How to Tell During the Divorce Process If the Opposing Party Is Acting in Bad Faith
By Beverly Bird
When spouses begin separating their lives in preparation for divorce, they often realize they are about to lose something dear, such as time with their children or half their life savings. Even when both spouses want the divorce, this can be difficult. When one spouse does not want the divorce or is extremely bitter over the circumstances that led to divorce, he may try to obstruct the proceedings or use the legal process to punish his ex. In legal terms, he’s acting in bad faith.
When your spouse is opposed to the divorce, or wants to hurt you by running up your legal fees, he may attempt to either stall or overly complicate the proceedings. Stalling tactics are usually pretty obvious. He might fail to respond to your divorce petition in the time allotted to him, then ask the court for an extension. He may ignore your attorney’s discovery requests to supply documentation substantiating assets, so negotiations or trial might be delayed. Efforts to run up your legal fees might be a little less apparent until a pattern establishes itself over time. He might frequently file motions with the court, asking a judge to address minute details of your divorce while it’s pending. He might pepper your attorney with correspondence. Every time your lawyer must read one of your spouse’s letters or respond to one, it costs you money because you must pay for his time.
Ignoring discovery requests may also mean your spouse is hiding something. It’s difficult to hide an asset once a divorce is underway; litigants and their attorneys usually try to identify and value marital property early on in the proceedings. However, if your spouse planned the divorce, he may have transferred ownership of some assets prior to filing. This type of “divorce planning” can be difficult to detect after the fact because the asset is already gone by the time you start looking for it. However, discovery requests can include documents that date back years. If your ex had a brokerage account you didn’t know about, he might have transferred ownership to a family member a year before filing for divorce. If you or your attorney ask for statements for all his brokerage accounts going back two years, you might find evidence of such a transaction.
Read More: Penalty for Hiding Assets in a Divorce
Lying About Income
Another bad faith tactic is misrepresenting income in an attempt to reduce child support payments or eliminate an alimony obligation. If you can access your ex's credit card records or his monthly budget, you might find his expenses are well in excess of what he claims to be earning. If he owns his own business, he might be siphoning off cash receipts, putting them directly in his pocket rather than depositing them into a business account. If he historically received bonuses or commissions from his employer and that suddenly stops, he might have asked his employer to hold onto the money until your divorce is over.
If your ex was never a very involved parent and is suddenly demanding full custody, he may be trying to avoid paying child support. If your kids live with him, you’d have to pay him instead. An often-used bad faith tactic to gain custody is to allege incidents of domestic violence. If your spouse wants to depict you as a bad parent, he might claim you assaulted him during an argument and call the police, especially if you still live together. If he gets a restraining order against you, the court will remove you from your home -- and he’ll get to stay there with the kids. This can set a precedent in a future custody dispute.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.