Whether you or your spouse have filed for divorce, you’re contemplating a divorce, or you’re in the midst of a divorce now, there are some important things you need to know that could have serious consequences in your divorce case. Sometimes clients unknowingly say or do things that end up hurting their case. I’ll explain what a few of those are and how to avoid them.
Here are 5 things clients do to hurt their divorce cases:
Mistake #1: Not hiring an attorney
First and foremost, your divorce is not something you should attempt to do on your own – especially if your spouse has an attorney. But even if they don’t, you need competent legal representation for your divorce.
Like many other areas of law, the divorce process begins and emotions snowball, new information is brought to light, and what once seemed like an amicable split is now a tumultuous nightmare. That’s not always the case – but in my 35+ years of experience with divorce cases, almost without fail, at least one issue arises that complicates matters. And without a formal legal education and a practical working knowledge of the system, you may not know how to fully handle those issues.
If your rights aren’t adequately represented, this could cost you – not only dollars, but time, equity, support, possessions, relationships with children, and more.
So find an attorney who is experienced in divorce and family law to represent you in your divorce case. There’s a lot at stake here, so be selective.
Don’t think you can afford it? Read this post: How Can I Pay for a Divorce Lawyer?
Mistake #2: Sharing your life on social media
Your divorce is an emotionally charged, stressful time. Perhaps you feel betrayed and hurt, and so you feel compelled to share your feelings candidly on your social media venue of choice.
Or maybe you have already begun dating someone, and have posted some pictures online.
Both of these can be grave mistakes. Remember, once it gets on social media, it is out there for the world to see. The “world” certainly includes your ex…and potentially the court.
If pictures surface of you with a significant other, or out at the local bar, or whatever the case may be – this could affect the outcome of your divorce case. It also doesn’t help to post negative or bitter comments about your ex online. It certainly won’t make him or her want to cooperate with you.
Mistake #3: Waiving the attorney-client privilege
As mentioned above, we know this is an emotional time for you, but it is important to not let your emotions get the better of you. As a married couple who may have shared friends and family members for many years, you may feel the need for your side to be heard so that you may be vindicate, or to ease your anxiety about losing valuable relationships in your divorce.
As therapeutic as it may be for you to discuss your divorce with family and friends, resist the temptation to share any matter, details, strategy, etc. that you have discussed with your attorney. That includes your attorney’s opinions or projections as to the outcome of the case.
Do not forward emails from your attorney to anyone. Do not tell your spouse anything your attorney has said. What you have discussed with your attorney is privileged information. Only YOU have the power to waive that privilege by sharing information with others – and if you do, your case could suffer a devastating blow.
If you have any questions about what you can or cannot divulge, ask your divorce attorney.
Mistake #4: Listening to anyone but your lawyer
It’s always tempting to compare your divorce case with friends’ or acquaintances’ cases, but keep in mind that while situations may be similar, no two cases are exactly the same. So if your best friend Susie got $X in alimony from her husband who made $100,000 a year, and your husband makes even more, you’re sure to get more in alimony than Susie.
Unfortunately, not everything is so cut and dried in law. The court will consider many factors in making determinations for dividing property, assets, and liabilities; awarding alimony and child support; and so on. These factors are taken on a case by case basis. And the court is privy to things about Susie’s case that you may not know. So don’t rely on anything other than legal advice from the legal professional who’s been hired to represent you.
Mistake #5: Offering too much too soon
Many people begin the divorce process thinking it will be fairly amicable between them and their spouse, but as information surfaces and strategies come into play, it turns from “strictly business” to “now it’s personal”. Additionally, most couples think they can fast-track their divorce by settling matters themselves and then presenting their “plan” to their attorneys.
While things are still new and you’re splitting from your spouse, there may be a tendency to work things out early. You want the divorce to settle quickly, and you really don’t want to hurt them, so you agree to pay a certain amount, give over the house, or not ask for more than $X in support.
Resist this temptation, because a) you might be giving up something you’ll regret down the road, b) you never know what may unfold through the divorce process, and c) you should hear your attorney’s professional advice and recommendations first.