I have been doing this for twenty-one years. In that time, in Lexington, Central Kentucky and all around the state, I have handled countless divorce matters. As an attorney that handles divorces, I see things that fall into patterns. These can be things clients do well to help themselves or, more unfortunately, common mistakes that clients make. Here in Lexington, Kentucky today, we have cold and dreary weather, so I am choosing to focus on the negative. I will write a blog in the future about the more positive aspect of what clients do well. However, today is a list of ten mistakes to avoid in your divorce. Everybody loves lists, so hop on in and let's go. These are in no particular order. Also, each of these could be their own blog post with a detailed analysis involved. I am providing some highlights to give you an idea as to why these are costly mistakes.
1. VENTING AND FIGHTING ON SOCIAL MEDIA. As human beings, we are prideful. There is a certain love for the "Take that!" or "Gotcha!" moment. Nowhere is this more prevalent than on social media. I scour both my client's and the opposition's social media accounts to see what is on there. You better believe that I will use anything that is helpful. "Winning" on social media often means "losing" in court. Don't post about your soon-to-be ex, the proceedings or anything negative or defamatory online. That moment of joy will be replaced by a much longer period of regret.
As an aside, and in the same ballpark, don't post anything stupid on social media. What do I mean by this? Pictures of you drunk, partying with friends, smoking pot, doing drugs, engaged in sexual activities with another person, engaged in risky behavior...I have seen all of this be used to destroy people in divorce proceedings. I have used it. There is nothing unethical about it. If you are so darned determined to show your ex how great life is without him/her, go for it. You will surely regret it.
2. NOT HIRING AN ATTORNEY. This should be #1, but #1 above has become such an issue, that I had to list it first. Seriously, you would not conduct surgery on yourself. Well, this is a surgery of your life, your time with your kids, your assets, your debts. Attorneys are expensive, absolutely. They also possess the surgical knowledge to get you through this procedure with as little scarring as possible, if you let them. Not only that, but there are so many rules of procedure and practice that you must conform with or you risk damaging your case.
3. LISTENING TO FRIENDS/FAMILY/THE INTERNET TOO MUCH. Look, I am just as guilty as everyone else. I have diagnosed myself on WebMD. So, with that being said, let me be hypocritical here. Friends and family are going to want to help and support you. They will either give you advice or tell you stories about their neighbor's cousin's dogwalker who got 100% of the assets, none of the debt and the other spouse has to pay them $100,000.00 a day as a penalty for their poor marital behavior. While they are coming from a place of support, love and kindness, this advice is coming from a place that does not take into consideration case law, statutory law, procedural rules, judicial tendencies or any of the other factors that make up the legal system. Take all of this advice and these stories with a grain of salt, while also thanking them for their love and support.
The internet is a different beast. It can be a very helpful tool. However, do not rely on it exclusively. This ties into the need for an attorney. You see, divorce, custody, child support laws vary from state to state. You could be reading something that is true for one state, but not Kentucky. Also, I don't know if you know this or not, but people posting their own stories on the internet will often embellish or flat-out lie. I am sure you are shocked at this revelation.
4. GETTING INTO ANOTHER RELATIONSHIP. This applies while the divorce action is pending. You already have enough to deal with in going through a divorce, an additional relationship will just be more stress than it is worth. A divorce is stressful as it is. Adding another person putting pressure on you to "get it done" or interjecting themselves in the proceedings is a nightmare. Not to mention that if you have kids, they will probably not be allowed to be around them for some time. Even if they are a great person, it can be confusing or upsetting to your kids to see mommy or daddy have their new relationship involved in their lives while they are divorcing their other parent.
5. TRASHING YOUR EX TO THE KIDS. Just. Don't. Do. It. Ever. While your ex may be an unfaithful dirt-bag who is the physical manifestation of pure evil and absolute idiocy while also as vile as Satan's infected toenail (your words, not mine), they are also your child's other parent. Trashing your ex to your child will do nothing for you or against your ex. All it will do is traumatize your child. This is their mom/dad you are trashing. This is not to say that if there are issues like physical abuse or addiction you don't do everything to keep your child safe as those are serious concerns. It is to say that you have to rise above your baser instincts and be the example your child needs. I guarantee that if you do the right thing here, the example of class, dignity, strength and compassion you demonstrate will have a profound effect on your kid. They may not say it but they notice everything and everything registers with them. You can shape their future relationships by what you do here. They will thank you.
6. DOING ANYTHING SHADY OR DUPLICITOUS. The other side will find out. You hide assets? There is a discovery process that is broad and permissive. They will be found. Once you lose credibility in front of the court, it is gone for good.
7. LETTING EMOTION RULE THE DAY. When dealing with your ex, it is time to stop trying to "win the relationship" or "win the breakup." You can be assertive without being emotional. You can be strong without being nasty. There will be times you want to absolutely explode. Save those for when you can vent to friends or family (again, not the kids). Never give your power away to your ex. That is all fighting will do. Never lose your cool in court. Presentation counts. You can have the absolute truth on your side, but if you come across as vengeful or emotionally unstable, you risk losing the key audience, the judge.
8. NOT STAYING ON TOP OF YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES. This is simple. There will be a discovery process where you have to gather and provide documentation and information to your attorney. There are deadlines to these. You must remain vigilant and proactive throughout your divorce case to stay in communication with your attorney and respond to what they request. Of course, I believe you have every right to ask "Why?" and it will be explained. The usual answer is that it is part of the normal discovery process and that allows for a very broad inspection into a wide variety of things.
9. NOT FOLLOWING COURT ORDERS. You may disagree with something the court has ordered. Even if you do, you must follow any orders of the court. I have seen too many people cause themselves too much stress and headache because they wanted to fight against an order or felt they didn't need to follow it. Big mistake. There is a process to either move to modify orders or appeal them. By unilaterally choosing to not follow them, all you do is set yourself up for possible contempt of court problems.
10. NOT UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN "WIN/LOSE" AND "MAXIMIZATION." As a society, we are trained to see things as binary. Did you do a good job or a bad job? Did you win or lose? There is no such thing as "winning" or "losing" in a divorce case. The people who get tied up in that are stuck ignoring #7 above. Divorces involve SPLITTING assets and time with your kids. How is that ever going to be a win? Look at it this way, if I told you today that you will have less money tomorrow and less time with your kids, would you be happy? Of course not. However, that is what happens in nearly every single divorce case. It is all a loss if we look at it as "win/lose."
This is why the binary analysis is so wrong. You may get what you are asking for at a motion hour or at trial. However, this is not a "win." What you have done is "maximized" your potential outcome. This is how to see a divorce. The goal is to maximize the amount of time with your kids, maximize your money, minimize your debts. If you tie it to "win/lose," you will likely ignore the rest of the advice in this blog post. Winning or losing ties too much into emotion. Maximization is the practical analysis for a successful strategy and case management.
I hope this has helped. There are certainly more than ten. Call me if you need an attorney and I will help you get past them all. Have a great day.