Going through a divorce is difficult enough without having to worry about your spouse using sneaky tactics. Unfortunately, hurt people lash out.

This is a bigger problem for women, who are often at a disadvantage when it comes to divorce. Women usually come out of a divorce with reduced wealth and financial stability, and part of the reason is they are out-maneuvered.

This article will walk women through some common tactics and how to defend against each of them, specifically.

Key Takeaways

  • Women often get screwed in divorce but knowing the top sneaky divorce tactics can help you defend against them. 
  • From straight up lying and falsifying documents to delaying, divorce tactics each have their own countermove. 
  • Child custody manipulation is one of the most common divorce tricks

Tactic #1: Hiding assets

One of the most common sneaky divorce tactics is to hide assets to keep them from being divided in a separation agreement. He may do this by hiding money in a friend or family member’s account, by setting up a secret bank account, or by keeping assets in his name only.

And I’m not talking about fancy offshore bank accounts in Bermuda. I mean accounts he has access to all the time, like a PayPal account, a business account or an online brokerage account. Receiving funds into these accounts, instead of a joint checking account, is an attempt to keep it off your radar and separate from the settlement.

In some cases, these funds can be earmarked for a girlfriend. There is an entire neighborhood in San Francisco designed to house 19th-Century mistresses of civic leaders. Because Bernal Heights fell outside the city jurisdiction, it was the perfect place to house these women. Now a part of San Francisco proper, it’s a lovely neighborhood with cute bungalows, just the right size for a love nest.

Equitable Division Vs. Community Property

Regardless of whether you live in a community property or equitable division state, all assets acquired during the marriage are marital property and subject to division.

In an equitable division state, assets and earnings acquired during the marriage are divided equitably (fairly), but not necessarily equally. The judge may order one spouse to use separate property to level the playing field and make the settlement fair to both spouses.

In one of the nine community property states, like California or Texas, all assets acquired during the marriage are automatically divided 50/50. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if one spouse owned an asset before the marriage, he or she may be able to keep that asset in a divorce. Additionally, gifts or inheritances given to one spouse may also be exempt from division.

Either way, if your husband has been hiding money in his Venmo account, he’s essentially stealing part of your fair share.

How to defend against it?

If you suspect the other spouse is hiding money or assets, the first step is to get a complete list of all accounts. Your lawyer can also compel this in discovery. This should include everything from checking and savings accounts to investment accounts and retirement accounts.

And honestly, the best time to get this list is before the divorce ball starts rolling. Check out how to plan to leave your husband for specifics, even if you are planning to divorce with no money.

Once you have the list of accounts, go through them carefully. Look for any withdrawals, transfers or large payments you don’t understand. Monitor these accounts closely during the divorce process. If you see any suspicious activity, bring it to your lawyer’s attention immediately.

Tactic #2: Manipulating income

If your spouse is self-employed, he has access to a few more sneaky divorce tactics. He may manipulate his income to make it look like he’s earning less money than he actually is. He may do this by delaying billing clients, cashing checks instead of depositing them, or failing to record all income on his tax return. He could also be receiving funds into a separate bank account that you don’t know about. Your lawyer can also subpoena records from your spouse’s business to get a better picture of what he’s really earning.

In some cases, a spouse may even quit his job or take a lower-paying job to make it look like he can’t pay alimony or child support. This is called voluntary underemployment and it’s not looked upon favorably by the courts.

If your spouse has a history of underreporting income on his taxes, this is also a red flag.

How to defend against it?

It’s important to get as much documentation as possible to show what your spouse actually earns. This could include tax returns, W-2s, 1099s, pay stubs, bank statements and records from your spouse’s business.

Your lawyer can request these and also subpoena your spouse’s employer for information about his job, salary and bonuses.

The easiest way to track it is to keep an eye on cash flow. If income that has been appearing regularly disappears, that’s a sign that something is off.

Tactic #3: Making false allegations

Another common sneaky divorce tactic used by spouses during divorce settlement is making false allegations. Your almost-ex spouse may try to make accusations of drug abuse, physical abuse, or infidelity to gain an advantage. These accusations can be very damaging, both emotionally and financially. If your spouse makes false allegations against you, it is important to have evidence to refute them.

How to defend against it?

If your soon-to-be ex-spouse makes false accusations against you, the first thing you should do is lawyer up. The other spouse has given up negotiating in good faith, and is hoping they can win the divorce case by driving up legal costs by forcing you to defend against false accusations.

You will need to work with a lawyer to provide evidence to refute the lies. For example, if your spouse accuses you of drug abuse, you should provide documentation from a doctor or counselor that you are not abusing drugs.

Additionally, it is important to avoid responding to false accusations without losing your cool. It’s hard, because this is one of the worst sneaky divorce tactics, but an outburst only gives your spouse more ammunition to use against you.

Tactic #4: Using the kids as leverage

Your spouse may try to use the children to get what he wants in the divorce. For example, your spouse may threaten to withhold visitation if you do not agree to his terms in the divorce agreement. Or, your spouse may paint you as the bad mommy, and try to turn the children against you in child custody cases. Or he may simply manipulate your kids as payback, which frankly I think is child abuse.

This is a particularly damaging sneaky divorce tactic, as it can have a lasting effect on the children. If your husbeast is involving the kids in your divorce inappropriately, take steps to protect them from this emotional manipulation.

How to defend against it?

Take the high road and keep a record of everything your spouse does and says to the kids, whether you hear it directly, or your kids report it to you. This journal can be used as evidence in court if necessary, but absolutely should be shared with your family law attorney. This will help you show a pattern of behavior to the court.

You should also take steps to protect your relationship with your kids, and avoid badmouthing your spouse in front of them. Seek out counseling for yourself and your children if necessary, to help deal with the emotional fallout from this tactic.

Work towards a solid parenting plan with the help of a qualified divorce attorney and approved by the court.

Tactic #5: Refusing to pay child support or spousal support

Child support is the financial support that is paid by one parent to the other for the care of the children. Alimony or spousal support is the financial support that is paid by one spouse to the other after a divorce.

It is more common for women to NOT receive child support or alimony ordered by the court. In my experience, this is one of the most common sneaky divorce tactics. It can be framed as an inability to pay, delay of payments or a refusal to pay, but the bottom line is that it is a way for your spouse to avoid his financial obligations.

How to defend against it?

If your ex-husband refuses to pay child support or spousal support, you need to take him back to court. The court can hold him in contempt, and he may be ordered to pay a fine or even go to jail.

Additionally, the court can order his employer to withhold money from his paycheck to pay for child support or spousal support. This is called wage garnishment, and is a very effective way to make sure you receive the support payments you are entitled to.

If you are owed back child support or spousal support, you can also ask the court to order your ex-husband to pay the arrears. In some cases, the court may even order your spouse to pay interest on the arrears.

BUT, the challenge here, is you have to go back to court and that is what he’s betting on. He’s hoping you won’t take him back to court because it takes time, money and energy – all of which you may not have. So be prepared for this ahead of time, and have a plan in place so that you can take quick action if this sneaky divorce tactic is used against you.

Tactic #6: Causing delays

Another common tactic used by spouses during divorce is to stall and delay the proceedings. Your spouse may do this to try to wear you down emotionally or financially. It’s a really common negotiating tactic in the business world!

Your spouse may also try to delay the proceedings to hide assets. For example, your spouse may transfer ownership of property to a friend or relative to keep it out of the divorce agreement.

How to defend against it?

If your spouse is using stall and delay tactics, it is important to be patient, stay focused on the goal of the divorce, and have a good lawyer. Additionally, put systems in place to keep detailed records of all correspondence with your spouse and to monitor financial transactions. This takes some of the work off you, and these records can be used as evidence in court if necessary.

When someone uses this tactic in the business world, one of the other options is to go around them. Have your lawyer work directly with their lawyer. If your lawyer is moving fast and has their act together, it will be obvious to the court that the other side is stalling. And that is illegal in the land of due process.

Tactic #7 Rushing a settlement

On the flip side of the delay tactic, is the artificial rush. Salespeople use this all the time. They HAVE to get it done soon… for a made-up reason. They’re trying to apply pressure and get you flustered so you agree quickly and don’t look at the details of a settlement too closely. Especially if you don’t have a lawyer.

Family story: when my parents divorced, my dad initiated the process by offering my mother a settlement that was pennies on what was due to her legally. “They thought I would roll over and go ‘Arf!'” She promptly built an attorney-client relationship that secured her financial future (which is a fancy way to say “Mama lawyered up”).

How to defend against it?

Remember you run the clock.

If your husband hands you a divorce petition and a settlement proposal in the same week, “I will review this with my lawyer” is a powerful response. You don’t need to jump just because some dude who is leaving you went Boo! Even if you don’t have a lawyer, or your lawyer is legal aid.

Tactic #8: Deny access to shared assets and resources

A common tactic used by spouses during divorce is to deny access to information or resources. Your spouse may try to do this to prevent you from getting the information you need to negotiate a fair divorce agreement. Additionally, your spouse may try to keep you from having access to important financial records or other resources.

This information or resources can include, joint bank account statements, property deeds or titles, tax returns, credit card statements, or mortgage documents.

How to defend against it?

If your spouse is denying you access to information or resources, you will need to request records from the court. This is A LOT easier if you have a list of what you need. Learn how to prepare for divorce.

Tactic #9: Falsifying documents or information

Yes, I have seen forged signatures in real life on legal documents. It happens.

Your spouse may also try to provide false information to the court to gain an advantage in the divorce proceedings. For example, your spouse may lie about his or her income to get a lower child support payment. Additionally, your spouse may try to hide marital property, shared assets, or drug and alcohol abuse.

How to defend against it?

If you think your spouse is falsifying documents or providing false information to the court, you should request copies of all relevant documents from the court. Additionally, you may want to hire a private investigator to look into your spouse’s activities.

Tactic #10: Child custody manipulation

Child custody manipulation is often used as a tactic in divorce proceedings. Your spouse may try to gain primary custody of the kids to get awarded child support or avoid paying child support, or make it harder for you to move away. Oo, your spouse may try to use the children as a bargaining chip in the divorce negotiations.

One really dirty trick is to angle for primary custody and then offload parenting time onto grandma or another family member.

How to defend against it?

If your spouse is weaponizing child custody, it’s time to put on your boxing gloves. Work with a lawyer to avoid losing primary custody in the first place and to build a comprehensive parenting plan that outlines your rights and responsibilities. Additionally, you should be prepared to present evidence to the court that can include character witnesses, documentation of your parenting time, and evidence of your financial stability.

Bonus Tactic: Removing marital property before divorce 

Your spouse may try to remove marital property from the home before you have a chance to divide it in the divorce. This tactic is often used to prevent you from getting your fair share of assets. What is marital property? Marital property is any property that was acquired during the marriage. This includes, but is not limited to, homes, cars, furniture, art, and jewelry. It could also include financial accounts, such as savings accounts, investment accounts, and retirement accounts.

How to defend against it?

Again, this one is a lot easier to avoid in advance. Check out our leaving your husband checklist.

If your husband is trying to remove marital property from the home before you have a chance to divide it in the divorce, start creating an inventory, including missing items. Take pictures or videos of the property and collect records like receipts, bank statements, and appraisals.

Bottom Line: Hire an experienced divorce attorney – or get one from legal aid

The best way to defend against these and other sneaky divorce tactics is to hire a good attorney from a family law firm or legal aid group who will know how to protect your rights. Because they have seen all these shenanigans before, and know what you are entitled to in detail. Additionally, a qualified divorce lawyer can help you gather evidence to support your case and can represent you in court if necessary.

But even if it all goes to hell, remember starting over after divorce with no money is entirely possible. Many women have come back from being screwed, and you can too.