Divorce is a complicated and emotional time. You often make mistakes during your divorce that you pay for in the future. Below is a list of 8 things you should never do during a divorce.
1. Be your own lawyer.
Did you go to law school? Did you pass the Missouri Bar Exam? Have you been practicing family law for a long time? If the answer to each of these questions is “no”, then you should hire an experienced divorce attorney for representation and not try to represent yourself in the divorce. The divorce lawyer you hire will make sure that you both review and understand everything before you agree to or sign off on a settlement. An experienced divorce attorney is a very good idea for divorcing couples who have many assets and complicated financial matters. In highly contested divorces, an experienced divorce lawyer can make sure that your interests are represented and presented to the court at motion hearings and trial. Even in an uncontested divorce, you are often better off hiring a divorce attorney to draft your initial pleadings, file with the Court, draft your settlement documents, and guide you through the court system.
2. Ignore your finances before filing.
If you’re thinking about getting a divorce, you need to immediately start to set aside money for all the attorney fees, litigation expenses, and court costs involved. You should make copies of all your financial documents before your divorce proceedings begin and provide them to your attorney. These documents should include bank statements, securities statements, retirement statements, wills, trusts, federal and state income tax returns with all schedules, property deeds, insurance policies, and vehicle titles to name a few. Keep these copies in a secure cloud location not accessible by your spouse and provide your attorney with access to the account so she or he can download them as needed throughout the case.
3. Notify everyone that you are getting a divorce.
We all want to feel supported. We all want to have others empathize with what we are going through. But we don’t always think about the potential effects of our telling others about the divorce. Divorce makes emotions run on high alert and is normal to want to tell your friends, family, and coworkers what is going on in your life. But consider how you will be viewed by them if you reconcile. Consider how your comments about your spouse may affect his or her relationship with the person you are telling. Will your comments affect your children and their relationships? Do you really need to post about how you are doing on social media? You may want support or to embarrass your spouse; however, you need to think before you tell everyone about your divorce. This doesn’t mean that you must keep your divorce secret from everyone. Rather, you just need to think about your tell and why you are doing so.
4. Put your kids in the middle.
This seems obvious. However, intentionally, or unintentionally, it still happens. Before you act on that custody refusal, think about your own behavior, and remember not to put your children in the middle of your divorce. The judge assigned to your case will not be happy to hear that you used your kids to punish or manipulate your spouse. Your actions could prevent you from receiving the parenting plan that you want at the end of the divorce. The children didn’t ask for this divorce and should not be prevented from having a relationship with both parents. Your behavior could cause resentment and have a negative impact on the relationship you have with your children.
5. Take legal advice from friends and family.
It’s certainly a lot less expensive to talk to and receive legal advice from your friends and family. It’s also a lot more convenient to speak with those individuals who are close to you and want to provide support during your divorce. If any of your friends and family are divorced, they will want to share their experiences and offer you advice. However, friends and family only have divorce experiences based on their unique facts and circumstances. The key word in that last sentence is unique as their facts and circumstances will not be the same as yours. As a result, you may be receiving good, intended advice but advice that has no application to your divorce case. Friends and family can be there to support you emotionally but don’t take their legal or financial advice for your divorce.
6. Do something you should have never done.
It’s normal to think about all the bad things you want to do currently as you start the divorce process. Your emotions are raw regarding the end of your marriage but making a bad thought into real action is not a good idea. Would you want your divorce to be regarded as a bad reality television show by friends and family? Remember that everything you text, email, or post on social media regarding this divorce can be used against you in court. Before you start acting in a way you will regret, think about what would happen if it was being recorded and handed to the judge for review. Don’t self-medicate your divorce emotions with alcohol or drugs as that can have a big impact on your legal and physical custody rights with your children.
7. Start a new romantic relationship.
This is not the time to add another person or another potential problem to the mix. It is very likely that this relationship will become an issue during the divorce even if you didn’t start dating until after the divorce was filed. With all the changes going on in you and your children’s lives, avoiding any type of romantic relationship is often the best thing to do for your case.
8. Ignore the big picture.
It’s far too common to get hyper-focused on one or more small issues instead of focusing on the few big issues you need to in a contested divorce. Those small issues will cost you thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees as your lawyer drafts paperwork or negotiates with the other attorney. In the meantime, those big case issues are not getting proper attention. Have a focus and a list of five goals to discuss with your lawyer. By keeping that list and that discussion as your barometer during the divorce, you won’t get stuck focusing on small matters that cost you thousands of dollars.
Remember, if you cannot reach a settlement, a judge will make the decision for you, and you may not end up getting what you want with the big issue or the small ones.
Should you need the advice of an experienced divorce attorney or have questions or concerns about your situation, know that we are here to help and ready to discuss those issues with you.