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In the messiest California divorce cases, parties care about nothing more than exacting revenge on an ex-spouse. Revenge may come in the form of the squandering of marital assets, the airing of dirty laundry, or emotional/physical abuse. Regardless of who is to blame for the breakdown of the marriage, and despite which spouse is “winning” in the courtroom, a party damages his/her own cases with reckless or ignorant behavior. Nothing makes a judge breath easy like a spouse who shows up to court on time, prepared, and squeaky clean. For that reason, here are some things you should not do if you care about the outcome of your divorce case.
Failing to disclose important information to your divorce lawyer can damage your case. Every divorce case is different, so when you consider whether you should tell your divorce lawyer everything, the answer is yes. Total and prompt disclosure will maximize the effectiveness of your lawyer’s representation and boost your chances of success. Ask your attorney what he/she needs to know.
2. Do not send nasty messages.
If your ex-spouse provokes you into wanting to call them a worthless piece of *%!@, you can count on reliving that moment in court. Don’t shout, text, email, or type anything that you wouldn’t want read aloud in court.
3. Do not increase your debt.
Divorce is a time to tighten the purse strings. Your financial situation is about to vastly change. In addition to legal fees, you will need funds to set up a new household and make ends meet after the divorce. You cannot predict what the judge will order and he/she might decide not to award child support or alimony.
4. Do not make large purchases.
You might want to “celebrate” your new freedom by dropping thousands of dollars on a new car. Or maybe you want to take final advantage of the checking account you share with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse by spending collective money on a brand new wardrobe. Your impulse buy could cause major problems when it comes to the division of assets. You will also have a harer time arguing that you are entitled to financial support if you recently financed a new car, house, motorcycle, or boat.
5. Do not stay silent.
Protect your interests. Alert your divorce attorney ASAP if your ex-spouse is cancelling credit cards or withdrawing funds from joint bank accounts. You should also tell your attorney if your ex-spouse is doing anything illegal or uncivil.
6. Do not neglect to keep your lawyer apprised of your whereabouts.
You could be in for a few surprises if you go M.I.A. on your attorney.
7. Do not try to be your own divorce lawyer.
No one knows more about your marriage and your case than you, right? And you might save some money in the process. Wrong! Divorce is a complicated, emotional process and you need someone to expertly navigate the turbulent waters ahead. You might think you know everything, but remember that you are immersed in a life-changing experience that consumes you with emotional and financial strain. You are likely not equipped to develop the best strategy for your case. Even if you happen to be an experienced divorce attorney, you should allow someone else to fill the role.
8. Do not speak badly of your ex-spouse on social media, before or after your divorce.
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are not the place to vent about your divorce. Nothing on the internet is private. If the whole world can see it, chances are that the judge will as well. Anyone can forward a screenshot nowadays. Phone a friend or family member instead. While your divorce might not be a private matter for you, it may be for your spouse and/or children.
9. Do not have unrealistic expectations.
You probably want to keep the house and the cars and the cats and the credit cards. Unfortunately, the reality of divorce means you will have to start supporting two households with the same income. If you are the lower-earning spouse, do not expect to live comfortably on nothing but weekly alimony checks. If you are the higher-earning spouse, prepare for the possibility of long-term financial support obligations.
10. Do not try to hide assets.
Hiding money or property in a California divorce from your spouse is always a bad idea. Make sure you’re disclosing all assets. This includes any sort of benefit you are receiving, and any accounts on which your name appears (even stale, unused accounts you once shared with your mom). You will face serious legal consequences if you are caught being deceptive.
11. Do not fib on your financial statement.
In disclosing all assets, it’s hard to resist the temptation to bend the truth a little to keep some for yourself, especially when you know you deserve them more. You have to be strong! Do not try to undervalue marital property, report a diminished income, or exaggerate your debt. Your case will suffer if you deviate from the right side of the law.
12. Do not deposit money into a joint bank account.
Open an independent bank account once you file for divorce. Once you legally separate, everything you earn is separate property. Stop adding to the communal pot and begin establishing yourself as a single person.
13. Do not forget to change your will.
Update your last will and testament to represent your post-divorce intentions. If you want to prevent your ex-spouse from inheriting from your estate, you need to make the necessary changes to your will.
14. Do not withhold child support or visitation in a California divorce.
The judge can send you to jail for contempt!
15. Do not let your emotions cloud your judgment.
Divorce can be a heartbreaking and infuriating process. You will worry about your children, about the future, about making ends meet, and about whether you’ll be able to pick up the pieces. At times, you will be livid, or miserable, or discouraged. Either you’ll be tempted to act irrationally or to throw in the towel. Instead, work through your emotions and refuse to surrender to negative or unhealthy behavior. Deal with your hurt in a constructive way. It will seem impossible at times, but keep calm, cool, and collected. Don’t let your emotions dictate the outcome of your divorce.
16. Do not do anything spiteful.
Despite how often you fantasize about throwing your ex-spouse’s clothes out of the ninth floor window, or keying your name into his prized sports car, these types of acts will not do you any favors in court.
17. Do not argue over things you don’t care about.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. You might want to take your ex-spouse for all he/she is worth, but nothing good will come of fighting over every tiny, insignificant, material thing. Focus on what matters and let go of the DVD collection.
18. Do not use your children.
Don’t drag your children into their parents’ fight and divorce. Divorce affects them enough as it is. Continue to support and love them without pushing them to choose sides.