How I Discovered My Husband's Financially Abusive Divorce Scheme

I knew he wasn't smart enough to come up with this diabolical plan himself.

man hiding away money leaving his family in ruins shisuka, ozlemonal, Backyard Productions, Africa images | Canva

I was chatting with a friend during my divorce.

"Your husband's not that smart," she said.

"Oh my gosh," I said. "That’s what other people have said."

My husband had been inflicting severe financial abuse during our divorce and appeared to be hiding money.

In my husband’s defense (If I can give the abusive jerk one) he is a great salesman. But everyone close to us knows that I had the business acumen. Not only from watching us build a business and investment properties together but from watching me manage everything else.


For more than half of our marriage, I handled the finances for our home, business, and rental properties. I took care of mortgages, refinancing, investments, and insurance policies, and even negotiated our car purchases. I have been the problem solver and administrator in most aspects of our lives. My husband liked to fancy himself as having a traditional marriage. But there was nothing traditional about it. He went to work and I did everything else. He only wanted to take over the bills when our marriage began to struggle.

That should have been a major red flag and clue but I was naive and trusting.


RELATED: How To Recognize Financial Abuse In A Marriage

"He’s just not smart enough to hide money," said my friend again.

"He’s definitely hiding money," I said. "But where is he getting his financially abusive divorce scheme? That’s what I can’t figure out. Even I know he’s not smart enough to come up with something this elaborate and sophisticated."

The overt financial abuse started as soon as I initiated a divorce. 

Initially, it seemed almost strategic. My husband withheld food money and then I found out he had cancelled our health insurance and I began receiving foreclosure notices.

I was pretty sure I knew what he was trying to achieve. At least, on the days I could think straight enough to collect my thoughts. I was stressed, sleep-deprived, and running interference under great duress. 


I was a stay-at-home mother. My husband was taking away foundational things like health insurance that would force me to get a full-time job immediately. I worked part-time for the last seven years of our marriage despite it being unnecessary financially.

I had never lived with such chaos, unpredictability, instability, and irresponsibility.

I had been raised by a single mother. We had never received foreclosure notices, had our health insurance canceled, our electricity cut off, repo guys in the driveway, went without food, had creditors calling, sheriff’s deputies knocking on our door with warrants in debt, or any of the other things my husband inflicted. 

"I still don’t think he’s smart enough," said my friend.


"None of the guys he knows would advocate this," I said. "I know the guys he went to high school and college with. They are good men. They would never do this to a woman and children let alone their own wife and kids. The guys he knows around here wouldn’t either."

"Who then?" asked my friend.

A light bulb went off in my head.

There was only one other group of men in my husband’s life: The men he worked with.

The problem was they were independent representatives of a national company who built their own businesses. I was no longer as connected to many of them as I had been in our younger years. I had stopped going to a lot of the national meetings and only went periodically.


Or should I say, I wasn’t as connected to their wives anymore. Because these men were not going to tell me anything, especially, if I was correct.

RELATED: Being Financially Abused By My Husband Turned Me Into A Super-Villain

I called one of the divorced wives I knew.

"Oh my gosh," she said. "You’re telling my story."

I called another divorced wife. And it was another woman whose otherwise decades-long successful husband supposedly had a 'big financial collapse' when they divorced. Not long after, I heard from another one of the wives who had some of her own separation details before a divorce that didn’t actually happen.

Our stories had common themes.


Or should I say, they had the same financially abusive strategy.

The men would claim that the wives were big spenders and they had lived beyond their means for years. Because of this, all of the money was supposedly gone. There was no savings or no retirement.

They would ruin both spouses' credit to make it more believable.

As an added bonus, it prevented the wives from having access to funds during the divorce. This meant the wives would have no credit cards since the credit was ruined and no financial assets from savings or even houses. My husband sold two of our investment properties during our marital problems. He never paid down our primary mortgage as I had done with an investment property because an expensive mortgage fed his 'living beyond our means' narrative.


Essentially, these guys divested as many assets as they could 'while' the marriages were struggling.

These men had an elaborate and diabolic financial plan — one that they implemented at the first sign of marital strife.

Bank records only go back seven years. And since these men anticipated potential divorces they set up a plan in case it happened. We all know far too many couples spend years attempting to save their marriages.

The next level was to either threaten bankruptcy or declare bankruptcy. This reinforced their 'broke man' status during divorce.

They hid money in illegal trusts, in other people’s names, and/or out of the country. Illegal trusts are not associated with a social security number and therefore can’t be tracked to an individual. No reputable estate attorney will create such a trust so they likely created them online.


These guys also did what a lot of self-employed people do during a divorce. They lied and manipulated and lowered the business income. It’s why some of the greatest financial abuse in divorce is among the self-employed.

These men also opened bank accounts that could evade subpoenas. They are called 'Beneficial Ownership of Legal Entity Accounts.' It’s a business account where an 'owner' of the business is listed and the owner and another individual can be added as an 'Administrator' or 'Authorized User.'

Think of it this way, if you owned a business you would list yourself as the owner. If you wanted your payroll person to have access they would be an authorized user. If your payroll person went through a divorce, this account would not come up under a subpoena because it’s not their business. What my husband did was list someone else as the owner of the account (he had several of these accounts) and himself as the administrator so he had access to the funds. But wouldn't come up as the owner.

RELATED: My Husband Took Out Two Credit Cards In My Name During Our Divorce


I think the most shocking aspect of my husband’s financial abuse, that is if there could be just one, is this. He lowered his social security earnings to zero the year I told him I was unhappy being married to him. The next year it went to $10,000 and after that, it averaged about $35,000 because he began paying himself as an employee.

These abusive guys were so diabolical that they didn’t want their ex-wives to even get social security.

My husband was definitely not smart enough to do any of this. But he certainly was not smart enough to think as far as social security. There was no denying what was going on here.


It was no coincidence. These men all worked together.

They all ran the same type of businesses. Unbelievably, and even more outrageously the majority of wives had helped to build the businesses. It didn’t matter to these guys. They left their wives with nothing. 

At least the ones I spoke to.

And these are facts that are easily discovered as a matter of public record. If divorce documents say the same thing, that "they lived beyond their means for years and no marriage could survive this type of financial collapse.” If there are bankruptcies listed. If credit is ruined. 

There’s enough information to connect the dots of this story.

I discovered where my husband got his financially abusive divorce scheme.


I knew he wasn’t smart enough to devise it himself.

It’s even more disturbing to know an abusive band of brothers is taking women down.

I don't want to put this type of information in the hands of any more extremely abusive men. Despite the fact, this story should be told. Because these men should be immediately shut down. More women need to know how deviously calculated men hide money and attempt to rob them of everything they worked for and deserve.

RELATED: I Feared My Controlling Husband Would Harm Me If He Didn't Get All The Money In Our Divorce

Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.