Strategic Use of “Dirt” on Your Ex During Divorce

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Sometimes divorce leads people to give in to their vengeful instincts, and some spouses will admit they see the divorce process as a way to extract emotional payback. But such an approach, while appearing satisfying in the short term, may end up quite costly in the long term, especially the final judgment of divorce.

Consider a recent story about Emmanuel and Gabriella Sanders. Emmanuel is a star wide receiver for the Denver Broncos. Gabriella has filed for divorce recently, shortly after giving birth to their second child. In recent court filings, she alleges that Emmanuel lied to the Broncos when he missed practice in November – Emmanuel said he missed for the birth of the baby, but according to Gabriella, he went out partying.

Gabriella may be telling the truth, and feeling angry that her husband missed the birth to party. But making public accusations during the divorce could be a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Let’s assume Gabriella is correct about what happened. Making it known to Broncos management could place Emmanuel in a tough position – he could be suspended, he could have difficulty in contract negotiations, and he even could get cut from the team. Since Gabriella depends on Emmanuel for support – spousal and child – helping the Broncos fire Emmanuel will hinder her ability to get a judgment for the highest spousal and child support award.

Now let’s assume Gabriella is not telling the truth. In this case, she has publicly stained Emmanuel’s reputation. Aside from the potential financial implications about support, she also must face the judge, and judges do not like spouses that take intentional actions to hurt the other party or make dishonest allegations or otherwise mislead the court. Her behavior could cost her in the property settlement, attorney fees or even custody of the children.

If Gabriella was telling the truth, rather than file a public pleading, she could have used the fact as a negotiating tactic in settlement discussions (not by threatening to go public, as that borders on extortion, but by raising it later in the litigation). If settlement talks break down, she could raise the matter in a sealed confidential pleading with the court so the public would not know. In this way, she maximizes her position for spousal and child support without harming her position with the court.

So, the lesson of the story: while tabloids love dirt about celebrity couples during divorce, courts do not share the same view, and playing fast and loose with dirt could cost you dearly come the entry of final judgment, and even face criminal charges in cases of perjury or extortion.

If you have questions about how to strategically use “dirt” on your ex in a divorce, contact us – we can help.