The biggest mistake men can make through the divorce process is losing their temper, especially if it is in writing. It is extremely important that men do not put anything in writing that they would not want a judge to read.
Everyone should assume that anything they email or text is going to be used in court. Make sure that whatever you say to your spouse is kind and shows the court that you can work with your spouse to co-parent your kids. This is particularly important if you live in a fault state, as you do not want to give the court any reason to give you less property than you are otherwise entitled to.
Don’t get drawn into a situation where you end up in a heated verbal argument, e-mail/text message exchange or possible physical altercation with your spouse. More and more I am seeing situations where guys get involved in these sorts of things, and then these actions are used against them throughout the divorce process.
This is primarily an issue in cases with children. If there is any evidence of anything that could possibly meet the definition of abuse — whether it be physical, verbal or emotional — it could have a significant impact on the out come of custody and placement issues.
If my clients are concerned an accusation might be made, I recommend having a third party (not the children) with them any time they would otherwise be alone with their spouse. For example, if you’re going to the marital residence to pick up personal property, have a third party with you.
If you want to sit down with your spouse and talk about possible settlements, have that discussion in a public location such as a restaurant or coffee shop. I recommend keeping correspondence in writing as much as possible and keeping all correspondence free of insults and profanity.
The worst mistake guys can make is to see hiring a lawyer as a worst-case scenario. We are here to protect our clients and assist them in achieving their objectives.
Many guys try to work things out on their own, and some even sign binding legal documents before coming to an attorney. The trouble with this scenario is that clients often over-commit or reveal confidential information that later makes negotiations problematic because the attorney is not able to unring the bell.
It is important that guys do not give up bargaining chips by negotiating things piecemeal before a global settlement can be reached. A lawyer’s goal is to save you time and money while protecting your rights, and it is not in your best interests to avoid seeing an advocate (the attorney) and trying to negotiate with an adversary (your wife or her attorney).
Sharing too much with his wife /coming to agreements without first discussing with counsel
Many times in divorce, a guy will want to “keep the peace” with his wife and will accidentally share too much information or reach an agreement without first discussing with his counsel. While the heart may be in the right place, the ramifications in the divorce can be damaging.
What a guy needs to do is try to keep the peace without disclosing conversations and strategy discussed with his counsel. Only an attorney knows what is reasonable under the law, and there could be some missing terms which would offer the guy important protections.
Not disclosing everything to his attorney
Oftentimes, guys do not disclose things to their counsel due to embarrassment or the belief they can get away with something. Nothing could be less true, and the damage here is often irreversible. A guy must disclose everything to his attorney.
If the opposing counsel knows something your attorney does not and it comes out in court, there is nothing your attorney can do to protect you. Even with “bad” information or facts, attorneys are skilled in how to present or spin the information to the court and can only properly do damage control if they know the information ahead of time.
Not disclosing information to the other side in discovery
In divorce matters, the scope of discoverable information (information the other side may request and lawfully obtain) is very broad. Time, money and potential sanctions imposed by the court may be spared if discovery is met with full cooperation.
Discovery requests are fairly easy to enforce by the court, and a continued failure to comply can result in sanctions that range from monetary to the exclusion of evidence in the case.
Men should avoid making unrealistic promises to the other party in hopes of reconciliation. Although you may hold onto the hope that things will work out, it is important to remain cognizant of the fact that you are at a point in your relationship where a separation could lead to divorce.
You do not want to put yourself in a bad position by giving up everything to salvage nothing. Do your best to remain level headed. Keep in mind what is feasible and remember that you have to be able to afford to live, too!
Talking too much and ignoring what is important. Be a total Boy Scout through this process. Don’t complain about your wife to your neighbors, your children’s teachers, coaches, etc.
Continue to be the great father you’ve been before the divorce started and try not to let it outwardly show. Appear and be involved at your children’s events. Show everyone (because they could be potential witnesses) that you have your priorities straight and are focusing on what is important, your children.
Many men make the mistake of speaking about the case too extensively with his spouse or partner. While reaching agreements is always a great way to resolve the issues, if certain expectations are set, it is extremely difficult for the attorney involved in the case to negotiate away from that anticipated agreement.
Some men, prior to consulting with an attorney, have lower expectations starting out than what the statutes or case law will allow. Unfortunately, if a client has already started making promises or concessions regarding things like spousal support or custody, the opposing party often will hold fast in her belief that those issues are resolved. The best option is to allow the negotiations to take place through communication via counsel to ensure that the bar isn’t set too low going into a potential settlement.
Another issue that I see arise frequently in highly contested cases involves false or inflated allegations of bad behavior. In the context of a divorce case, both sides can become heated and act in ways he or she might not normally act under normal circumstances.
As a preventative measure, I advise my client to be wary of spending alone time with his spouse while the case is pending. Be sure to communicate in a documentable way (i.e. texting or email), and make sure those communications are civil and professional. If an allegation of misconduct is made, providing your attorney with as much concrete evidence to combat a false or inflated allegation can be extremely important.