Divorce is a complicated, emotionally draining, and financially taxing process that most people never expect to go through. This article will review a few of the most common mistakes that should be avoided in a divorce or any other family law case.
1. BEING PASSIVE
Everyone has a certain independent streak in them. In some cases, pride or financial concerns can lead to people attempting to undertake serious legal tasks without the aid of an attorney. Generally speaking, this is a bad idea when there are procedures and rules you must follow with specific legal actions.
Take for example some of the most common events that occur in a divorce:
- Filing for divorce
- Answering a divorce petition
- Having a temporary order hearing
- Filing a counter petition for divorce
- Joining a Suit Affecting a Parent Child Relationship (SAPCR) with a divorce
- Pleading fault grounds for a divorce
- Filing motions
- Communicating with the court
- Entering exhibits
- Filing for a protective order
- Requesting a forensic accountant
Each of these procedures can vary wildly depending on the court, time of year, specific facts of your case, and more. It can greatly help to hire an experienced attorney to guide you through this complex process.
2. SOCIAL MEDIA
Best practice is to stop using social media altogether. Savvy attorneys can gain access to your social media, whether it’s deleted or suspended. Thinking you can go back and “scrub” your social media in anticipation of a divorce generally doesn’t work. Deleting social media posts or tampering with social media in a pending litigation is an immediate red flag as well and may draw unwanted attention to whatever you were trying to hide. This could even violate certain court orders and have serious consequences. Your life is an open book in a divorce, and it’s wise to act as though you are constantly being watched or recorded. The best practice is best behavior and not say or type ANYTHING to anyone you wouldn’t want read in open court.
3. LYING TO YOUR ATTORNEY
Though it may be one of the more embarrassing and difficult conversations you’ve ever had, it only hurts you to not tell your attorney everything they’re asking you. Not telling your doctor you smoke may seem innocent enough but hiding embarrassing or damaging facts from your attorney will only hurt you in the long run. Generally speaking, every question your attorney asks has a purpose and it benefits no one to have your attorney be surprised and learn a damaging fact for the first time in open court in front of a judge or jury.
Relevant things you may want to disclose include finances, infidelity, drug use, past violence, criminal history, tax evasion, parental history, medical history, psychological diagnoses, and more. Being candid matters. If the opposing party discovers some fact that you omitted from disclosing to your attorney it only serves to damage your credibility and your case.
4. HIDING OR DISPOSING OF ASSETS
It is important to remember that once you file for divorce everything from the date of filing to several years before the filing is subject to being viewed by the court, a jury, or the other lawyer. Text messages, phone records, bank records, stocks, and anything is fair game. Because all the information for both spouses is subject to being discovered, there are very serious rules in place to mandate compliance with the discovery process. It can be potentially disastrous to hide money or dispose of financial assets in a pending divorce. Not to mention the fact that the practice is illegal. Potential consequences can range from being fined, sanctioned, or even having the assets awarded to your spouse. It is also wise to not attempt to dispose of assets that you can reasonably expect your spouse will request. For example, it would not be wise to try to sell off the stocks that you and your wife both share in your investment portfolio and expect to get away with it.
5. NOT BUDGETING ACCORDINGLY
In the best of scenarios, divorce can be a financial burden on a marriage. In the worst of cases, it can be financial ruin for a couple. Practically speaking, half or more of the income that the spouses have been relying on is literally walking out the door and a lifestyle change is often soon to come. We are not recommending having some hidden financial stash in the event of a divorce, but it is wise to consider the financial effects of a divorce on your assets and your lifestyle. Can you afford your mortgage on your own? What about the car payment? Can you afford the daycare costs for your young children? Have you considered that your divorce may be longer, more complex, and more contentious than you expected? These are all very real concerns with which our clients often come to us.
To fund a divorce, it is not uncommon for most people to borrow money from family members, use credit cards, or incur some amount of debt.
6. BEING UNREASONABLE
Statistically, more than 90% of all divorce cases will settle without going to trial. In a divorce, especially where children and property are an issue, you can almost guarantee that any settlement will be unpleasant. The point of a settlement is that both spouses make concessions in an agreement with the other spouse which resolves the divorce. Settling out of court is not always the appropriate response to a contentious case, but in every case it wise to be practical and weigh the risks of putting your marital issues in front of a judge or jury and risk an unknown outcome.
7. BEING UNREALISTIC
Look at this imaginary couple:
“Dad has been married to Mom for 8 years. Dad makes $70,000 per year, smokes cigars, drinks socially, has never yelled or been abusive, had some weed brownies in Colorado once a year ago, is a good dad to their middle school kiddo, and splits house duties evenly. Mom makes $60,000 per year. Dad admitted to cheating on Mom a month ago, they can’t reconcile, so now a divorce is looming.”
If Mom comes out of the gate to a court asking for $3000 per month in spousal support, $3000 per month in child support, supervised visitation, no overnight visits, drug tests, a psychological exam, and to kick Dad out the home, her credibility with the Court will possibly be ruined beyond repair. Divorce is contentious and it’s perfectly normal to want to get the “upper hand” when your children and money are at issue. Put simply: you want to win, and that’s ok. In reality though, Texas judges see more divorce in any given year than you could imagine, and they can be especially astute when assessing the validity of a parties’ requests in a divorce. Being reasonable with your requests and attempting to remove the emotions from your decision making is difficult, but it is often in you and your children’s best interests to do so.
8. LOSING YOUR COOL
If you’ve ever played poker then you know the world class players all the way down to novices have a “tell”, and bluffing can sometimes mean the difference between a pay day and an early defeat. In court, the judge and jury are watching you and your behavior. Unfairly or not, your appearance and how you speak matters. Grimacing when being asked seemingly insulting questions, shaking your head when someone else is speaking, dressing inappropriately for court, being rude to attorneys or the other party, and being argumentative are ways to sink your case faster than the Titanic. Sometimes a case can swing for or against you just based on someone thinking “I don’t like that guy”. Look your best and put your best foot forward when dealing with the court and juries. You might be surprised how often just being polite can turn a rough situation to a favorable one.
Disclaimer: The legal information presented herein should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. General advice should always be tested by the particular facts and circumstances of each case. Legal advice is almost always case specific. Statues, ordinances, legal procedures, case law and rules of evidence are often revised.