Some people are nice, others aren’t so much. I personally handle roughly 100 divorces per year. Most of the people that come to see me are genuinely saddened by the fact that their marriage is ending. Most are confused and hurt. Some are just plain angry.
The angry ones often caught their spouse cheating. Or figured out that their spouse has been planning on leaving for a while and has been using them. These people want to get even. Here’s how some of them do it.
10. Catch them in the act
As a litigator I take a certain amount of joy in working in the courtroom. Nothing is more satisfying than cross examining a witness and catching them in a lie. Yes, lawyers pull all kinds of fancy arguments to trip people up and that has its own fascination but what I really love is catching a liar in a lie plain and simple. No fancy foot work.
As an example I had a client whose husband was cheating on her. She knew it and better yet he didn’t know she knew it. She was smart. Instead of exploding, throwing dishes and getting someone arrested she waited. She gathered evidence. She very carefully gathered cell phone records and credit card bills. She avoided doing illegal things like tapping his phone or breaking into his email. Instead she used GPS on the family car to track his movements. After a few weeks she had everything she needed, including pictures of him kissing his girlfriend goodnight.
On the witness stand Mr. Cheater adamantly denied adultery. He was offended that I would impugn his reputation in such manner. He denied going to strip clubs. He denied knowing his girlfriend. Until the proof started coming out. At that point the judge asked Mr. Cheater’s attorney if they would like to take a break and discuss settlement before the perjury (lying to a judge under oath) charges started coming out. My client got everything she wanted.
9. Video the exchanges of the children
I had a client whose spouse accused him of being verbally abusive to her every time they met to exchange the children. We tried everything to solve the problem. My client brought a witness, she claimed the witness was lying. We demanded they meet in a public place, she still claimed he screamed and yelled at her. Finally my client mounted a video camera to the dash of his car and aimed it at the exchange point. The video clearly showed him being kind and polite returning the children from his weekend visit. The following week I got a call from her lawyer ranting and raving about needing a protective order to shelter his poor little client from my dangerous ogre of a client. I asked what he was referring to and he told me that my client had once again verbally abused his client during the post-weekend exchange.
I let him ramble on then finally suggested he check his email and call me back. About 30 minutes later I got a sheepish call saying never mind. The video in his email clearly showed him who was being truthful and it wasn’t his client.
8. Kill them with kindness
On the other side of the video idea is the thought that your spouse may be recording every conversation you have. No one knows how to push your buttons faster than your spouse. They will try to ever so sweetly goad you into an verbal tantrum for the benefit of the recording.
So kill them with kindness. Don’t give them what they want. Be so sweet that they are afraid to play the recordings for fear that it will help your case and hurt theirs.
7. Be the good parent, don’t use your kids as spies
It is incredibly tempting to be the parent that digs into your kids after every visit. You are just dying to know what is going on over there. Or you are afraid of what harmful things your spouse might be exposing your children to.
Children are not stupid. They know when they are being probed and they can figure out how to work it to their advantage. Worse yet, it will come back to haunt you. Your spouse will find out about it and you will be accused of alienating the affections of your children from your spouse. The information you get simply isn’t worth it.
6. Don’t be a massive jerk
I once had a potential client come in and try to hire me to represent him for a divorce. His one stipulation was that I had to find a process server to deliver the divorce papers on Christmas morning. Apparently she had the kids for Christmas and he was bitter about it so he wanted me to hire someone to deliver the papers Christmas morning, dressed as Santa, telling HO HO HO at her.
I didn’t take that case. I’m sure that if he pulled that one off it blew up in his face when the judge heard about it.
5. Gather Financials
When I’m not arguing over kids I’m arguing over money. Knowledge is power. If you can gather up financial documents, especially without the other side finding out you have them you give me something to compare and contrast to what they provide. We find people hiding assets this way, especially if they are self-employed. Often when you catch someone hiding assets the judge will just give them to you instead of splitting them between you and your spouse.
4. File your taxes on time
Not just on time, but correctly. I am not a tax expert and this is not legal tax advise, but if you are engaged in a divorce and are living separately you may be able to claim deductions you wouldn’t normally be able to claim. Talk to a tax expert and file as quickly as you can. At the very least if the tax return is in your hands you don’t have to worry about them blowing it. Of course you probably shouldn’t spend it either until the divorce is over, just in case.
3. Offer to pay child support, even if you don’t have to.
If the other person leaves with the kids offer to give them some money to help out. It doesn’t have to be much, especially if they have their own income and don’t really need your help. This is a great way to mess with your spouse’s lawyer because one of our favorite arguments to make to the judge is “look what a bad guy/gal the other side is! My client has been caring for these children all this time and they haven’t offered a dime to help!” Beat them to it. Offer the dime. Knocking their legs out from under them before they can make arguments is great. It is even better if the other side doesn’t bother to tell their lawyer you gave them money and the lawyer makes a standard argument that you didn’t even offer to pay. You can make them look like a fool in short order. Just don’t do that to me!
2. Spend every possible minute with your children
Regardless of your situation at work, home or whatever spend every possible second you can with your children. Don’t spend your time prying into your spouse’s life through your children. Don’t park them in front of a tv and veg. Spend real time, creating real memories with your kids. This is great because:
1. Your children need it! They didn’t ask for the divorce and don’t deserve to be treated poorly because of it!
2. Your spouse will hate it. They will be wondering what you are up to and it will drive them crazy and there is nothing they can complain about.
3. Divorce and your children aren’t a single battle. It is a war made up of small battles fought over years. You need to make headway now by showing your kids that you love them while you can. Create bonds and when they are adults they can look back on the divorce and not be bitter.
1. Have a full and happy life
The absolute best revenge is a life well lived. Don’t let the divorce destroy you. Don’t forget about it or miss the opportunity to learn from your mistakes but don’t dwell on it until it festers and destroys what is left of your life. Don’t move on too quickly. Don’t make major decisions right after a divorce but do things that make you happy. Find joy. If for some reason you truly feel like you need revenge on your ex-spouse the best way to take it is to have a wonderful life and show them what they are missing.
Chris McHam is the lead attorney for McHam Law, a Round Rock, Texas based law firm focusing on family law, criminal defense, probate matters and civil litigation in Travis County, Williamson County, Hays County and Bell County.