I’ve been a family law and divorce attorney for many years. However, it never ceases to amaze me what people do during their divorce cases that makes me scratch my head in disbelief. As litigants, we want to win the battle of imagery, as well as the battle of facts in front of a divorce judge. So consequently, you want to show up ready for court with clean hands, but also with a clean history.
Consequently, the following is a short list of things you should never do if you want to have a successful result in your Florida divorce or family law case:
1. Never hide facts from your attorney. Good or bad, attorneys can prepare for and deal with the facts in the courtroom. However, they can only do so if they know about the facts. Surprise is never a good thing in the middle of a divorce trial. Drug use, hidden assets, and/or destruction of marital assets can destroy your credibility with the judge and negatively impact the results of your divorce case, if your attorney isn’t prepared to deal with them in advance. Keeping secrets can only hurt you in your divorce case;
2. Don’t get pregnant. Getting someone pregnant or becoming pregnant during divorce is never wise. It complicates a lot of your issues. It could even hinder the outcome in your divorce. The court may become more interested in who’s the father of your child and who’s going to pay child support for that baby instead concentrating on how much alimony you should be receiving or paying. Pregnancy can stall a divorce while the court waits to find out the identity of the father. Do you want to wait months only to provide proof of your infidelity? Just don’t do it.
3. Don’t bring your new boyfriend/girlfriend around the children prior to the divorce being final. Failure to follow this advice is sure to cause the wrath of your spouse. Even in no fault states, it can cause a judge to raise an eyebrow. If you don’t think you can control yourself regarding this issue, just don’t date while you’re getting a divorce.
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4. Don’t bring your new boyfriend or girlfriend to court. Unless there’s some compelling reason for doing so, don’t do it. It only will polarize your soon to be ex-spouse. It also provides the perfect opportunity for the new lover to be placed on the witness stand and for the judge to view it as an attempt by you to exacerbate the emotional turmoil of a case. Having a judge think that you are an instigator is never a good thing.
5. Don’t post stupid comments on Facebook or any other social media site. Nothing is private anymore on the internet. The first place that attorneys go to to find evidence in a divorce case is generally social media. Better yet, don’t post anything on social media during a divorce case. That way, it can’t come back to haunt you later. This means Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever else is involved. I know it’s tempting to rant and rave and post pictures with a click of a button. Don’t do it. Posts on social media can and will be used as evidence against you.
6. Don’t show anger in front of the judge, the clerk of court, the bailiff, your spouse, or your children. Hold your emotions in. I understand it is a very difficult time emotionally for you. However, if you show anger at the wrong time in front of the wrong person, then you will only cause the impression to occur that you are irrational or have an anger management problem. That could be disastrous for you in terms of the judge assessing your credibility as well as the judge assessing issues for timesharing (custody/visitation) of your children.
7. Don’t increase your debt. Everyone understands that divorce is expensive. You will need to pay your attorney and you will need money to set up a new household. It will be difficult to make ends meet. Consequently, you should get used to having less now. While it may be stressful, the freedom you will enjoy down the line will be well worth the struggle. Don’t wait until after the holidays. You already know that the holidays are going to be difficult. So why wait. Divorce lawyers often see an increase in clients before, during, and after Christmas. It’s also easy to get used to an empty home before the holidays. If you wait and keep fighting and being miserable through the holiday season, you may destroy any chances for an amicable divorce and wind up fighting out your differences in expensive litigation.
8. Don’t refuse to see a therapist. By now everyone has heard about the five stages of grieving. Not everyone can progress through the five stages of grieving at the same pace. Often, an individual in an acrimonious divorce can get stuck in the anger stage. Obtaining the help of a therapist to get you through the all range of emotions that you will experience when dealing with the divorce is a good idea to get help before you become extremely depressed or angry.
Therapists can help you process your emotions and also they will provide you some suggestions as to how to communicate better with your spouse, your children, and how to be the best parent you can be to your children during this very difficult time in your life and their lives.
9. Don’t use drugs or excessive alcohol. Also, do not associate yourself with people who use illegal drugs or drink alcohol excessively. The use of illegal drugs and the evidence of such use can be used against you in a child timesharing (custody/visitation) dispute. In addition, the judge may take it as an indication that you’re unable to appropriately control yourself.
10. Do not leave nasty voice mail messages to your spouse. Do not send nasty text messages, emails, or leave nasty phone messages. All of these will appear as evidence in court at the worst possible time. Even if you receive such a nasty communication from your spouse, don’t respond to it. Whenever you write a text, email, or post to your spouse think of it being read by a judge some months in the future. Better yet don’t post it so you don’t even have to ask that question of yourself.
11. Do not listen to your friends, your neighbor, your relatives, your hair stylist, and etc. Every divorce is different and every divorce has different facts and different participants. Consequently, whatever happened in one case most certainly will not happen in your case.
Consequently, listen to your attorney and follow his or her advice. Do not fail to keep your attorney informed of where you are. I am constantly amazed by the attorneys who appear in court and say they don’t know where their client currently is located and have lost track of them. In the same fashion, it doesn’t look good for the court. Your attorney is your agent in court.
Consequently, he or she will know when important hearings have been scheduled and you have to appear in court. By keeping your address current with them, you will be assured that you will know everything that’s going on in court long before it happens. You are paying an attorney to watch out for your best interest.
Either trust your attorney or find an attorney that you can trust. Fail to remember that divorce court is a court of equity. If you want the court to “do right by you,” then you had better do right yourself. People can’t claim to be a victim of wrongdoing by their spouse if they’re also guilty of wrongdoing themselves.
12. Do not dispose of assets you know your spouse is going to request. Don’t sell your husband’s great-grandfather’s tool kit that your husband has always loved probably more than you. It makes you look bad to the court and the judge and may impact negatively on the results that you receive from the judge.
13. Don’t make comments to your children or in front of your children about your spouse. Children do not need to be in the middle of your and your spouse’s disputes. They do not need to know that your spouse cheated on you or that your spouse is a bad person or any of the negative things that your spouse may or may not be guilty of. Leave the kids out of it. All they want to do is be loved.
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14. Do not display a “you owe me” type attitude. Maybe your spouse is a bad person. Maybe your spouse does owe you an apology. Maybe your spouse does owe you alimony or a greater portion or percentage of the marital assets. However, the more you claim your spouse owes you, the more your spouse will conjure up allegations and recollections of all the things he or she has done for you or other things that you owe your spouse.
15. Do not make extra judicial modifications to any court order. Always beware of when your spouse says, “ah don’t worry about the child support. I’ll be living with my mother for the next three months we don’t need it.” Unless an agreement is reduced to writing and a judge enters it in as an order in your divorce case, you are not relieved of complying with the previous order of the court (no matter what your spouse or former spouse says). If your spouse gets angry at you in the future, they are likely to change their mind about the agreement or not recall it correctly. Then if you don’t have it in writing in an order modifying the original judgment, you may find yourself in financial or other forms of trouble.
16. Don’t be your own lawyer. Yes I understand that you know everything. What you don’t know, you may be able to find on the internet. You figure you’ll save a few bucks. Unfortunately, the reality is that in the long run you won’t save any money. You will likely end up back in court if you draft your own pleadings and draft your own parenting plan/timesharing (visitation/custody) agreement. Frankly, the money you’ll end up spending to modify your parenting plan/timesharing (visitation/custody) agreement or to correct the mistakes that were made in your agreement will outweigh the amount that you would have spent to get it done correctly in the first place.
I’m sure that you will recognize many of the above “dont’s”. If you have a friend or a relative who’s getting divorced or planning on getting divorced, you may want to share this list with them. Being forewarned is being forearmed against danger. Sometimes, we are more danger to ourselves than we are to anyone else.
Board Certified Marital and Family Law Attorney Charles D. Jamieson understands that divorce is an extremely sensitive and important issue. Thanks to extensive experience and a focus on open communication, Attorney Jamieson adeptly addresses the complex issues surrounding divorce while delivering excellent personal service. To discuss financial issues related to divorce, please contact The Law Firm of Charles D. Jamieson, P.A. online or call 561-478-0312.