QUESTION: How can a lawyer help me deal with a spouse who is controlling, uncooperative and withholds information because they don’t want to get a divorce?

Many divorces are amicable. Both spouses know that the marriage is over and are willing to work together to come to a divorce agreement. But, some divorces are bitter battles. Angry spouses will do anything possible to control and manipulate the divorce proceedings. Here are six tricks commonly seen by Pennsylvania divorce attorneys.

1.      “Conflicting out” the top divorce lawyers. If you a getting divorced, you want the best possible divorce attorney. You hope that the attorney you choose is better than your spouse’s lawyer. However, some spouses take this too far.

Once a divorcing spouse consults with an attorney, that lawyer may not represent the other spouse in the divorce. “Conflicting out” occurs when one spouse makes appointments with all the top lawyers in the area. He shares just enough information to create an attorney-client relationship. This prevents the other spouse from hiring any of those lawyers. He or she must either choose a less-experienced attorney or find an attorney from outside the area.

Conflicting out is not ethical, and good attorneys do not support this practice. Your best defense is to consult an attorney as soon as you know you are getting divorced. If you wait too long, your options may be limited.

2.      Stalling and delaying. If your spouse is angry or opposed to the divorce, he or she may drag out the divorce process in order to run up your legal fees.  Rescheduling court hearings, ignoring requests, filing excessive motions, and demanding evidence can extend divorce proceedings by a year or even longer. Your ex hopes that if you run out of money, you will be more willing to agree to his terms. Your lawyer may be able to file a discovery motion to help move your divorce along.

3.      Pressuring for a settlement. Some spouses take the opposite approach and pressure for a quick settlement. If your ex has sent you a settlement proposal early in the divorce process, he may have something to hide. You may be ready for closure, but don’t sign the agreement until you and your attorney have reviewed all of your financial documents. Your ex may be hiding assets that could make a big difference to your future.

4.      Denying access to financial resources. In many families, one spouse takes care of all monetary matters. If your spouse was in charge of the finances, he can take advantage of your lack of knowledge. He could close your credit card accounts, move money out of joint accounts, and make it difficult for you to access the money you need to meet day-to-day expenses. Talk to a lawyer if your ex is denying you access to family funds.

5.      Hiding assets. If you aren’t familiar with your family’s finances, your ex will be able to move and hide assets without your knowledge. This is unethical and illegal, but very common. Spouses may put money in separate accounts or overpay debts in the hopes of collecting money after the divorce. There are many tactics used to hide money. If you suspect your spouse is hiding assets, talk to your attorney about the benefits of hiring a forensic accountant for your divorce.

6.      Failing to pay court-ordered support. Your ex is required by law to pay court-ordered support; refusing to do so is illegal. However, an angry spouse may risk breaking the law in order to force you to spend your time and money enforcing the support order.

If your divorce is contentious, it is important that you know about these tactics and take proactive steps to prevent your spouse from manipulating you. As soon as you know you are getting divorced, create an emergency fund in a separate bank account. Then contact a Philadelphia divorce lawyer.