15 Tempting, But Ultimately Stupid Things, NOT To Do During Your Divorce / Domestic Case
Often times during a separation or divorce, the spouses do just about everything they can to be difficult or “get back at” their soon to be ex-spouse. Often, they seek to exact revenge from the other for some real or perceived wrong that may or may not have occurred during the marriage.
That wrong can be as serious as adultery, squandering of assets, physical/emotional abuse – or as simple as just not liking what the other spouse has said at some point. Frequently, litigants do not understand that they are harming their own cases by attempting to obtain revenge or to sabotage the other spouse. With that in mind here is a list of things you should not do if you want to be as successful as possible in your divorce /domestic case:
1. DO NOT Hide things from your attorney. Attorneys can prepare for and deal with facts. Surprises on the other hand create problems. Drug use, adultery, hidden assets and the like can destroy your case if your attorney isn’t prepared to deal with them. This isn’t a game of hide and seek.
2. DO NOT destroy evidence. Just because you delete those emails from your computer doesn’t mean the other side isn’t going to get them another way. When they do, it is going to look pretty bad if you hid them or lied about their existence in your discovery responses.
3. DO NOT dispose of assets you know your spouse is going to request. DO NOT sell or destroy items you know are meaningful / important to your spouse. Are you tempted to donate or damage the antique furniture your spouse inherited from her “Great-Great Grandmother?” That grandmother you never liked, who was always in your business? DON’T. You most certainly will hear about it during a property distribution trial. And be sure, it won’t seem like such a great idea then.
4. DO NOT fail to keep a copy of all communications with your soon to be ex-spouse. If he/she sends you crazy or threatening text messages, organize it, preserve / save it carefully, and give a copy of it to your attorney timely.
5. DO NOT make comments in front of your children about your spouse. Children are not the jury for a divorce. They do not need to know that your spouse cheated on you or that your spouse is late with the child support check. Leave the kids out of it. All they want is to be loved. Your relationship with them will ultimately be the better for it. Remember that it is all about doing what is in the “best interest” of the child(ren).
6. DO NOT send nasty text messages, email or voice mail. If you receive a text message from your spouse, or a friend or relative of your spouse, saying you are a “no good SOB,” and you are tempted to reply by calling your spouse a few choice words… DON’T! Chances are you will see those words again in court. Be nice, polite, respectful, and attempt to find positive solutions. DO NOT put anything in email, text, voice mail, or other writing that you wouldn’t want to read in Court (or church for that matter), in front of a judge (preacher) and all your witnesses (church members).
7. DO NOT post stupid stuff to Facebook or any other social media site. In fact, if you are contemplating a separation or divorce, the better course of action is to eliminate any and all forms of social media. Remember, nothing is private on social media. Did you go to a cool party over the weekend, relax and have a few drinks while your spouse had the kids for the weekend, catch up with old friends, perhaps even get a little wasted? Post it to social media, and you can be sure that your “party lifestyle” will be front and center in Court.
8. DO NOT fail to consider the tax implications of divorce. Your tax situation is changing, and that can effect you in ways you may never have considered. Go see an accountant/CPA and find out exactly how it is going to change so there are no surprises. Should you and your spouse continue to file jointly? Should you file separately? Who gets to claim the kids? What about charitable donations made prior to your separation?
9. DO NOT fail to update your estate planning documents and other legal documents. Do you want your soon to be ex-spouse using that power of attorney from ten years ago to access your financial accounts held solely in your name? Better yet, do you really want the person who intensely dislikes you to make the decision as to whether or not life saving measures should be taken if you have a serious medical condition? What does your current will say? Do you want your soon to be ex-spouse to receive all your assets if you head for the pearly gates before your divorce becomes final? What about life insurance benefits? Who is / are your beneficiaries? Just picture your soon to be ex-spouse taking a really expensive and luxurious vacation (perhaps to Bermuda?) using your life insurance benefits. This is huge, update your estate planning documents and other important legal documents.
10. DO NOT listen to your friend’s and family member’s advice of what you should get or give in a divorce. Every divorce is different. And, let’s face it, your friends and family are solidly on your side…they are most likely biased and want you to be “get it all” in your divorce settlement or litigation. If you are paying an attorney to watch out for your best interests, you should trust your attorney, and follow his/her advise, so your attorney can get the very best result possible for you.
11. DO NOT fail to take an inventory of household items/property/assets/debts. Take pictures, room by room, of all of your property located in your home. If nothing else, walk through the house with a video camera and video everything there. It will help you create a list of assets. Make copies of all important financial paperwork. Keep this paperwork in a secure and safe place.
12. DO NOT fail to keep a divorce calendar and journal. Make notes of things that happen, dates, times, and who is present. Write down the number of times your spouse fails to pay spousal support on time, fails to pick up the children for visitation on time, or even denies you visitation. Keep details written down in order to help develop your testimony for Court if needed at a later date. Things that happened 6 months prior to Court are often difficult to remember in detail when you are required to testify under oath. When possible, detail specific quotes made by the opposing party if they are particularly ugly or offensive.
13. DO NOT fail to pay child support / spousal support on time, and with check, money order, or documented funds. DO NOT pay child support with cash. If you pay any amount owed to your spouse with cash, it is almost impossible to document the actual amount paid, and that that it was paid timely. Keep copies of all checks/money orders paid to your spouse for support.
14. DO NOT be your own lawyer. Sure, you may save a little money up front, but in the long run, you will likely pay more money to correct, fix, or modify Orders and/or Agreements. Very likely, the money you will end up spending to modify a deficient child custody order, visitation order, and/or property settlement agreement will vastly outweigh the amount you would have spent to get it done correctly in the first place. And, worse case scenario, consider the fact that some things can’t be modified. Consider that Separation Agreement you and your spouse “pull” off the internet, change to “fit” your situation, and in a generous mood you agree to pay spousal support. Do you know the law on spousal support, do you know the amount or length of time you should (if you should) pay support? Consider how much you will pay years later to have an attorney “attempt” to get you out of that spousal support obligation. And what, if to your detriment, it is impossible to “undo.”
15. DO NOT tell others what you and your attorney discussed – it can destroy the attorney / client confidential relationship / privilege. Most every client at some point is tempted to say, text, email, or write the following words….”My Attorney said……XYZ…..” DON’T do it unless you specifically discuss this with your attorney and are advised accordingly. Likewise, expect to meet privately with your attorney during office meetings and planning sessions. Bringing friends/family along for “support” is tempting; however, consider again that you could jeopardize your attorney/client privilege by doing so.
The above list is by far not all inclusive – it is merely our current Top 15. There are literally 100’s more things that you should NOT DO during your separation and divorce litigation. General rule: Use good judgment, use common sense, put your anger aside when at all possible. For example, as tempting as it may be, do not name your soon to be ex-spouse “Cheating Old Bastard” in your cell phone contacts or assign a ring tone of “You Give Love A Bad Name – Bon Jovi.” While this may be entertaining to you each time you receive a text or call from him/her, it is not something you will want to have to explain when producing text messages or discovery answers. It is certainly not something you want your children to accidentally stumble across. Again…common sense.
Separating – divorce – trial….are all traumatic and unpleasant experiences. DO NOT make things harder than they have to be, and DO NOT jeopardize your chances of success by doing stupid things.
If you’re considering filing for divorce or legal separation, contact Schulz Stephenson Law in Beaufort, NC and let us ensure you’re taking the proper steps and not making any of these common, but potentially costly, mistakes during your divorce.