When divorce gets dirty

There's nothing pretty about a marriage ending, but some people take it to the next level by getting downright vindictive.

Ankita Varma gets women, lawyers and private investigators to spill about the most vengeful exes they've encountered.

*Names have been changed.


"When my husband and I were separated and filing for divorce, I moved out of our marital home and went to live with my parents. Until the divorce and custody arrangements were finalised, my six year-old daughter would stay with me on weekdays and see her dad only on weekends. My husband was fighting to have the custody arrangement reversed, even though he worked longer hours than I did.

Emotions were rife and my husband wanted to make it seem like I was a bad parent. Every weekend, he would take our daughter to see the doctor for the most insignificant things - a minor graze she got when she fell at the playground, the tiniest of bruises, a slight increase in temperature.

Once, he even had her warded in hospital on Sunday night for 'suspected dengue' (the doctors later said she had a common cold) so that he wouldn't have to send her home to me. He would also photograph every 'injury' and call me out about my 'bad parenting' when he saw me.

Thankfully, the judge eventually ruled in my favour for the custody arrangement, saying that his evidence of poor parenting was wildly exaggerated."

- Sarah*, 38, nurse

"My husband and I had been married for 10 years. In the last three years of our marriage, we fought over the smallest things - from the television being too loud to dirty dishes in the sink. You could say the love was long gone.

One night, while overseas on a work trip, I met a handsome man at the bar of the hotel I was staying in. We talked and after a few drinks, started flirting with each other. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the attention. Many times during the evening, he reached over to stroke my hair or hold my hand. We stayed at the bar for four hours, and before we left, he hugged me and unexpectedly gave me a kiss. I didn't take it any further and went up to my room.

Unfortunately, my husband's friend happened to be staying in the same hotel and had taken some incriminating photographs of me throughout the night - which he forwarded to my husband.

When I got home three days later, I discovered that my husband had printed and mailed these photos to my parents, colleagues and boss. He also used them as evidence that I was being unfaithful when he filed for a divorce a month later.

I was horrified. Since I was travelling on business when the photographs were taken, I had to have a humiliating conversation with my company's human resources department and was suspended from work for a week while the case was being investigated.

To make matters worse, he started hanging around the lobby of my workplace and the void deck of my parents' home on and off for a week after he sent the photos. He talked to some of my colleagues and neighbours, spreading lies about my 'illicit affairs.' I eventually lodged a police complaint and got a personal protection order against him.

Even though I know I shouldn't have flirted with another man, his actions were so vindictive that it nearly cost me my job and my relationships with my family and friends. We divorced shortly after."

- Jessica*, 46, client manager

"As a private investigator, I've dealt with cases where spouses go to extreme lengths to get a divorce - like paying me to tail their spouses overseas to get evidence of an affair.

Recently, a woman in her late 30s came to me and said she wanted to divorce her husband as she no longer loved him. The thing is, he husband was a hard-working man who didn't smoke, drink or gamble, kept to himself, took care of her and wasn't having an affair.

Not content with just ending her marriage, she wanted evidence of adultery so she could ask for a bigger settlement during the divorce proceedings and justify her decision to leave him. She also felt that her children would look at her differently if she left their father without a strong reason.

To that end, she told me she had a devious plan - she would set the stage for her husband to stray. She would take on an overseas posting that would last for a few months, and while she was away, she would arrange for attractive women to seduce her husband. She even planned to leave her two young kids with her mother and discharge her maid for two weeks so that the house would be empty. All she wanted me to do was to 'spy' on her husband to get evidence of his adultery.

I refused to take on her case because I felt that it was going too far. I'm not sure how things turned out in the end, but it's definitely one of the most extreme examples of trickery I've seen."

- Raymond Lim, private investigator at Apac Investigation & consultancy

"My husband was the sole breadwinner and for the 35 years that we were married, I lived a comfortable life - a big house, cars, no money troubles. When I found out three years ago that he had a mistress, I was shocked and spoke to him about getting a divorce.

He begged me to give him another chance and was so persuasive that I decided to think things over and held off going to my lawyers for a few months. Little did I know, he used this time to hide his assets so he could declare himself a bankrupt to reduce the amount he would have to give me in maintenance.

He closed some bank accounts, moved a chunk of his savings into offshore accounts and convinced me to transfer one of our joint investment properties to my daughter so it was no longer in our names. He also secretly sold off another property that he owned and put the money from the sale into trusts for our two children - something I found out about only when the divorce proceedings began.

When we eventually filed for divorce, he had no assets to his name and barely any savings in his bank accounts - although I know he had millions stashed away. As a result, he only had to give me a thousand dollars a month in alimony and pay my rent for a one-bedroom HDB flat. Also, because our children are grown adults, legally, he didn't have to pay me child support. The money I get is enough for my simple needs, but I'm now thinking of taking on a part-time job."

- Natalie*, 58, unemployed

Revenge gone out of hand Tan Siew Kim, a matrimonial lawyer and partner at RHT Law Taylor Wessing, says that about a third of the divorce cases she sees gets ugly. The stress of divorce proceedings can lead to people unthinkingly lashing out at whatever is most valuable to their spouses - usually, this translated into withholding children, or damaging property, cars and heirlooms. Siew Kim's advice? "Stay away from dirty divorce tricks. Your actions will backfire when they come up in front of the judge, making you look like the recalcitrant one. You may even have to pay thousands of dollars in damages."

Is your ex harassing you? Protect yourself

If you feel unsafe: Get a personal protection order

This is an order from the court to ensure he doesn't get violent with you or incite someone else to be violent towards you. Apply for one at the Family Court. Bring along medical and police reports to support your application.

If he is withholding maintenance: Get an attachment order

Do this if he is holding a steady job. This means your maintenance will be paid by his employer, who deducts it directly from his monthly salary. Lodge a complaint at the family and Juvenile Division of the Subordinate Courts; bring along a copy of your maintenance order and evidence of his track record of missing his monthly payments (such as your bank statements). Be prepared to provide the court with the name and address of the employer.

An alternative is to go to the DP SME Commercial Credit Bureau. If your ex-spouse doesn't pay the alimony on time, you can request for the Bureau to record the arrears in his individual credit report, which is available to more than 700 companies including banks, moneylenders and retailers. His credit score will then be affected and he'll be less likely to get a loan in the future. Apply for the service in person at the Bureau's office (72 Bendemeer Road, #04-28 Luzerne Building) or at the Aware (Association of Women for Action and Research) Centre; officers will need your personal and bank details, and copies of the court order and payment schedule. The service costs $53.50, which can be waived on a case-by-case basis.

[[{"fid":"207589","view_mode":"default","type":"media","link_text":null,"attributes":{"height":297,"width":219,"border":"0","class":"media-element file-default"}}]]Get a copy of the July 2014 issue of Her World, Singapore’s No. 1 women’s magazine. Her World is published by SPH Magazines and is available at all newsstands now.

Check out more stories at Her World online, www.herworld.com.