"She's taking everything. She's taking the house, she's taking the kid, she's taking the dog. It's not even her dog. It's my dog! She's taking — my dog!"
Unfortunately, the golden years of Alice and Bob's marriage are past. Where once they loved each other, now they can barely speak without ending up in a snarling, spitting argument. As a result, they divorce
. Naturally enough, each is entitled to a fair share of the marital property, and each expects to get what they think is coming to them.
The problem is, they each have very different views on precisely what they think is coming to them. Because of all the built up bad feelings, Alice wants to punish Bob for being Bob, so she demands the house, the car, the kids, the boat, the CD and DVD collection, the prize rose bushes, the carpet, the dishes, Bob's socks, and most especially his prized mint-condition copy of Captain Ersatz #1
left to him by Bob's grandfather. Bob, feeling a need to retaliate, demands all of those things plus
Alice's prized collection of autographed photographs of her favorite Soap Opera
Neither will give in to the other's demands, and neither will give up enough to come to a compromise. The resulting exchange in division of assets might end up equal in monetary value, but it's the sentimental value that's being used as a weapon.
Every time there's a divorce in media, the individuals involved never decide to handle it in a sane, rational manner. They always decide to make the couple as petty, vindictive and spiteful as possible, in a "Who Can Hurt The Other The Most?"-style contest. It's even worse when there are children in the picture, where even then, the custody battle might have more to do with hurting the ex than deciding what's best for the kids.
Too often this becomes Truth in Television
. In Real Life
, at least, this sort of thing is why prenuptial agreements came into being.
- Lampshaded in the Sprint Nextel commercial What If Loggers Ran The World. The titular workmen act as a Divorce Court, literally cutting all of the marital assets (including the boat, the Van Gogh art, and the house) in half, except the dog.
Logger: Boss, what do we do with the Shih Tzu?
Logger Judge: (after a beat) Joint custody.
- Another similar commercial for Lexus has a man served with divorce papers in which his wife demands half of everything. He smugly decides "I'll give her half!" and cuts up every piece of furniture in the house with a chainsaw. (When the dog sees what he's doing, it quickly runs away) He then advances on his Lexus with a blowtorch, but stops before cutting it and concludes "Maybe we can work this out".
- A Volkswagen commercial involves the couple getting along just fine, until the question of who gets the car.
Lawyer: *Rattles car keys*
Cue massive brawl.
- In one underground comic, the marriage of Dino-Boy (yes, he's a human with a dinosaur body, or a dinosaur with a human head) falls apart. They both hire lawyers — which happen to be partners and decide to milk both spouses for all they're worth.
- In Ball and Chain, Mallory interprets "take what you want and go" fairly liberally. Meaning she took Edgar's Bruce Springsteen collection.
- Divorcee Barbie. $300.00, but she comes with Ken's house, Ken's car, Ken's boat, Ken's dog, Ken's best friend, Ken's retirement accounts, . . . . .
- In one story by Ephraim Kishon. "And he took all the money from our account, minutes before I could do so!"
- In The Babysitters Club book where Stacey's parents get divorced, there are an endless string of fights of this nature about everything from appliances to wedding presents.
- Maureen and Brian more or less avert this in To Sail Beyond the Sunset. Sure, Brian seems to think their assets should be divided among the two of them and his new fiancee, but gets it through his head Maureen will not play along with that idea, and they achieve a mutually satisfactory asset split without having to drag judges and lawyers into negotiations.
- In Dear John, John's ghastly ex-wife Wendy has taken everything.
- Gary Unmarried does this with a pool table he "gave" his ex-wife ("It was one of those joke gifts that I say is for you but is really for me!"). The terms of their divorce says that all gifts stay with the recipient, so the pool table is hers. But he has an ace up his sleeve: a lewd photo album she gave him as an early Valentine's Day gift one year.
- On CSI, one Body of the Week died from this trope: he decided to take the fact that he got "half of everything" in the divorce literally and attempted to chainsaw his wife's favorite furniture. Unfortunately for him, he was a left-handed man using a right-handed chainsaw, and killed both himself and the friend who came along to help him.
- Another CSI episode has both sides killed by this. The couple decided to let the dog decide whether the man or woman would get him, but the wife (solely to upset her husband) cheated by smearing her hands with bacon grease. This culminated in a Karmic Death when the husband tried to switch out his dog with another. She caught him in the act, became angry when he admitted to caring more about the dog than he cared about her, and shot him dead. Unfortunately, the replacement dog had suffered some sort of trauma, became violent on hearing the gunshot, and mauled her to death.
- A CSI: Miami episode had a couple engaged in a highly publicized War Of The Roses-esque conflict become the suspects in a murder. Though they had nothing to do with it, eventually they did momentarily set aside their differences to murder a divorce attorney scamming them both. The team busts them for the latter thanks to the help of their son: when asked why he decided to turn in his own parents, he replies that they fought tooth and nail over their material possessions...but not once over him.
- Niles and Maris on Frasier went through this.
- In Degrassi, Claire's parents take up her suggestion that she live in the family home full-time while the parents commute between it and an apartment elsewhere based on who's turn it is to have custody.
- The Saturday Night Live sketch Samurai Divorce Lawyer had the titular character resolve every dispute over which half of the couple gets a certain item by slicing it in half and giving one half to each. The sketch ends as they start arguing over who gets custody of the kid.
- In Revenge Conrad and Victoria's divorce battle becomes very nasty, with each of them trying to get an edge on the other by any means, and before long things from their past that could ruin both of them start to surface as, among other things, each of them starts to reveal past wrongdoings of the other to try to get their children on their side.
- It is later revealed that Conrad went through a similar thing with his first wife Stevie but since she was and Off The Wagon alcoholic at the time, he managed to keep most of his fortune. Conrad then uses the fact that he screwed her in the divorce proceeding as a weapon against Victoria. Stevie was supposed to get a plot of land that Conrad kept for himself and he later built his summer home on the land. Victoria is supposed to get the house in the divorce but it technically belongs to Stevie. He informs Stevie of the 'oversight' rightfully betting on the fact that Stevie hates Victoria more than she hates him.
- In Necessary Roughness Danni's divorce proceedings turn nasty from time to time but she ends up with the kids, the house and half of a large unpaid tax bill.
- After effects are shown in How I Met Your Mother, Barney's boss has been through a tough divorce, with his wife getting pretty much everything (except she forced ''him'' to have full custody of the kids) most notably his beloved dog, Tugboat.
- An episode of Castle contains a scene with two characters having an extremely acrimonious divorce, such that they just start smashing everything that has been designated as belonging to the other person.
- In another episode, an art piece called the Fist of Capitalism is stolen and a man working at the museum is killed while protecting it. A woman marches into the precinct to announce that her husband has stolen the Fist. They're the rightful owners (it's on loan) in the middle of a divorce, and it's a subject of contention in the divorce proceedings. The wife is the murderer. She was the one who wanted the Fist badly enough to steal it. Her husband only saw it as a pawn in the negotiations.
- In another episode a woman arranges for the kidnapping of her own child and has a proxy demand virtually everything the couple owns as ransom so that there are no assets her husband (Whose financial contributions to the marriage were minimal) can claim when she applies for divorce on the grounds that he let their daughter get kidnapped while he was in the house.
- On My Name Is Earl, Joy is feeling miffed that Earl had a winning lottery ticket, but since she divorced him for Darnell (and Earl claimed the lotto money after the divorce papers were signed), she doesn't get any of the money. She then finds an old video labeled as a will, of her sitting on the couch with Earl. In the video, Earl (drunkenly) says that he loves her more than anything, and that should anything happen to him, everything will be hers. Joy schemes various ways to kill her ex-husband so she can get her hands on the lotto money. Joy got a gun, but by the time the background check went through, Earl had written a new (sober, legitimate) will, meaning she wouldn't get a dime. Joy gives up trying to kill Earl, and as the series progresses they become Amicable Exes.
- On Elementary a man sets up an elaborate murder plot to temporarily tank his company's stock so he does not have to pay out as much to his wife in their upcoming divorce. Once the divorce was finalized, he would reveal that he was being set up, reclaim the company's good name and then sell it to a competitor for tens of millions of dollars.
- An episode of Monk involves a popular crime show actor going through one of these, although his relationship with his divorcing wife isn't bad. He sets up an elaborate scheme to kill the wife while providing him a perfect alibi, as his show is about to be syndicated, and he doesn't want to split the profits.
- In an episode of Adam-12, Reed and Malloy answer a call to find a husband smashing up his living room. The man says his wife is leaving him and he wants to make sure that whatever she gets in the divorce settlement is worthless. He's dismayed when the cops tell him California is a community property state and half of what he's wrecked is his.
- Radiohead's song "Morning Bell" from Kid A is (arguably, given that the meaning of much of Kid A is barely comprehensible) about divorce, with a suggested solution being "cut the kids in half".
- The line itself is likely a reference to 1 Kings 3:16-28, which is about the custody of a child, but not in the context of divorce.
- Daria starts like this in "Aunt Nauseum," with Daria's cousin Erin getting divorced and Helen serving as her attorney. However, this turns out just to be setup for Helen to get into a battle with her sisters (one of whom is Erin's mother), while Erin and her husband wind up resolving their issues off-screen.
- On The Simpsons, Marge befriends a neighbor named Ruth Powers, who is recently divorced. Her ex-husband is something of a deadbeat, so he has been skipping child support payments. Rather than resolving the issue in court, Ruth steals her ex's car and Marge gets roped into this whole mess. During the epilogue, it's said the case was eventually taken into court. Ruth had to return the car but her ex was forced to resume the payments and blamed it on his lawyer (Lionel Hutz).
- The eponymous Catdog did the whole "dividing possessions in half over a conflict" thing. Subverted, in that there was no divorce involved.
- The "literally dividing all the assets by cutting them in half " thing actually happened between a Cambodian couple in 2004 when they cut their house in half rather than let the other one have the whole thing. As you can see in the image above.
- It happened again in Germany in 2007.
- Some divorce lawyers encourage the "Take him for all he's worth" behavior, one in Pennsylvania even erecting a gigantic billboard made to look like a Pennsylvania license plate with the custom tag "WAS HIS" on it.
- For a long time, a famous way to get around this in America was to get the divorce, happily agree on the asset distribution, child support, and alimony...and then the husband (usually anyway) would walk down the street to the federal courthouse and declare bankruptcy, which would let him avoid paying a thing to her. (It would also have a whole lot of other awful effects, but you'd be seriously surprised how many people getting divorces are on the verge of bankruptcy anyway; even today, divorce is a leading triggering event for personal bankruptcies, in the same league as losing a job and medical catastrophes.note ) This tactic was finally banned by Congress in 2005.