Over time, the nature and complexities of divorce have changed. In the 60s and 70s, for instance, before uniform acts were adopted by the states on custody jurisdiction, a parent wanting to obtain child custody simply went on “vacation” with the children to another state, filed divorce, and had custody decided in a more favorable place to their legal objectives. Laws, lawyers, judges, and legislatures have done a great deal to level the playing field for litigants.
However, there are certain “no-nos” even today that almost always backfire and give the other party a tactical advantage in the litigation or a create such animosity the case becomes a legal battle versus an emotional battle and drags out for much longer than necessary with correspondingly high legal fees. This blog explores what divorce lawyers see that creates a divorce/custody case that is bigger than it should be. Just don’t do it.
First, don’t negotiate with your spouse, particularly if you are still living in the same household; this is potentially unethical bypass communication once known to your attorney and may cause him or her to have to withdraw. Also, litigants don’t (a very few do) don’t understand the controlling law nor can they logically negotiate with the other party. When this happens, the parties have one idea of agreement, which anecdotally speaking, neither attorney can normally advise to an agreement as they generally are incongruent with the dissolution act and also creates two different lines of settlement “documents”; this adds time, cost, and frustration.
On occasion, and again, this creates such a problem it causes the attorney to have to withdraw or spills over into the courtroom and impairs the case. The cost of getting a new attorney up to speed on the case should be obvious. While such direct discussions may be helpful, your attorney can do this in a conjoined conference. Fragments of information back and forth on two lines of communication (husband/wife v. attorney/attorney) almost always have a devastating impact on a case.
Second, don’t post on social media anything directly or indirectly related to the marriage, children, assets, spouse or new relationships. This should go without saying, but frankly, every divorce attorney has been “stunned” by what he later learns his or her client posts (or the opposing party).
In addition, and more harmful, are the divorce grudge sites that post every type of information, some of which if posted, may be civilly or criminally actionable. Confide in your attorney your concerns, frustrations, and potential considerations and then LISTEN TO HIS OR HER ADVICE; THIS IS ALMOST ALWAYS TO AVOID ANY POSTING ON SOCIAL MEDIA. Trial courts judges do not receive such postings in a favorable way.
Third, don’t make any major lifestyle or parental changes. Spouses, sometimes with the best intention in divorce quit their jobs, clean out bank accounts, or start overtly or subtly try to influence their children. This almost results in negative view by a court and can create a very bad first impression. While there may be valid reasons to, for instance, move money from account to account, this is a decision that must be made with counsel, as there may be other ways to do this without negative legal implications, such as a restraining order.
Fourth, don’t fail to recognize and accept that things are going to be different and make a financial, work, and parenting plan (if there are children) that will work. A number of divorces that pend for a long time (i.e., years) are because one party refuses to adhere to this maximum. Friends, houses, lifestyles will change. However, change is a constant in life and can be artificially viewed as negative or positive.
In reality, the healthy way to view this emotionally, legally and otherwise is it is the best of times and the worst of times at the same time; which overrides the other and prevails is dependent on how you decide to view your divorce.
As a corresponding point, remember that in most cases, a divorce involves a complex financial transaction in the making and will take time and money. The desire to have the divorce “done” is generally inconsistent with the attorneys untangling the complex interwoven aspects of a married couples’ life.
Fifth, don’t fail to recognize “flash points” or “roadblocks” and be prepared to give in, give up, or compromise. This is perhaps the broadest and problematic aspect of a relatively less acrimonious divorce. The difficulty for you, your attorney, the opposing party, counsel, and the court is often this is not self-apparent. For instance, a trinket purchased at a garage sale that was during a special time in the relationship may be the focal point of litigation that no one understands, as with the hurt of an affair, or projection into the divorce of other life harms and other wrongs occurring outside the marriage.
Sixth, don’t cancel any insurance or other policies. Bad things happen during life. Divorce is no different. Most seasoned divorce attorneys have had a case where one of the parties dies, the marital home burns down, or a party has a catastrophic health problem. The financial implications of this can eliminate any ability for the parties to exit the post-marriage in a financially healthy way and result in, in the worst case scenario, bankruptcy.
This blog post is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. Its purpose is educational in nature to explain the complex factual background and decisions that may be considered by you before considering talking with divorce counsel. Ultimately, as a general rule, a potential divorcing party should meet with divorce counsel long before filing and strategically and systematically map divorce proceedings to maximize both parties’ lives post-divorce. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. handle complex financial and custody cases in divorce throughout the state. This blog is not intended to be legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.