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The Dirty Divorce Trick of Forget What the Papers Say, I’ll Do This or That

There are various manifestations of this dirty trick that I have seen where a spouse has asked the other spouse to ignore the language of the divorce decree and sign the papers. In today’s blog, we will explore a few variations on this trick.

Child Support

One of the areas where I see this trick used most often is in regard to child support. Below are a few examples of this trick.

  1. No Job or Lost Job -I’m sorry you lost your job, we do not need to change the ordered, because I agree you do not have to pay me while you’re unemployed.
  1. Refund you The Money – sign the paperwork that says X amount will be withheld from your paycheck for child support. I know it’s too high, but I will give you back the difference.”
  1. I will Stop Child Support -While you are taking care of the child, I will call the child support office and stop child support.
  1. Pay Me Directly – It takes to long for the child support order to send me the money. Just pay me the child support directly its easier and quicker that way.
  1. A Lesser Amount than Guideline Child Support -Let’s put less in child support because I will help you with extracurriculars for the kids or daycare expenses.

Where Child Support is Owed

Inevitably in all these situations Later, the spouse who fell for one of those tricks will are surprised when they are served with enforcement paperwork that says they owe tens of thousands in arrears and they face possible jail time.

Lesser Amount then Guideline Child Support

I have heard about promises for helping out with:

  1. Splitting Extracurricular Activity Expenses for the Kids
  2. Buying Diapers
  3. Buying Formula
  4. School Supplies
  5. Daycare

Those promises remind me of the quote from the Disney Movie Beauty and the Beast by Cogsworth “Well, there's the usual things. Flowers, chocolates, promises you don't intend to keep.”

Inevitably the parent who said they would help out with things other than child support inevitably does not. When a potential consult asks me about accepting such a deal I tell them they should get the money then they can buy those things for themselves.

Alternatively, we need to put those promises in the order as additional child support so that those promises are enforceable.

The Order is the Order Until the Judge Signs a New Order

Some parents assume:

  1. that child support automatically stops if one parent calls the child support office and asks for it to be stopped. However, that is not the case.
  1. It is to much hassle to change paperwork, and so it is not a big deal to make some verbal or written agreement outside of the order.

Something I tell parents who hire or consult with us is that the Order is the Order until a Judge signs a new Order. This means until parent petitions to modify the existing child support order and a judge signs a new order, the parent will continue to be liable under the existing order.

This means:

  1. If you do not pay the amount of child support in the order because you can’t because you lost your job you could get in trouble.
  2. If your spouse does not reimburse you the difference, they are not going to get into trouble.
  1. your ex-spouse cannot just call the child support office and cancel child support (a judge has to sign a new order)
  1. If you pay your spouse directly and do not track of every payment, they could potentially tell the child support office you have never paid them, and you could be in trouble. I have seen this happen multiple times. Recently a dad told me he had never missed a payment but because he paid her directly he was having to try and produce proof for 10 years of direct payments.

Child Custody and Visitation

Some of the tricks of I have seen used when custody is involved include:

  • You can see the kids as much as you want - “Sign the papers giving me sole physical custody. You know I’ll let you see the kids whenever you want.”
  • We can take turns on custody - “Give me custody this year, and then I’ll let you have custody when the child starts school (or substitute some such future event or time frame).”


When it comes to visitation it is true that you and your ex-spouse can deviate from the order as long as you agree. However, if you ever disagree the order controls. That means while you and your ex-are getting along the 50/50 visitation schedule you verbally agreed to will work just fine.

However, if you ever get into an argument, you may be stuck with the standard visitation order in the order or worse yet no visitation.

Child Custody

If you give up custody now in an order. You are probably stuck not having custody unless your ex-spouse really messes up.

This is because to change a custody order in Texas you will need a “material and substantial” change in circumstances for either party or any child since the last order was signed. A court will want to know why it should flip custody and “it's my turn” is not a legally recognized reason.

If your child is doing well with your ex-spouse, a court is not going to want to rock the boat.

Property Division

Sometimes the dirty tricks I see involves property division.

One ex-wife I met with told me that she and her ex-husband had an agreement that he could keep the house in the divorce but if ever sold it they would split the proceeds. She was upset because her ex-husband had just sold the house and he told her was not going to give her anything.

I looked at the paperwork, and it clearly said that he got the house and there was nothing in the divorce decree regarding her getting any of the proceeds if the husband sold the house. I asked her about the agreement. She told me that is what her ex-husband said to her that he would do.

I had to break the bad news to her that verbal agreement was probably unenforceable.

Moral of The Story

Remember, “the court order” is always controlling. Your verbal side-agreements are generally unenforceable.

At times we have been able to help our clients with there side agreements, but it often means they have had to spend thousands of dollars and months or years of their lives for us to do so.


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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. The Dirty Trick of Stripping the House During a Texas Divorce
  2. The Dirty Trick of Using the Same Divorce Lawyer
  3. The Dirty Trick of the Common Law Marriage
  4. The Dirty Trick of Getting Your Spouse to Leave the Marital Home
  5. The Dirty Trick of Fake Emails and Electronic Evidence
  6. The Dirty Trick of the Unenforceable Visitation Order
  7. Dirty Divorce Trick - Turning into a Temporary “Helicopter” Parent
  8. The Dirty Trick of Spousal Spying in a Texas Divorce
  9. The Dirty Trick of Embarrassing your Spouse During a Texas Divorce
  10. The Dirty Trick of Damaging, Destroying, or Selling Marital Assets in Texas
  11. The Dirty Trick of Filing for Divorce in Another City
  12. The Dirty Trick of Moving Out of State with the Kids
  13. The Dirty Trick of Hiding Assets During Your Texas Divorce
  14. The Dirty Trick of Wasting Marital Assets or Going on a Spending Spree During Your Texas Divorce
  15. The Dirty Trick of Engaging in Spousal Starving During a Texas Divorce

Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.


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