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File:Half a house 1823.jpg


"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 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 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 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. God help us all if they have children, or worse, one is The Unfavorite.

Too often this becomes Truth in Television. In Real Life, at least, this sort of thing is why prenuptial agreements came into being.


Examples of Divorce Assets Conflict include:


Commercials

  • 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".

Comics

  • 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.

Film

  • The War of the Roses is about an escalating war over marital assets between Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas that get's taken to a ridiculous and tragic extreme.
  • This happens in the Cary Grant/ Irene Dunne film The Awful Truth, with a custody battle over a dog!
  • In Robert Altman's film Short Cuts, a husband facing an impending messy divorce sawed every piece of furniture in two.
  • 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.
  • In Star Trek (2009), the conflict had already finished and McCoy tells Kirk that his ex-wife took everything from him.

  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.

Literature

Live Action TV

  • 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 decide 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 (soley to upset her husband) cheated by smearing her hands with bacon grease. This culminates in a Karmic Death when the husband tries to switch out his dog with another. She catches him in the act, becomes angry when he admits to caring more about the dog than he cares about her, and shoots him dead. Unfortunately, the replacement dog has suffered some sort of trauma, becames violent on hearing the gunshot, and mauls 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.

Music

  • 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.

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.
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