As a family law attorney who handles divorce cases regularly, I’ve seen some pretty foolish things done by my clients, and by their spouses, during the proceedings. I could fill a book about what not to do while your divorce is pending, but I’ll give you 5 big no-nos, in no particular order, that cause serious problems.
Also, please understand that these little tips are gender neutral. If I use one gender or another in any example, it applies equally to the opposite gender.
1. Posting to Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter, etc.: In case you were unaware, other people can read those things you post on the internet. Despite the fact that a stream-of-consciousness rant regarding your no-good low-down soon-to-be ex would be cathartic, it might, and probably will, be used against you. You see, us lawyer types have heard of this interweb thing, too, and we all of us delight in finding that unfortunate picture, that foul-mouthed comment, or that damning status update that shows the other side to be unfaithful/dishonest/completely crazy.
So think long and hard about updating your status at the strip club, or posting that picture of you with your friends holding the meth pipe. (I’ve been involved in cases with both) And think again. And then don’t post any of that. Trying to explain our client out of some ill-conceived post gives us heartburn. And raises your fees. Please note that this also goes for those 800+ “friends” of yours and the comments they make on your pages, also. Your lawyer doesn’t want to be at your deposition and have to try to fix your testimony about what “hell” you planned to give the opposing counsel like your cousin stated on your Facebook page.
This includes angry/cursing/ridiculous texts. It’s difficult for your attorney to make you out as the caring, rational, caring, intelligent individual that you are when the court has heard testimony regarding the profanity-laced tirades you send daily to your child’s father/mother. Those things are discoverable during the divorce suit, and they will be used against you. They go hand-in-hand with Number 1 above, and can have a damning effect on your case.
And texting your baby daddy that you’ll never let him see his kid again, so long as he’s with her, makes you look like a jealous girlfriend instead of a caring parent. Which you are.
2. Getting pregnant during your divorce: Contrary to my disclaimer above, this one’s for the ladies. You’d think this would be a no-brainer. But attorneys have to deal with this embarrassment all the time. In many jurisdictions, the child is presumed to be the husband’s. So it creates the necessity of a DNA test, and the uncomfortable situation where either (a) the judge questions whether you really want a divorce and keeps your case hanging around on that judge’s docket for at least another year, or (b) there is now some possible evidence of infidelity on the wife’s part. We don’t want to have to charge you more money because you guys are jumping in and out of bed together.
I know of a case where a couple had two of their five kids during the pendency of their divorce. And after the wife swore the first was not the husband’s, DNA said it was. When the second pregnancy came about, she swore it was the husband’s. It was not. And neither husband nor wife told their respective attorneys about these kids until after the kids were born and the parties were gathered at another hearing in front of the judge on unrelated matters. Seriously.
3. Using your children as weapons: Ladies and gentlemen, if you’ve seen some of my other posts, you know this is a big issue for me. Do not, under any circumstances, try to use your kids to get back at your ex. That includes refusing to agree to reasonable visitation because it would be a time when the kids might see the new significant other, promising cash/gifts/anything to the kids if they choose to live with you/visit you more often, calling CPS over non-existent injuries, etc. There are a million ways people use the kids to hurt the ex, and they are all shameful.
Show the love you have for your kids by treating them with the love they deserve.
4. Acting single: Infidelity is ground for finding fault in the breakup of the marriage in Texas. In short, it gives the judge grounds for granting the other party more of the property in the final judgment. And recovering from a video or collection of photos of you with a person not your spouse is difficult to do. Don’t give away what favorable position in the case you might have for a little fun.
5. Blowing/Hiding money: Don’t go buy a new ‘Vette or try to funnel your retirement to Costa Rica. We’ll find the money, you’ll lose the ‘Vette (or something else of equal value) to your ex, and the judge might get mad. Many jurisdictions have standing orders, orders that apply across the board from the moment a divorce case is filed. Those orders usually severely limit the ways you can access and/or spend money during the pendency of the divorce case.
And along with that, don’t Google things like, “How to hide money in Argentina” or anything like that. We’ll find it, and then the judge won’t let you spend a dime without the court’s approval.
6. Lying to your lawyer: Seriously. I know I said five, but this one goes without saying. And this includes errors of omission. Tell us everything. That Attorney-Client Privilege thing is real, and almost impossible to break. Because if we walk into a hearing, and have to get surprised with the info that you did 10 years probation for attempting to murder your first wife, we will not be happy that we heard that from the opposing counsel instead of you.
If your second wife’s wedding ring isn’t really a diamond like you told her, don’t offer it up as part of a settlement with your first wife. And definitely don’t continue to pretend it’s the real deal when they demand an appraisal. You’ll only give your new wife grounds for divorce, your old wife proof you are a jerk, and give your attorney a reason to grab the Maalox. And fire you as a client.