Dirty Divorce Tricks: Faking Violence, Becoming a Helicopter Parent

Walters Gilbreath, PLLC

Introduction to Dirty Divorce Tricks (Article Series)

In this article series, I’ll explore dirty divorce tricks that parties pull when going through a divorce. Getting divorced is not straight-forward for every couple; in fact, for most couples, it isn’t straight-forward. Some couples will be upfront and honest with each other and some couples will not be as fortunate. Some spouses will fear to get an unfavorable outcome, losing custody, paying more support, etc. and will grow desperate to win their case. People that are desperate for something so serious can be dangerous; if not identified and addressed immediately, you could face HUGE problems. The honest truth is that people play games. Don’t allow your divorce to turn into one.

Dirty Divorce Trick #1– Faking Violence

The vast majority of the time, injunctions or restraining orders are filed because a party (or the children) is the victim of domestic violence and truly needs protection.

I take the time to think about American society, it is pretty despicable to make false allegations regarding violence. Nonetheless, in the divorce context, it is not uncommon to see a party file an injunction and make outrageous allegations to get the upper hand in a child custody case and even a divorce. That’s because injunctions don’t just restrain one party from being in contact with another party; they can restrain a husband or wife from seeing their children on a temporary basis and restrict both parties from doing several acts during the divorce litigation (i.e. making disparaging remarks about the other party, hiding the children from the other party, interfering with the other parent’s visitation or access to the children, etc.). With this in mind, a spouse that gets a temporary restraining order that prohibits the other spouse from seeing the children for a term of months or even years, for example, will have a higher degree of leverage in the child custody litigation in Family Court when the court considers final orders.

I have seen spouses fake violence as part of a custody play. The spouse who finds him/herself served with injunction paperwork must take action immediately. Often these injunction hearings will take place in a matter of weeks after the initial paperwork is served. These injunction hearings can be full-blown day-long trials. But, the effect they can have on time-sharing of the children, or custody to name a couple, is so significant that they are worth the time and energy put into defending them.  A party can get a Temporary Restraining Order ex parte, which means that you don’t have to attend the hearing in order for the other party to obtain the order against you. Typically, their affidavit or testimony is enough, especially if they can prove that they attempted to provide you with notice of the hearing. 

Dirty Divorce Trick #2 – “Conflicting Out” Attorneys 

Sometimes a spouse will call all the other attorneys in town to attempt to conflict out the other spouse from using those attorneys. Unbelievable, right? Believe it.

Once even a potential client calls an attorney and provides them with details regarding their pending or soon-to-be-filed case, that attorney would face problems trying to later represent the other party without a conflict.

Imagine this example: A Wife is mad at her Husband and wants him to not have a good attorney. The wife spends an afternoon on the phone setting consultations with the best divorce attorneys in town. The wife ultimately chooses one attorney and files for divorce but has already given identifiable details to all of the attorneys that she has met/talked to. The husband then tries to call the best attorneys in town and goes through the first three; all three have to turn him down from even speaking to him because they are conflicted out from have spoken with Wife.

This dirty trick can be painful and often creates a difficult situation for the other spouse. However, if the other spouse does a good job of working up the evidence to prove that the other spouse did this, it can be useful evidence in a divorce case. When you suspect that litigation is around the corner or impending, hire an attorney quickly. You don’t want your spouse preventing you from getting a good one.

Dirty Divorce Trick #3 – Turning into a “Helicopter Parent”…at Least Temporarily

Imagine this: During a marriage, Henry Husband was an absentee father. He didn’t go to any of the events for the children, didn’t take the kids to school, never bathed or fed them, and didn’t take them to their doctors’ appointments. Miraculously though, when Wanda Wife files for divorce he turns into the most hands-on helicopter parent that the world has ever seen. This is what we call a “helicopter parent” as the parent now hovers over the children.

Wanda Wife is furious because she knows that while it would be great if Henry Husband would continue to be such a hands-on parent, it won’t happen. Rather, he is playing games to try to maximize time-sharing with the children. Here’s the kicker: Henry doesn’t actually have any intention of exercising the time-sharing he is trying to get. Instead, he knows that if he maximizes his time-sharing that his child support and spousal support obligation will be less.

Identifying if someone is attempting to pull these dirty divorce tricks takes some case-by-case analysis. It is true that there are certain situations when a parent truly does want to spend more time with the children. Furthermore, there is a possibility that seeing that your family is dissolving,  will renew the parent and make them strive to be the best parent that he/she can be. However, it is also common for one parent to be simply trying to do this for financial gain or minimize his/her financial loss. In this case, the Wanda Wife should talk to her attorney to develop a strategic plan during the pending divorce to show the true intentions of Henry Husband.

Remember, if a parent truly wants to be a hands-on parent, it is a win-win for all parties (including the children). But if the parent does not want to be a hands-on parent, he/she needs to be exposed so that the children do not suffer by having an artificially low child-support amount or artificial attention from their parent(s)

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