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The Scorched Earth Divorce/Guaranteed to Waste Money and Relationships

One would never guess what goes on behind closed doors.

A well-to-do couple’s marriage came to an end. They were well-known pillars of their community, who were people of Middle Eastern heritage, who lived in exclusive towns in Southern New Jersey. The Husband was a very successful plastic surgeon. The Wife was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She was a University graduate who majored in Art. She never held a job outside of the home. It was a very big home, but there was no household help. The Wife was the household help, surrounded by luxury, but no money other than the meager allowance given to her by her Husband. He drove the Maserati. She was given an old Dodge truck to chauffer the children.

There was one son who was just starting college at Georgetown University and a teenage daughter and son who lived home. The home was a mansion filled with spectacular furnishings and art from Europe.

When the Husband announced his engagement on Facebook to another woman, he was still married and living home. He often bragged to her about his affairs with other women. He drank excessively as well. The Wife decided to divorce him. This was so difficult in her culture and she did not of course want to cause problems for the children but the daily fighting and abuse at home was severe. This really was worse for the children than divorce. He purchased a diamond necklace for his Wife at Costco to keep her from leaving, but it certainly was inadequate and a cheap effort to buy her back. There were too many years of cheating and drunken abuse, and this was extreme humiliation. She was mortified and started to wear a hijab (headscarf) at the suggestion of an imam she confided in. People in her community were supportive. Her Husband said he hated it because she previously did not wear one. She is a very beautiful woman with beautiful hair.

Not unusual when anger is hot, there is a Domestic Violence incident. Here the Husband accused the wife of trying to run him down in their long driveway with their son’s BMW. She said he fabricated all the facts. Just days before, he took her car keys and would not let her leave.

He moved out of the four million dollar mansion and swore to destroy her and leave her penniless. He stopped giving her the allowance. He did not pay the utility bills and the warning letters came about shutting off service. He started sending money to his relatives in Turkey. He flew to France and was stopped at the airport trying to take $100,000.00 in cash with him. These were marital funds. He tried to liquidate significant assets, sending them abroad, but quickly was stopped. He also caused tax implications.

The Wife needed many Court applications for interim relief. The bills were not being paid deliberately by the Husband. The first Court action succeeded in getting her a support award and arranged for parenting time for the Husband. The house was also put up for sale. The support was not paid. A buyer came along to purchase the four million dollar house for three million dollars. This was way too low and it seemed like the Husband found this cash buyer who would flip the house back to the Husband after it was sold and then the Husband would re-sell it for the four million without having to share the proceeds with the Wife. There was a trial with appraisers to determine the value of the house. It was four million. The original buyer changed his mind and reneged.

Since the Husband would not pay support, all of his assets had to be frozen. There were many different retirement funds and accounts which all had to be identified and some subpoenaed. The Husband refused to comply with discovery, and so it required Court actions to force out the information. The Motions made for support had to specifically identify each name and account number so that the entity holding the funds could comply with the order to withdraw and send funds to the Wife. The support was deducted from his assets. It would not be sensible to put him in jail, because there was no point to him not going to work at his medical practice. The Husband repeatedly threatened to destroy his Wife. He would not pay the son’s college tuition when due and every bit of money had to be taken out of his assets. The Judge was mindful of his threats to destroy his Wife, so the Court destroyed him every time he had to be brought in for enforcement. He was ordered to pay his Wife’s legal fees too.

Since the children were occupied with school full time, the Wife could try to get a job. Given her education, she would be imputed some income by the Court. She started a job at a salon. It did not last very long.

At different times, each party flew to the Middle East to see relatives, each accusing the other of evil motives for doing so. During the divorce process, the Husband made reference to his girlfriends and denigrated his Wife to his friends in the community.

Finally the parties settled.

In a few months, the ex-Husband applied to the Court to reduce his alimony claiming that he was making less at his medical practice. This was denied because it was only a few month after the divorce was settled. He had also recently purchased a $110,000.00 car displayed on Facebook.

The next thing he did to avoid paying alimony was to accuse his ex of cohabiting and being married to another man. He had an investigator lookout at his ex-Wife’s new residence.

There was no engagement. The ex-Wife’s new friend became affected by the ex-Husband’s surveillance. The ex-Husband had an investigator watching her boyfriend’s house. The ex-Husband lost his Motion to stop alimony because the Wife was not cohabiting, nor was she remarried. The Court ordered him to pay her legal fees. Still not convinced, he filed for an Appeal. At a settlement conference, the Appellate Judge told him that he will lose.

In an effort to stop the ongoing drama, a settlement offer was made to pay the ex-Wife one lump sum so that ongoing payment of alimony would stop. It was a sufficiently fair amount to compensate her in lieu of the periodic alimony payments and allow her to go on with her life without interference. He agreed. But…he just got a huge tax bill from the IRS for tax due on all the money that had to be withdrawn from his retirement funds and sent abroad in violation of the Court Order.

The drama of this divorce made no one a winner. The ex-Wife’s financial dependence caused her extreme fear and anguish. With counsel, she prevailed to get divorced and support and equitable distribution.

The costs of the divorce could pay for all their children’s college educations if the ex-Husband had cooperated and acted reasonably. Wife really wanted a reasonable settlement under the circumstances but Husband wouldn’t permit it. So a fight had to ensue to ensure she and her children were properly taken care of. Without the fighting and warring caused by Husband’s scorched earth policy, both would have likely been left with about $2,000,000.00 in assets each between retirement and house. Because of the need to liquidate retirement funds to pay support, counsel fees, and huge taxes, they were left with half that divided between the Wife and both lawyers: a huge waste for the parties but the Wife was made whole. Husband’s agenda was destruction and revenge. The ex-Husband’s actions caused a son to have no contact with him. His attitude toward his ex-Wife cost him dearly in Court and both parties’ marital difficulties were spread around their community.

When there is a scorched earth divorce, it is emotionally and financially devastating. One should really think twice before going this route. A divorce if handled amicably in a businesslike fashion allows for division of assets to both parties and proper support for both parties. Children should not be estranged if possible. Unreasonable conduct diminishes all.

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