Dirty Divorce Tactics

  • In Australia, our system of justice is known as an “Adversarial System”.  When a divorce is conducted in our legal system, the parties are regarded as adversaries, enemies in combat. The spouses and their lawyers are expected to struggle against one another and to try and “win” the case.

    In spite of the way it seems, lawyers are not always villains and are not always to blame for stirring up conflict. Unfortunately, even for lawyers who mean well, the tools they use and the system they work in will usually increase conflict and costs.

    The following are examples of some of those nasty tactics lawyers and/or their clients will sometimes use.  If you are encouraged to use these tactics, then don’t be surprised if your actions come back to haunt you after the divorce!

    Threaten costs when it’s unwarranted

    A very common divorce tactic designed to intimidate the other party

    Advise you not to speak with your spouse

    This could even include arrangements for your spouse to have parenting time with your children. This is a tactic used by some lawyers to create conflict, create issues that don’t exist, increase legal fees and wear the other side down. It can also cause a serious break in parent-child ties if the non-custodial parent doesn’t get to see the children because he or she can’t set up any parenting time.

    Don’t pay anything until you are ordered to

    If you have moved out of the family home and are the primary source of income for the family, they advise you not to pay any household bills or send any support until you are forced to do so by the court. This is one of the steps in a routine called “Starve Out The Other Spouse”. The goal is to get the other spouse in a financial position where he or she, out of desperation, will accept an unfair settlement.

    Wear the other side down mentally, emotionally and financially

    If the lawyer for one spouse suspects that the other spouse is playing dirty, they may engage a forensic accountant and spend years in a process called “legal discovery” pouring through tax records, accounting ledgers, credit card bills, bank statements and share transfers. At every step of the way, a foot-dragging spouse can try to wear the other side down with delays. This is not something lawyers necessarily object to since their “meters” are ticking.

    Seek unnecessary orders

    Seek a court order for primary custody of your children when you would actually agree to a joint custody or visitation arrangement. The real purpose for the request is to strike fear into the heart of your spouse and use it as a club to get your spouse to give up on something else, usually a financial issue.

    Advise you to take money out of jointly-held bank accounts

    They tell you to put all the money into an account in your name alone and not to tell your spouse about it beforehand.


    The author and publisher of this document have done their best to give you useful and accurate information. This article does not replace the advice you should get from a lawyer, accountant or other professional if the content of the article involves an issue you are facing. Divorce laws change from time-to-time. In addition, it is a very fact-specific area of the law, meaning that the particular facts of your marriage and divorce, as well as other external factor,s may determine how the law is applied in your situation. Always consult with a qualified professional before making any decisions about the issues described in this article.