12 Sneaky Divorce Tactics and How to Outsmart Them

In an ideal world, divorce would be a painless and amicable process where both spouses work together to reach a fair marital settlement. Unfortunately, reality often paints a different picture. Emotions run high, tensions flare, and some individuals resort to underhanded tactics in order to gain an upper hand in their divorce proceedings. 

If you find yourself in the midst of a contentious divorce, it's essential to be aware of these sneaky maneuvers and arm yourself with the knowledge to outsmart them.

Tactic #1: Concealing income 

A spouse may attempt to conceal their true income during a divorce in order to minimize their financial obligations, such as child support or spousal support (alimony). This can involve not reporting cash earnings, deferring bonuses or commissions, or even creating fake business expenses to reduce their taxable income.

How to outsmart it

To counteract this tactic, gather financial records that provide insight into your spouse's income, such as pay stubs, tax returns, and bank statements. Look for inconsistencies or unexplained fluctuations in their earnings. You can also hire a forensic accountant to help uncover hidden income sources. If it is discovered that your spouse has been concealing income, they may face legal consequences for their dishonesty, and the court could adjust support payments based on their actual income.

Tactic #2: Hiding assets

A spouse may choose to hide assets during a divorce to avoid having them divided fairly between both parties. They might transfer money to secret accounts, undervalue marital property or investments, or temporarily give assets away to friends or family members to keep them off the books.

How to outsmart it

To counteract this tactic, be vigilant in gathering financial records, including bank statements, property deeds, and investment portfolios. You can also hire a forensic accountant to help uncover hidden assets. If hidden assets are discovered, the court may order the spouse to disclose all assets, and they could face penalties for their dishonesty.

Suggested: Suspect Your Spouse Is Hiding Assets during Divorce?

Tactic #3: Delaying the divorce process

Some individuals intentionally prolong the divorce proceedings by refusing to cooperate, repeatedly rescheduling meetings, or filing unnecessary motions. This can increase legal fees and cause emotional distress to the other party.

How to outsmart it

Maintain open communication with your attorney, and stay organized in order to expedite the process. If your spouse continues to stall, consider requesting that the court impose deadlines or sanctions for their non-compliance.

Tactic #4: Quitting their job

An ex-spouse might quit their job, work fewer hours, or take a lower-paying position in an effort to minimize their income and reduce their child support or alimony obligations.

How to outsmart it

Gather evidence of your spouse's employment history, earning potential, and job offers. The family court may impute income based on their ability to earn rather than their current income, which could result in higher support payments in your divorce settlement.

Tactic #5: Smearing your good name

In extreme cases, a spouse may fabricate allegations of domestic violence, abuse, or infidelity in an effort to gain sympathy from the court and sway the outcome of the divorce in their favor.

How to outsmart it

Gather evidence to refute false allegations such as witness statements, photographs, or videos. Consult with your attorney on how to best address these claims in court.

Read: Do You Need a Divorce Private Investigator?

Tactic #6: Parental alienation

A spouse may engage in parental alienation, using the children to manipulate the other party. For example, they might deny visitation rights, make false accusations of abuse, or turn the children against their other parent.

How to outsmart it

Document any instances of manipulation, and try to communicate by text message to capture things that could be useful. Keep a record of all interactions with your children. Remain calm and focused on their well-being. If necessary, involve a neutral third-party mediator or child custody evaluator to assess the situation.

Read: What Are Custody Evaluations?

Tactic #7: Fabricating debts

A spouse may create fake debts or exaggerate existing ones to reduce their financial responsibility during the settlement process or to make it appear as if they have less disposable income than they truly do.

How to outsmart it

Request documentation for all claimed debts in their divorce case, and verify their legitimacy through financial disclosures. If you suspect that your spouse is fabricating debts, bring your concerns to your attorney, who can investigate further. If caught, the spouse may face legal consequences for their dishonesty.

Tactic #8: Inflating expenses

In order to receive more alimony or child support, a lying spouse may exaggerate their monthly expenses or create fictitious ones, making it appear as if they require more financial assistance than they really do.

How to outsmart it

Request documentation for all claimed expenses, and compare them to past spending habits. If you suspect that your spouse is inflating their expenses, discuss this with your attorney, who can help uncover the truth.

Tactic #9: Manipulating emotions

Some individuals may attempt to provoke emotional reactions from their spouse, hoping to gain an advantage by making the other party appear irrational or unstable.

How to outsmart it

Practice self-control, and avoid engaging in heated arguments. Keep a record of any attempts to manipulate your emotions, and inform your attorney of these incidents.

Tactic #10: Invasion of privacy

A spouse might resort to snooping on their partner's personal communications, tracking their movements on social media, or even installing surveillance equipment in an attempt to gather information that could be used against them in court.

How to outsmart it

Protect your privacy by changing passwords, securing your devices, and being cautious about sharing personal information. If you discover that your spouse has invaded your privacy, inform your attorney, as this behavior could be illegal and impact the outcome of the divorce.

Tactic #11: Intentionally incurring debt

A spouse may intentionally incur debt during the divorce process. For example, they might take out loans or make large purchases on credit with the intention of burdening the other party with a portion of this debt during the settlement.

How to outsmart it

Keep a close eye on your joint accounts and credit reports to monitor for unusual activity. If you notice your spouse incurring unnecessary debt, discuss this with your attorney, who can help protect you from being unfairly saddled with these new obligations. The court may consider the timing and purpose of the debt when dividing liabilities during the divorce.

Tactic #12: Sabotaging the family business

If a couple owns a business together, one spouse may attempt to sabotage the company's value by mismanaging it, creating false financial records, or diverting assets in order to gain an advantage during the division of assets.

How to outsmart it

Stay involved in the management of the family business, and keep accurate records of its performance and financial transactions. If you suspect your spouse is sabotaging the business, consult with your attorney. Consider hiring a forensic accountant or business valuation expert to assess the situation. If sabotage is proven, the court may adjust the division of assets accordingly and hold the responsible spouse accountable for their actions.

Suggested: Special Considerations for Business Owners in Divorce

Hello Divorce provides affordable online divorce plans as well as professional divorce services, like our flat-rate legal advice sessions for those times when you need some legal input. View our plans and services pages for more information.

Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.