixabay

In the end, after she racked up $1.5 million in legal fees and used seven different lawyers, the judge said it was ridiculous. He told her there was no conspiracy, and she wasn’t entitled to a portion of this phantom $20 million.


Benefit of the Doubt

I saw a future ex-wife fight vigorously over disability benefits of a not-yet-retired career military guy. She had a new guy to bankroll her, and legal fees were nothing to her, so she dragged out asset division and the divorce proceedings for months over not-yet-accrued disability benefits for her soon-to-be ex-husband.

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Photo Courtesy: Specna Arms/Pexels

The total amount she would have been entitled to was about $400. That was before the Supreme Court decided disability benefits are not marital property. It was some very petty stuff.


On the Run

My client fled the home with her baby after an incident. In my state, both parents have full rights to the children unless a custody order is in place. In other words, whoever has the kid, gets the kid. Police will not intervene when one spouse is withholding a child from the other spouse if there are no orders in place.

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Photo Courtesy: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

Well, my client had the child for two weeks at her new place when the husband showed up demanding the child. She refused. He called the police. The responding officer was a family friend of both, but originally a friend of the husband. This PO shows up and decides to try to mediate the conflict. The PO tells my client something along the lines of "Let him hug his son goodbye, and he will leave peacefully."

My client was hesitant but agreed. The husband took the kid and exclaimed, "He's mine now!" He ran to his car with the baby — no supplies, no clothes, nothing. The PO claimed he had no idea what was happening (yeah, right). Since no orders were in place, there was nothing my client could do.

While we were trying to track him down, we got an order returning the child to my client's possession. He suddenly contacted my client saying he was at a hotel in the area. We sent the police.



Get Your Own Bag

I had an epic client who hated his wife's guts. He was asked to pay an interim maintenance of 3,000 rupees per month. This guy goes to the bank and gets 3,000 rupees — all in 1 Rupee coins — and gives it to his wife in court. Technically it's legal. So, the wife had to sit and count all the coins in court, and then he says he wants the bag back. Technically, it's his bag, so this lady is left with 3,000 coins and no way to carry it home. This guy was an evil genius.

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Photo Courtesy: rupixen/Pixabay

If We Could Only Be That Broke

The husband had a fancy job and got stationed abroad, so the wife and two kids moved with him. He made a really high salary with all expenses paid, while the wife was a stay-at-home mom with no income of her own. The marriage failed, they moved back home (Sweden) and the wife sued for alimony, which she was entitled to by law, so she would be able to take care of the kids every other week. She hadn't worked for a number of years and had a hard time getting back into the job market. She had no savings, etc.

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Photo Courtesy: Tumisu/Pixabay

Suddenly, the husband, who basically hasn't had to pay any bills for several years, claimed he was also broke. He "only" had around $1 million or so and was "forced" to spend it on an apartment in one of the most expensive parts of town so he had somewhere to live.


Bank Account Meant More

The wife had a baby, and the husband has zero interest in the child and even resents the attention that the child takes away from him. He tells his wife that she is 100% responsible for this child, even financially. She realizes he is a terrible parent, and that makes him a terrible partner. She would rather be an actual single parent than deal with his man-baby mess, so she files a divorce petition.

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Photo Courtesy: Pexels/Pixabay

The husband is told by his lawyer that the more time he spends with his kid, the less child support he will pay. He starts going to doctor appointments, doing kid stuff with the child, you know, being a parent. The parties are now divorced, and the husband has 50/50 time share and is a doting father. All the wife wanted was for him to take an interest in the child, but she had to divorce him to get it.



Starting Over from Scratch

I have seen some evil things in Iraq. One of them was when a Joe of mine went to withdraw "soldier pay" while deployed. The finance officer told him he didn't have any more money in that account. After several months of deployment, he should have had a few thousand in there, minus what his wife was spending.

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Photo Courtesy: ArmyAmber/Pixabay

His wife was his beneficiary and had power of attorney over his estate, so she had bought a new house, moved everything out, moved her new boyfriend in, changed her number and had been spending his combat pay for over 4 months. It took nearly the entire deployment to get back control of his money, just so he could spend a little on deployment.

It took almost a year after deployment for him to locate his wife and serve her divorce papers. She sold all of his stuff, including a Camaro he had just bought, for pennies on the dollar — his clothes and computer too. She literally took him for all he had.

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Everyone Lost Money

We represented a wife in a divorce. They had two young girls, and the husband had cheated on the wife. Making it worse, the husband had introduced the daughters to his other woman before the wife knew about her, which obviously really hurt her.

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Photo Courtesy: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

This couple didn't have a lot of money. They worked out parenting and division of assets in mediation, except for the proceeds of sale from their family home. It was only about $100,000. The husband wanted a 50/50 split, but the wife wanted a 70/30 split in her favor as compensation for the mental anguish caused by his affair. Where I live, mental anguish isn’t a legit claim for uneven division of money in a divorce, but there are different reasons to claim it — all of which can be complicated to prove.

The wife dragged the case out for 16 months, culminating in a five-day trial. The husband ended up getting rid of his lawyer, so he was a self rep, but the wife continued to retain our firm throughout. Basically, the difference in what she wanted vs. what he wanted was $20,000. She was successful at trial and was given a 65/35 split, which meant she got $15,000 more from the proceeds of the sale than he did.

However, her legal costs at the end of it were $30,000, so she only pocketed $25,000. That’s half of what she would have pocketed had she just accepted his 50/50 split and $10,000 less than what he pocketed after the trial. (Note: Some of the math in this is incorrect, but the point remains valid: She walked away with less than him after legal fees.)


Not Their Skillets!

I have a client who collects cast iron skillets of various sizes, shapes, designs, etc. Overall, he has a rather large collection that he is very proud of, and we are currently in litigation because his wife wants half of the collection. He offered her cash for half of the value of the collection, but she doesn't want the money. She just wants to tear him up a little.

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Photo Courtesy: Engin Akyurt/Pexels

No Respect for His Time

My client had late-stage lung cancer and didn't know how long he had to live. His former wife had a rich new husband and took him back to court to get more custody — because he was sometimes late dropping off the kids and wasn't "respectful of her time."

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Photo Courtesy: Pezibear/Pixabay

Worst Vulture Ever

My client's wife was dying of cancer. The family was worth $50 million. Both parties were doctors, but the wife earned most of the money. His strategy was to delay until she died, because if she died before the divorce was final, he would get everything. She wanted to donate a chunk of her half of the money to her hospital, leave it to her kids, etc.

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Photo Courtesy: Minervastudio/Pexels

We fired him — there is only so much you can condone, even as a lowly divorce attorney. He found another attorney to do it. His plan worked. What a jerk this guy was.


Messing with Their Kid's Future

The worst I've seen was my foreman, a 50-plus-year-old dude. His wife basically managed the finances because she spoke the most English and worked fewer hours than him. Well, unknown to him, she had stopped paying the bills and was hiding any letters that came, so he was clueless. Everything was on his credit since she had destroyed her credit with credit cards. The reason she did all this was because she was preparing to divorce him if he found out she was cheating on him with the teacher of a course she was taking.

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Photo Courtesy: respres/Wikimedia

Well, one day it all hit the fan when one of the kids found a hidden phone with pictures of the wife and her lover. This broke him. The guy couldn't work like he used to. The best foreman we had was basically unable to do anything without blowing up. He also constantly had to leave work to pick up his kids from school since they started having problems.

Divorce court finally rolled around, and he got hit hard. She had taken a lower-paying job, even though she had a degree this guy basically paid for her to get. At that time, we were working ridiculous overtime on an IDIOT job well, and that's the income they used, so he also got stuck with all the debt and bills. On top of losing his pension to her, his kids couldn't go to college because she took the money they set aside for that. Finally, the guy just started to get foreclosed last month.



Making Matters Worse

I represented the wife, and the husband was just a lazy human being. He didn't have a job for the last two years, he didn't want custody or even visitation of their two kids, and he refused to pay any child support.

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Photo Courtesy: Bessi/Pixabay

Basically, the case should have been wrapped up nice and clean. They had already done all the number crunching on assets and whatnot. The wife was basically like, "Fine. If you don't want to see your kids or pay child support, I work and will support them. I'm just done with you."

Then, the husband came forward and claimed he felt responsible and wanted to pay some child support, even though the agreement didn't require him to as he didn't meet a certain income threshold. It turned out to be a ruse to call out the wife for hiding assets that didn't exist. The judge had the lawyers go talk it over for about two hours, which bumped up the billable hours.

The husband's lawyer was next to incompetent, as we already had the paper the husband signed and notarized saying they accepted the asset findings to be true. When we went back to the judge, he basically said you already acknowledged this deal. Nothing is changing, except now I'm making you pay child support, you lazy fool.


Three Strikes, You're Out

The husband and wife were extremely well off, and the husband was a baseball fanatic who collected baseball bats from major MLB stars, past and present. The wife would always deride him throughout the course of their relationship about his stupid bat collection, which grew to be quite substantial during their relationship.

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Photo Courtesy: Marisa_Sias/Pixabay

When they began the divorce process, the wife said she wanted half of the bats. The husband countered with an offer to give her half the bats' worth, plus $50,000. The wife insisted on half the bat collection itself and not monetary compensation for their assessed value. Because they couldn't come to an agreement, the judge used his discretion to divide up the bats. The wife probably put her half into a woodchipper at the end of the day.


Ashes to Ashes

I had a husband and wife go toe-to-toe over an ashtray they got in Vegas at some point — neither smoked, strangely enough. They spent nearly $5,000 for me and another attorney to duke it out in court over the silly thing. Prior to proceeding, I explained what the cost would be to argue over something silly like this and that he could give me $2,500, and I would fly to Vegas for the weekend and get him an identical one instead.

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Photo Courtesy: markusspiske/Pixabay

He said he didn't care about the cost because he intended to smash it on the courthouse steps in front of her if we won. We won, and he followed through with the smashing. He laughed and said the look on her face was worth much more than $2,500.



A Happy Ending?

I once represented a husband who was divorcing his wife of 35-plus years. They were in their late 60s. At mediation, they divided up about half a million in assets within 30 minutes. Then they spent 2.5 hours fighting over two hurricane glasses from Pat O'Brien's and a pitchfork.

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Photo Courtesy: Gyura88/Pixabay

The mediator insisted the wife really wanted the pitchfork, because it was a gift from her daddy. The husband insisted they bought it at Home Depot two years ago. They finally settled at mediation after spending more than $1,000 in attorney fees combined for the glasses and pitchfork. The best part? They remarried three months later.


A Life Changing Discovery

Our client was married to a woman for 14 years, and they supposedly had three kids together who were ages 12, 10 and 8. Rumors started to spread that his wife cheated on him for years and that another man was the father of the 10-year-old and the 8-year-old.

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Photo Courtesy: Olichel/Pixabay

A blood test was done, and our client was only the father of the oldest child. He had been raising and financially supporting kids of another man and his cheating spouse for almost a decade. The wife knew the whole time they weren't his kids. I really felt for the guy.


Crushing Their Kids' Dreams

The parents had divorced, and the mother was my client. She wasn't going to apply for sole custody until the father texted her with a threat: "If you apply for full custody, I will take the kids to Lebanon and you will never find us." She got full custody and full control of the children's passports, and the father can no longer travel with the children.

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Photo Courtesy: NibbleNutz/Pixabay

The divorce agreement stipulated equal payment for any and all activities kids were involved in. The oldest boy wanted to play baseball, but the father refused to pay, saying, "No son of mine will play baseball." That father was the most selfish, irrational person I've ever met. He didn't deserve to be a dad to those sweet kids.



Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

I represented a woman who was convinced that her husband had implanted micro robots in her brain and was trying to control her. She would bring us all these nanotech 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 — destroyed her car brakes so she would crash, put poison in her tap water, etc. She was nuts. We almost had to get a conservator for her estate.

Photo Courtesy: Alex Knight/Pexels

A Lonely Path to Poor Life Decisions

One divorce involved an elderly couple who had both recently been widowed. They had both been married to their individual spouses for more than 40 years. They married each other out of loneliness. About two years into the marriage, they realized they made a huge mistake. They couldn't stand each other. It was weird seeing 80-year-olds complaining about the same things you see kids arguing about.

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Photo Courtesy: BookBabe/Pixabay

Made an Offer He Couldn't Refuse

A previous client was ticked his wife was cheating on him. She wanted a non-contested divorce, and she wanted to use my boss specifically because she knew he was a great lawyer. He pretended to go along with her terms, and then he contacted us literally two days before his wife and retained us. He said he didn't care how much money the retainer was. He wanted my boss so his wife couldn't have him as a lawyer. He called and paid first, so he won that battle.

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Photo Courtesy: espartgraphic/Pixabay

Who Knew Toilet Paper Could Be a Deal Breaker?

My client was the outrageous one, so my heart went out to his poor wife. He had OCD, which manifested primarily financially, so he made their lives a penny-pinching hell. Example: He was obsessed with avoiding unnecessary driving due to wear and tear on the car, gas expenses, etc., so he cut the whole family’s hair at home and never let them eat at a restaurant or go to the movies.

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Photo Courtesy: StockSnap/Pixabay

Weirdest of all, he kept one toilet paper roll on him at all times, and you had to get one square from him before you could go to the bathroom. He never gave you more than one square. The wife finally got fed up and left him when he gave her bangs during an in-home haircut, and their daughter was so traumatized by the toilet paper thing that they couldn’t potty train her.

Also, he HATED paying his divorce lawyer bill. He was an old-fashioned mega-Catholic who considered divorce a deadly sin, so he viewed my whole job as an unnecessary (and sinful) expense.


A Judge on the Dark Side

It’s 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, the house, but the Star Wars collection went to trial.

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Photo Courtesy: aitoff/Pixabay

The judge ended up splitting it in the most horrible way possible, basically giving each side half of what they wanted and then mixing and matching everything else and breaking up "collections." 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.

However, the value of this collection was more than $100,000, so it was hardly "kids' stuff." Neither side had it in them to appeal, nor was the case law on either one’s side, given judicial discretion in property distribution.


A Tradeoff of Junk

He was frustrated by her hoarding. She was frustrated by his utter uselessness. He filed for divorce, and she was my client. Her prized possession was a room or two full of scrapbooking materials. His prized possession was a yard full of junk cars that he never worked on. They had no children and no real assets.

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Photo Courtesy: Taken/Pixabay

They hated each other more than any two people I'd ever met, and the only terms they would agree to were that he would get the scrapbooking stuff, and she would get the cars. My client also got the house, as he had no income and didn't want it anyway.

It was the shortest divorce decree I ever drafted. I intentionally squeezed it onto one page, and the judge and I had a good laugh over it. Once the decree was signed and filed, she hauled all the scrapbooking stuff to the yard, and he removed it to the dump. She then called a junk shop I referred her to and had all of his cars removed from the yard.



Wasted No Time Moving On

A 46-year marriage was broken up because his old high school girlfriend was single again. We represented the wife. I learned later the guy married the old girlfriend THE SAME DAY the divorce was finalized.

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Photo Courtesy: StockSnap/Pixabay

Not Supposed to Happen in Jail

We still refer to it as "The Soulmate Case," but a married woman, with children ranging from 5 to 11 years old, got locked up for DUI on a Saturday night. What that means is she was stuck there till 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."

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Photo Courtesy: Ichigo121212/Pixabay

What? It’s absolutely insane to think that in those few hours behind bars, this woman had become infatuated with an inmate. She wanted nothing to do with the kids, and a magistrate granted a non-limited divorce with full custody and rights going to the father.


Pedal to the Metal

For whatever reason, being married lowered this couple’s ability to get a mid-range car loan. They were told by a bank that if they weren’t married, their chances of getting the loan would be higher. (I don’t know — maybe one spouse had really bad credit, and they applied together. I’m not sure. It never sounded correct to me.)

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Photo Courtesy: Free-Photos/Pixabay

They came to my office asking how much a divorce was. I just want to emphasize that this wasn’t to avoid bankruptcy or anything. They literally were going to divorce so they could buy a $20k car.

For whatever reason, being married lowered this couple’s ability to get a mid-range car loan. They were told by a bank that if they weren’t married, their chances of getting the loan would be higher. (I don’t know — maybe one spouse had really bad credit, and they applied together. I’m not sure. It never sounded correct to me.)

They came to my office asking how much a divorce was. I just want to emphasize that this wasn’t to avoid bankruptcy or anything. They literally were going to divorce so they could buy a $20,000 car.



Blaming It All on Sentimental Value

I had a case where neither side would follow the court’s orders. When they had to go back to court, they were fighting over a pistol and the man's grandmother's bowls. I assumed for weeks that these bowls were some sort of heirloom or expensive china. When they finally brought the bowls in to swap, they were Tupperware!

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Photo Courtesy: Katy Warner/Flickr

Talk About a Transfer!

Wife and Husband No. 1 divorced with a child, and the wife got custody of the child. Husband No. 1 paid child support. The wife married Husband No. 2, and he adopted the child. Husband No. 1 was no longer on the hook for child support, as Husband No. 2 was then legally the father.

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The wife and Husband No. 2 divorced. Because of the adoption, Husband No. 2 had to pay child support for the child. The wife remarried Husband No. 1, so the child then lived with Husband No. 1 (the biological father). Husband No. 2 (the adoptive father) still had to pay child support! Insane!