Thou Shalt Not During Divorce…

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Divorce on Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Recently, a website ran a list of “Top Ten Mistakes Men Make in Divorce,” and we realized that these “mistakes” apply equally to men and women, and were worth reviewing – we use their ordering but provide our own commentary.

10.  Keep The Children Out of the Process.  Perhaps the most damaging act a parent can take during a divorce is to use the children against the other spouse, whether through parental alienation or literally using the children to send hateful or manipulative messages to the other spouse.  A parent who chooses this path not only risks losing custody, that parent risks long term harm to the children and their relationship with that parent.

9.  Leave Dating Until After the Divorce.  Yes, when a marriage ends, it often ends because one person has an affair and wants to move on to that new love.  And yes, we live in a no-fault divorce era.  However, marital misconduct can form the basis of an unequal division of property or an award of attorney fees.  And if a person in the midst of divorce truly cares about this new person, the best way to show that concern would be to keep that person out of the courtroom.

8.  Retain Your Own Attorney.  Whether encouraged by an overbearing spouse or worried about funds or simply naïve about the process, some people will go through divorce unrepresented.  Given the high stakes of divorce – the future of your financial well-being and your children – and that the other spouse has the benefit of an attorney, each person in a divorce would benefit from sound legal advice and representation.  Doing so does not guarantee conflict or increased cost; it assures each party has the protections afforded by the legal system.

7.  Keep the Mouth Closed or Under Control.  Divorce can become volatile as emotions run hot and the fear of loss increases.  One way spouses hurt their own cause is to agitate the other spouse verbally.  To combat this risk, limit the contact with the other spouse to only absolutely necessary items and only speak in a manner that you would be proud to demonstrate in front of the judge handling your case.

6.  Getting to Yes Without an End Zone Dance.  We know that in high conflict divorces one spouse feels under attack and wants to “get even” or somehow level the playing field.  But a spouse must separate the emotional issues that led to divorce from the practical issues that help that spouse reach the most optimal settlement possible.  Trying to force payback as part of the process will only lead to more conflict and less resolution, and increase the risk of your actually losing on key issues of importance.

5.  Find a Good Fit Attorney.  Before you begin the divorce process, you should seriously consider your ultimate goals.  What custody arrangement do you desire?  What financial settlement would be acceptable?  How much conflict do you really want?  How long do you want the process to continue?  How willing are you to work toward a compromise settlement?  Once you have a good idea of these desired outcomes, you should find an attorney that fits well with your goals and shares a similar philosophy.

4.  Stand Up for Yourself.  In order to reach your desired outcome, you must make clear to your attorney and to your spouse where you stand on key issues.  If you fail to speak up and speak clearly on custody, property and support matters, your lawyer or your spouse may never really know your position, which could lead to an outcome you later regret.  To avoid that sense of remorse, be sure you advocate for your key concerns.

3.  Limit Your Outrage.  In any divorce, no one party gets everything that party wants.  Too many spouses start to count wins and losses, as if securing the coffee table somehow matches custody of children in importance.  If you get angry over every item, the other spouse and the attorneys will not know what truly matters to you.  Further, you will have little bargaining power if your position remains “I want everything.”

2.  No Intentional Humiliation.  From the first act of serving the divorce papers through to following through on the orders in the final judgment, a spouse can handle the matter with class or without it.  However tempting it may be to embarrass your spouse as a return for pain you feel you received or how wronged you feel by the end of the marriage, using the process to try and publicly humiliate your spouse will only make you look bad, could reflect poorly on you in the eyes of the judge (who could punish that behavior with contempt), and harm your children.  Take the high road.

1.  You Catch More Flies With Honey.  Always remember that no matter how angry you feel, acting out will hurt you while playing nice will help you.  Do not take to email or Facebook and tear into your spouse.  Do not lose your cool.  Keep your eye on the long game.

We hope you find these tips helpful.  We know that some seem like common sense, and some should follow rather easily, but until you have been in a divorce you cannot know how challenging controlling your emotions can be, how quickly rational thought can leave your senses.

If you have questions about divorce, contact our St. Louis divorce attorneys – we can help.

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