Follow TV Tropes


Divorce Assets Conflict

Go To

"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!"
Lewis Nixon, Band of Brothers

Unfortunately, the golden years of Alice and Bob's marriage have 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 what they think is coming to them. Because of all the built up animosity, Alice wants to punish 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 stars!

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 celebrity divorce in media, the individuals involved never handle it in a sane, rational manner. They're always as petty, vindictive, and spiteful as possible, in a "Who Can Hurt The Other The Most?"-style contest—especially if one of them is a Gold Digger. 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 were developed, and courts will also allow for sanctions to be pursued against offending parties and their attorneys (and may also deny monetary awards to filers of sanctions whose own behavior left them with no room to talk as per the "unclean hands" doctrine). After all, courts hate divorces just as much as you do, and they really hate messy, time-consuming ones. If you and your ex run up massive legal bills because you just couldn't act like mature adults and had to fight it out to the bitter end (which in fiction-land often involves such extremes as hiring the sleaziest Amoral Attorney in town, getting a sketchy Private Investigator to dig up dirt, or even hiring the occasional assassin), the court will do its best to punish you and your attorney (who absolutely should have known better).


    open/close all folders 

  • 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: House?
    Him: Hers.
    Lawyer: Boat?
    Her: His.
    Lawyer: [rattles car keys]
    [cue massive brawl]
  • The Scandinavian commercials for the store chain Elgiganten starring John Cleese (Who as of 2020 has had three of his four marriages end in divorce, some of them expensive) have him standing in an unfurnished house, declaring he's getting divorced again and once again his wife's getting everything. Cue a blurb for the affordable appliances available at Elgiganten, followed by John declaring "Thank God for Elgiganten!"
  • An ad for H&R Block involves a man getting a huge tax return-but since his accountant is also his ex, he only gets to keep $17 because of alimony. She lets her new boytoy watch too.

    Anime and Manga 
  • In the first episode of Space Patrol Luluco, Luluco mentioned that her mother took all the furniture when her parents got divorced. Although this had nothing to do with any settlement. Lalaco is a Space Pirate and she stole it when she left.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • A Dave Berg MAD cartoon from the 70's uses this as a topic, with a couple bitterly, and physically, fighting in court over every single asset, EXCEPT the Mercedes, which both are fine giving to the other person. This is because this was right in the middle of the gas crisis of the 70's during the oil embargo, and fuel for a luxury car like that was like having to buy gallons of liquid gold.

    Fan Works 
  • On Infinity Train: Knight of the Orange Lily, the thief Gladion meets early in the Toy Brick Car, Robbie Jewell, is on the Train because his parents are divorcing and he can't take it, and he's so desperate to fix it that he tries to use the Toy Brick Car to create a LEGO to take it back home, believing that if he brings back something interesting, his parents won't split up.
  • A sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines features one involving Wicke's older sister, Pia. Until it's settled, Wicke has to take care of her nephew Zilant to prevent him from getting tangled into the mess (as well as being used as legal leverage).
  • The Simpsons: Team L.A.S.H.: A Running Gag is Otto complaining about things his ex-wife Ashley took from him in the divorce. For example, she took the house in the divorce, but then sold it and moved to another town just to spite him.
  • Truth and Consequences: In the sequel "Mending Warped Designs", Andre signed over his hotels to his daughter Chloé to avoid losing them to her mother during their divorce.

  • The War of the Roses is about an escalating war over marital assets between Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas that is taken to a ridiculous and tragic extreme. The story is told by their lawyer as a cautionary tale to a client considering a divorce in the hopes that he would think twice about going through with it. The "it’s to hurt the other" part of this trope is perfectly exemplified at the film's climax, where Barbara Rose refuses to part with a little figurine her husband Oliver wants, even when Oliver makes clear he will hand over everything else he owns in exchange.
    Oliver: [handles the figurine] Say that it's mine and you can have everything else in this house.
    Barbara: Okay. It's mine.
  • Played for laughs in the Cary Grant / Irene Dunne film The Awful Truth, with a custody battle over a dog.
  • In Robert Altman's movie Short Cuts, Stormy Weathers is facing an impending messy divorce from his estranged wife Betty, and he shows up at her (formerly their) house to demand his mother's grandfather clock as part of the settlement; she slams the door in his face. As he still has a key to the house, he returns the next day while she is away with her new boyfriend (or, rather, one of her new boyfriends) and saws every piece of furniture in half with a chainsaw except the clock (and his son's TV).
  • In Enchanted, when we first meet Robert the divorce lawyer, he is with a divorcing couple who is arguing over who gets to keep a Hank Aaron rookie card.
    Husband: You never loved Hank like I loved Hank!
    Wife: You never loved me like you loved Hank!
  • In Star Trek (2009), Dr. Leonard McCoy introduces himself to Kirk, and provides the origin for his nickname, discussing why his divorce motivated him to join Starfleet.
    McCoy: Well, I got nowhere else to go. The ex-wife took the whole damn planet in the divorce. All I got left is my bones.
  • Inverted in What's Love Got to Do with It (1993): When Tina finally left Ike, the only thing she kept was her name, because keeping the "Tina Turner" artist name would have allowed her to make money from her songs (comparatively) easier than if she used her real name. As a result, and because of Ike being a general bastard, she had to fight in court for it.
  • In Diary of a Mad Black Woman, during Helen's divorce, her grandmother Madea takes a chainsaw to literally divide the assets in half. This was made complicated, however, by the fact that Helen had signed a pre-nup. In the end, as a way of showing that she finally let go of her anger towards him, she let him keep everything in exchange for paying her attorney fees and her mother's nursing home bills.
  • In Good Advice, Iris turns out to be loaded. She has been married several times and ended up taking the house after each divorce. She works at the paper for fun and doesn't cash any of her paychecks (which is just as well, since the paper is nearly broke).
  • In Fletch, the protagonist is frequently bothered by his ex-wife's annoying divorce attorney Melvyn Gillette, who he despises almost as much as his ex-wife. (Supposedly, Melvin was able to get a rather unfair settlement in his wife's favor.) Fletch gets even with him at the end of the second film, however, when he shows up offering to forego all future alimony payments (and never show his face there again) in exchange for the Belle Isle property, which he believes to be valuable. Fletch, barely able to contain his joy, happily signs over the land, which unbeknownst to Melvin, is worthless and covered with toxic waste due to the events of the movie.
  • In The First Wives Club, Elise and Bill's divorce ends up obligating Elise to sell her extensive collection of furniture, artwork, and other valuables (including Bill's Lamborghini convertible) and split the profits equally with Bill. Inspiration strikes and Elise sells the whole kit and kaboodle to Annie for a dollar.
  • Intolerable Cruelty is built around this, effectively about a war between gold-diggers who marry and then divorce their rich husbands, and the lawyers who try desperately to stop them from taking too much from said rich husbands.
  • This is the conflict of the court case in Liar Liar; Fletcher Reede's client signed a prenuptial agreement stating that if she had an affair she would be entitled to nothing when divorced by her (very wealthy) husband. Fletcher Reede is the Amoral Attorney who's trying to get her out of it. The entire case is a joke as the woman is not only clearly guilty but shows absolutely no remorse for her wrong-doing, and Fletcher only encourages her to take as much as she possibly can. After finding a way to invalidate her pre-nup though, the client also demands total custody of their children (purely to milk more money out of her ex through the child support payments), which is enough to give Fletcher a Heel Realization.
  • Subverted in Wedding Crashers. The protagonists are divorce mediators. The opening scene shows them dealing with a couple who are clearly fighting over minor assets out of anger and vindictiveness. They manage to calm the two by reminding them that, until an agreement is reached, they're going to be stuck with each other.
  • In What Happens in Vegas, two people get drunk and get hitched in Vegas. Then, just as they decide to get divorced, the guy wins a jackpot at a slot machine. The girl immediately takes him to court and demands half of the winnings. The judge (played by Dennis Miller) declares he's had enough of divorces after Vegas marriages and denies them their request to get divorced, telling them to live together for 6 months. Only after that he'll make his decision. Naturally, they start to fall in love over that time.
  • Double Subverted in Marriage Story: A divorcing couple are willing to make the procedure civil, especially because they want to become Amicable Exes for the sake of their child, but unfortunately the divorce attorneys they hire are a couple of amoral scumbags willing to swindle them into going for the jugular because they don't want the other attorney to win. In the epilogue, they both lament that they didn't heard the advice given to them at the beginning and just did it all themselves.
  • 'Discussed' (read:shouted about) in When Harry Met Sally...: Harry had his own divorce fiasco with his ex-wife Helen, and reacts to his recently-married neighbors' Stepford Smiler attitude with one long piece of advice: pre-nuptial everything.
    Harry: Right now everything is great, everyone is happy, everyone is in love, and that's wonderful, but you gotta know, that sooner or later, you're gonna be screaming at each other over about who's gonna get this dish; this $8 dish will cost you a thousand dollars in phone calls to the legal firm of that's mine, this is yours! [...] put your name in your books right now, before they get mixed up and you don't know whose is whose, because some day, believe it or not, you'll go fifteen rounds over who's going to get this coffee table! This stupid, wagon-wheel, ROY ROGERS GARAGE SALE COFFEE TABLE!
    Jess: I thought you liked it!
    Harry: I WAS BEING NICE!
  • A very minor and petty one in The Squid and the Whale. As their divorce begins, Bernard and Joan have disputes about whose books are whose; Joan stashes her books under her son's bed in the dead of night to keep Bernard from taking them when he moves out, while Bernard repeatedly claims that Joan has stolen his books.

  • 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...
  • A recently divorced guy tells his friend that he and his ex agreed that whoever got the biggest share of their assets would raise their kids. The friend asks if the ex got the kids and the guy says his lawyer got them instead.
  • The family judge asks the divorcing couple's son: "To who of your parents would you like to move?" The boy answers: "I won't answer that before they decided who will get the large computer."

  • 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. Since they'd been fighting about everything from his work hours to her shopping from the beginning of the book until deciding to divorce, it's not really a surprise.
  • 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.
  • At one point, Adrian Mole overhears his mother say that the only reason she hasn't left his father is that they can't agree who doesn't get custody of him. He assumes she's misspoken.
  • In Rewind (Terry England), Janessa takes advantage of her husband being transformed into a nine-year-old child by the Holn to seize control of all their assets in this way.
  • A Place for Murder: Thatcher is dragooned by Bradford Withers into trying to settle an argument over the valuation of a country estate so the owners' divorce can go through. In a variant, the fight is between the two women involved (the current wife and the woman her husband wants to marry), with the husband staying out of the mess. Becomes the murder motive once the second woman realizes neither her intended spouse nor First Wife have the slightest clue how valuable the dog-breeding kennel based at that estate is. The kennel operator was stealing all the profits.
  • The Cat Who... Series: Overlaps with Kick the Dog. Arch Riker, Qwill's lifelong best friend, is mentioned to be fond of antique tin, and at one time had a sizable collection. Book 23 (The Cat Who Smelled a Rat) reveals that his first wife managed to get it in their divorce settlement and promptly opened her own shop — "Tin 'n Stuff" — to sell it.
  • Dead End Job Mysteries:
    • Protagonist Helen Hawthorne is avoiding one of these with her current lifestyle for the first nine books. Thanks to the courts siding with her deadbeat and cheating husband Robbie during their divorce proceedings (and her own lawyer doing nothing in her defense), she legally owes him half of every paycheck she gets from then on, and has been forced to effectively live off the grid - no bank account, no phone, no permanent address - and work a string of dead-end jobs, paid only in cash with no benefits, in order to avoid him getting so much as a penny from her. Even then, her best efforts aren't enough to keep him from eventually finding her and demanding money. This ceases to be a problem in book 9 after it turns out the judge has since been arrested for taking bribes, including one from Rob to rule in his favor; Helen is able to get a new divorce settlement as a result and no longer owes Rob anything, though she still possibly owes taxes on what she's earned since the divorce. To top it off, Rob gets killed in the same book before he can try to contest things.
    • In book 5, Helen's working at a pet boutique where one of the customers, Willoughby Barclay, drops off her labradoodle Barkley to be groomed. Her husband Francis later comes to pick up the animal, and it's only afterward that Helen finds out he and his wife are in the middle of a bitter divorce and it's the wife who has custody of their house and the dog, who's a mascot for the Davis Family Dollar department stores; Francis effectively kidnapped the animal so Barkley would lose her job and Willoughby would lose the income it brought in as a result. Before the book is out, Willoughby has been murdered, Francis has been arrested for doing it, and Barkley has lost her job because it came out that Willoughby was having an affair with another woman before her death. With her owners dead or in jail, the animal gets a happy ending when she's given to Francis's housekeeper, who'd taken care of Barkley for Francis after the kidnapping and treats her as a beloved pet rather than a source of income.
  • The Fort (2022): Jason's parents are fighting bitterly over everything they own (and how much custody time and child support money his mother gets). When he takes their cactus to the fort, they accuse each other of stealing it even though they never cared about it before.
  • Secret Series: Played for Laughs with Max-Earnest's parents, who split their house in half when they divorced.
    Things had improved slightly last year when his parents had—literally—split their house down the middle, his father moving his half-house across the street.
  • In The Suitcase Kid, Simon accuses Carol of bleeding him dry in their divorce and complains about paying child support to her when he shares custody of Andy. Both parents want their daughter to live with them full time but Andy insists on alternating weeks between her mother and father. Carol and Simon both try to guilt-trip or pressure Andy into choosing one parent over the other, which makes her feel guilty and conflicted.
  • While My Pretty One Sleeps: When Seamus and Ethel got divorced twenty-two years ago, Seamus agreed to pay Ethel $1000 a month in lifetime alimony, until she either remarried or died. Ethel told Neeve that she was willing to let Seamus off the hook on alimony, until he made a sarcastic remark in court that it was "worth every cent to get rid of [her]" and that if she did remarry "the guy should be stone deaf". Seamus has come to realise this was a huge mistake, as he's now struggling financially but is still legally on the hook for alimony payments. Ethel doesn't even need the money these days, but she still accepts his cheques out of spite; Seamus recalls that she even reported him for a late payment (which was on the day one of his daughters was born). Seamus' second wife Ruth also constantly argues with him over it. It's revealed that the night Ethel was murdered, Seamus confronted her about the alimony at her apartment and things became heated, with many people, including Ruth, realising he has a clear motive for orchestrating Ethel's disappearance.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Charles apparently lost this bad when divorcing Eleanor (something which apparently wasn't helped by the fact that his divorce lawyer ended up marrying her). In their divorce agreement, she got the house, both cars, 85% of his salary going forward, ownership of the sperm he donated to the sperm bank, and his dignitynote  The only thing he appears to have managed to keep was their hairdresser, Abigail. A lawyer even outright tells him that he can't believe Charles signed the contract.
  • In Dear John, John's ghastly ex-wife Wendy has taken everything.
  • Divorce Court: What would a good courtroom TV show — either the reality show of 2020, featuring real couples, or (especially) the original scripted shows — be without this trope? The original Voltaire Perkins versions (1957–1962, 1967–1969) and the 1984–1993 version each had episodes where the majority of the plot focused on the rights to a certain asset (such as a business). The 1984 series had a woman who was "willing to take her husband's failing business off his hands." Turns out it'd been doing quite well, and she'd been cooking the books and embezzling.
  • 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.
  • CSIVerse:
    • One Body of the Week on CSI 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 neighbor who tried to stop 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 in her past, became violent on hearing the gunshot, and mauled her to death.
    • A CSI: Miami episode had a couple engaged in a highly publicized The War of the Roses-esque conflict become the suspects in not one murder, but two (the husband's mistress and the new owner of the husband's car, which the wife sold for a really cheap price out of spite). To show how messy it got, the episode was introduced with the wife taking a chainsaw to the husband's boat. Although they had nothing to do with those murders, eventually they did momentarily set aside their differences to murder a divorce attorney who had been scamming them both. The CSI team busts them for the latter thanks to the help of their teenaged 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.
    • An episode of CSI: NY featured a married couple that was planning to divorce being attacked and robbed in their home, with the husband being killed (by the wife after the fact). Interviews with the husband's business partner revealed that he was deliberately costing his business ridiculous amounts of money just so that his wife wouldn't get it. Oh, and the home invaders? Their daughter and her boyfriend, motivated by the fact that she would have lost her college fund and other finances in the war between her parents, who, like the Miami example above, didn't seem to be taking the impact on her into consideration.
  • Niles and Maris on Frasier went through this. At one point Maris's lawyers were claiming that a Valentines card that said "Yours is the heart mine adores/Everything I have is yours" was a pre-nup.
  • In Degrassi The Next Generation, Clare'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 (2011), 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.
  • Grace and Frankie's second episode deals with this. Primarily a co-owned beach house and cut off credit cards.
  • Jessica Jones (2015): Jeri Hogarth is going through a divorce with her spouse Wendy and is taking up an affair with her secretary Pam. It's extremely bitter, with Wendy demanding 75% of Jeri's assets and blackmailing her into agreeing. Jeri in turn asks Jessica to dig up dirty information on Wendy to blackmail in return. Jessica, in a drunken depression due to her pursuit of Kilgrave, resorts to outright threats against Wendy, who ups her demand to 90% of Jeri's assets in response. Jeri ultimately tries to make a bargain to use Kilgrave and have him force Wendy to agree to lesser terms. He's so disgusted with Jeri that he orders Wendy to kill her through Death by a Thousand Cuts, and the end result is that Pam winds up killing Wendy in Jeri's defense, then breaks up with Jeri, realizing just what kind of person she is.
  • The series premiere of Two and a Half Men featured one in which the divorce lawyer of the husband decided to help the wife take him for all he was worth.
  • The Law & Order episode appropriately titled "Divorce" focuses around a particularly ugly divorce proceeding. The husband is attempting to have the marriage annulled with the church so he can remarry, while the wife is fighting it to prevent the illegitimacy of her children. As bad as they are, their lawyers are even worse, scrapping over every penny. It comes to a head at the beginning of the episode, when a counselor for the church is murdered. The wife’s lawyer eventually confesses that her client committed the crime, but between her distressed state of mind and blackouts from her prescription abuse, she’s not responsible for the death. The reality is that the wife’s lawyer framed her for the murder after killing the counselor herself while trying to ransack her computer for the counselor's findings that she was in favor of the annulment due to the wife's drug abuse. She figured her client's incapacity would leave her unable to fight the frameup, and when her client beat the murder charge on diminished capacity, she could soak up sympathy to gouge the husband out of even more money.
  • The background to the plot of Ted Lasso is that the new owner of AFC Richmond won the club from her ex-husband, and it was his favourite possession. So she's going to do everything she can, starting with hiring an American college football coach who knows nothing about soccer, to run it into the ground.

  • "I'll Take the Dog," a 1966 country hit by Ray Pillow and future Hall of Fame artist Jean Shepard. The song begins with the now ex-spouses dividing various assets, fitting the trope note  before fighting over custody of their beloved dog. After both sides declare they can't bear to part with their pooch – they each at first give their case as to how they are better loving and caring for the dog – they decide to call off the divorce ... they'll both take the dog, much to the dog's delight. (Oh, and there's no more Divorce Assets Conflict to worry about, as they'll keep everything, too).
  • 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.
  • The Reverend Horton Heat's song "Galaxie 500" deals with an acrimonious divorce, where the man loses everything, but he keeps sarcastically reassuring himself at least he gets to keep their Ford Galaxy 500, which has seen better days.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic does a comical take on the subject in "Alimony", his parody of "Mony Mony" as performed by Billy Idol.
  • The Tom Smith song "Take Your Hands Off The Bear" is about a marriage that ended so badly that the singer is willing to give his wife anything just to get her out of his life... except for his beloved teddy bear, Mr. Gumpus. Naturally, the wife wants the bear purely to hurt him.
  • In early live versions of Meat Loaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" from Bat Out of Hell, the song ends with the man and woman arguing about how to split their assets in the divorce. The woman declares she's Taking the Kids, hitherto ignored by the signer up to this point.
  • Defied by the wife in George Strait's "Give It Away", who says she doesn't want her share of everything because, in her words, "There ain't nothin' in this house worth fighting over, and we're both tired of fighting anyway."
  • In Mark Chesnutt's "Going Through the Big D," he's bitter that the judge awarded his ex-wife the house while he got their Jeep. That is, until the end of the song, when he seemingly gleefully admits the house wasn't all that great – it's a "two bedroom/mortgage is due/siding light blue palace!
  • In Montgomery Gentry's "I'll Keep the Kids," the singer's ex-wife hands him a list of everything she wants, including most of his stuff. He agrees, and he'll keep the children...which weren't on her list.
  • Jerry Reed bemoaned being literally cleaned out of everything he owns in his 1982 satire on divorce, the No. 1 country hit "She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)" "... she got the color television set, the house, the kids and both of the cars." After musing further that he has to pay child support, alimony and court costs to his ex-wife and noting that he's left with nothing while she lives like a queen, he moans that "Everything I ever had worth takin' they've already took." With the impression that all he has left are the clothes on his back, one wonders that if he mentioned that, the court would take that too!
  • Subverted in Rodney Atkin's "Honesty (Write Me a List)." An estranged couple meet for lunch, and the husband asks his wife to write down "what she wants most from him." He's thinking about their house, their land, the cars, but when he opens the napkin to read her list, she wants honesty, sincerity, trust, and affection—in essence, to repair their broken marriage.

  • Similar to Ted Lasso, this provides the inciting incident for Cabin Pressure. Carolyn won her ex's private jet (and very little else) in the divorce, and intends to spite him by running it as a charter airline despite not having the resources to do so. We eventually find out that the initials of "MJN Air" stand for My Jet Now.

    Stand Up Comedy 
  • This issue is something of a Berserk Button to Bill Burr, who has done several rants in Stand-up on the topic. He's openly compared women taking everything they can in a divorce, no matter how unearned or petty, as being a kind of legalized domestic abuse that people praise. For the record, Bill is Happily Married, he just personally thinks the practice is unjustifiable.
    Bill Burr: I'm sick of this. "It's what the law says." A hundred years ago I could've beaten you with a broom handle, "It's what the law says." Doesn't make it right.
  • Eddie Murphy had a bit about this in his famous Raw show, discussing the then-recent divorce of Johnny Carson. He hypothesized the only way he could avoid being cleaned out by an ex-wife would be if he married a completely isolated woman from a secluded African tribe with no concept of money. But that even that would fail the second she's left alone in the same room as American women, who will then urge her to take every penny from him.
    Eddie: [as "spouse"] Eddie? What have you done for me lately?

    Visual Novels 
  • At the beginning of Melody, the protagonist is coming out of a long relationship with Bethany. Even though they were engaged, not married, it fits the bill. Bethany wants to take all of their shared assets, and she has lawyers on the case helping her. She agrees to let her ex have the one of their two cars, but not the “better” one, which he has in his possession at the time. This drives the protagonist to leave town to take the job tutoring Melody.


    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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).
    • While there's never really any detail given to how the divorce between the Van Houtens went down, it presumably didn't go well for Kirk, as he spends the seasons between the divorce and eventual remarriage living in a men's shelter and working ridiculously low level jobs. Milhouse also mentions that his parents fought over custody of him, but it was because neither of them wanted custody (a latter episode has Luann try to get full custody of Milhouse so she could move them both to Capitol City, but the judge allows Kirk to keep custody because the judge saw Kirk was an extreme Straw Loser and felt sorry for him).
    • The Henry VIII retelling involves the 'half of everything' joke - including half Homer / Henry's crown getting cut in half.
      Henry/Homer: Hey, I invented divorce! How did you get half of everything?
      Blue-Haired Lawyer: You should have invented the prenup. And now, half of your kingdom, please. [Homer tears a map in half]
      Anne/Marge: *looks at the map* Aww, I get Ireland?!
      Henry/Homer: HAHA!
  • The eponymous CatDog did the whole "dividing possessions in half over a conflict" thing, though it didn't involve a literal divorce.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Ms. Thompson's ex-husband clearly hated her, so much that one asset she gained from him was a necklace that carried a curse of lycanthropy; this was quite a problem among students until Numbah Four managed to break the curse by grabbing it. (She was grateful, but not enough to bend the rules and up his grades.)
  • This was the focus of a two-parter of King of the Hill in which Buck Strickland's wife finally divorced him for having an affair with one of his employees (and for being a drunkard. And for being a gambler...). Given the long list of reasons Miz Liz had to sever ties with her husband (and having a high price lawyer) she immediately gets the lion's share of the assets, including the house, cars, personal wealth, and Strickland Propane. Buck starts to legally "Sell" other businesses he owns to close friends to keep those off the books and have returned to him after the divorce is finalized, including giving a restaurant to Hank and Peggy. Hilarity Ensues when Peggy starts to make changes and runs the restaurant into the ground.
  • Family Guy: During a drunken night in Boston, Quagmire ends up marrying an aging prostitute named Sharmese, who refuses to anull the marriage because it's her dream to be able to retire and live the married life, and due to Rhode Island's divorce laws, just an outright divorce would result in a harsh settlement all favoring the woman. After a plot to get out of the marriage by pretending to be gay with Peter fails, Sharmese ends up agreeing to a no-fault divorce after seeing the extents Quagmire is willing to go to escape the marriage, averting this trope.
  • The Critic: Jay's ex-wife Ardith makes no secret about how much she despises him, and their marriage was rotten from the start; she originally fell in love with him while working as a nurse, and Jay was hospitalized, completely mute and bandaged from head to toe (a concept known as "Florence Nightingale Syndrome"), only to react with horror when she actually saw his face and heard him speak. A flashback in the season 2 premiere reveals that she got everything in the divorce, because she was having an affair with the judge! The only thing she acts civily about with Jay is their son Marty.
  • F is for Family: Mr. Derkin, Kevin's summer school teacher, is nearly destitute and works several other jobs because of the substantial alimony he has to pay his ex-wife, who left him for another woman.

    Real Life 
  • 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 one making the payments would walk down the street to the federal courthouse and declare bankruptcy, and get out of paying a thing. (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.
  • When Napoleon Bonaparte divorced his first wife Josephine in 1809, he confiscated the keys to her jewelry cabinet, eventually giving it all to Austrian princess Marie Louise when he married her the following year. Josephine got even when she left by taking their entire fancy dish service with her, so that Napoleon's court was forced to eat off of plain plates until the old ones could be replaced.
  • Paul McCartney: Part of the extremely ugly end to his second marriage, with model Heather Mills. Mills got a large sum that was still less than a fifth of what she wanted, along with the judge's assessment that she had been "less than candid".
  • In the Netherlands there was a loophole from 2001 to 2009 which allowed partners to avoid this trope. With a simple registration at City Hall a marriage could be converted into a Civil Partnership ("geregistreerd partnerschap"). Then, with a visit to a Notary Public this partnership could be disbanded. No lawyers, no judge, just like that. It was nicknamed a Flash Divorce ("flitsscheiding"). The hole was plugged mainly due to Think of the Children!