A long-time attorney for high-profile couples shares some of the most devious divorce revenge stories she knows.
Let’s be perfectly clear about something: The more you guys argue, the more money I make.” This is generally one of the first things I say to a prospective client. While our boutique family law firm services high-net-worth clients for whom money is not often an issue, our hourly rates are high, and conflict is financially costly—to say nothing of the emotional expense.
I state the obvious up front not only as food for thought for an individual about to venture onto the road to dissolution, but also to gauge whether he or she will be a good fit for our firm.
“I couldn’t care less how much it costs. I want to crush him!”
“I’d rather pay you than her.”
“I appreciate you pointing that out. Please tell me if I become unreasonable.”
Guess which one is a good fit?
The reason I start with clarifying that conflict equals expense is that I have been practicing family law for nearly 25 years. I haven’t seen it all, but I have seen a lot, and high-net-worth often means these litigants can afford the high drama of divorce.
Take the wife who spent her free time during her pending divorce in the wine cellar, steaming the labels off several hundred bottles from her husband’s prestigious collection, thereby rendering the collection worthless on the global wine market.
Or the husband who copied an entire hard drive from his wife’s computer and sent naked photos of her and their children’s tennis coach, her plastic surgery invoices, and a few choice catty e-mails about close friends of hers to the entire parent-teacher association of the private school their children attended.
One of my favorite stories is of a woman who, after 27 years in the home she and her husband had purchased as newlyweds, was forced out because of her now ex-husband’s desire to live there with his mistress. The ex-wife had raised children in this house and made many memories there. She was devastated by the thought of being uprooted, but her husband made her a financial offer she could not refuse. On her last night in her home she celebrated with a bottle of champagne and a gorgeous platter of shrimp, caviar, and oysters.
Her ex and his sweet young thing moved in, and for about a week things were lovely. But then they noticed an awful smell. They tried everything: exterminators, cleaning and replacing the central air and heating, installing an expensive set of ozone generators, a mold remediation specialist who found no mold. Frustrated and disgusted, they argued all the time and eventually put the house on the market. The real estate agent advised that the stench would be a major problem for prospective buyers and drive the price down considerably. Finally they got an offer. It was low, but, needing the funds to relocate, they took it.
It was from the ex-wife, who wound up purchasing her house back at a significant discount. The day she moved back in, she set a ladder in front of the window in one room after another, pulled apart the curtain rod, and brushed out the bits of decomposing shell fish and blobs of decaying caviar and oyster meat she had stuffed inside.
Of course, what people do regarding custody of their children is the most heart- wrenching. I had a client whose wife was so angry about his extramarital affairs that she made allegations that he molested the children. Notwithstanding that her accusations were proven false, his children do not speak to him whatsoever.
The stories above are cautionary tales for anyone about to embark on the path to separation. Divorcing couples are generally able to work out their issues on their own and don’t need to pay high-priced attorneys to show them the route to common sense. This is why I’ve developed an online mediation platform for couples who want to divorce as simply, amicably, and cost-effectively as possible.
The money families don’t spend on attorneys is money they will have for their children’s future. And a bit of what is saved by being grown-ups can be spent on an expensive bottle of champagne to toast the next chapter of their lives.
A Los-Angeles based lawyer who specializes in family law, Laura Wasser is the creator of the new divorce mediation platform Itsovereasy.com.
This story appears in the February 2018 issue of Town & Country.