When you and your spouse were happily married, she was likely the person you told everything to; whether it was a rundown of your day, plans for your future, thoughts about current events, etc.
However, that dynamic must change after divorce papers are filed.
It is important to remember that you and your spouse are on opposite sides of a legal dispute, particularly if things are going amicably — it is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security only to have things take a turn somewhere down the road.
You need to be very careful about what you say and consider how it can be interpreted when you are talking with your spouse, as even a seemingly benign comment can be misconstrued and used against you later.
Additionally, you do not want to expose any aspect of your divorce strategy, since it would give your soon-to-be ex and her attorney an opportunity to prepare for and counter your plan of attack.
Your Miranda Warning
Anyone who has watched “Cops” knows at least the first portion of the Miranda Rights that are read to suspected criminals when they are arrested: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and may be used against you in the court of law.”
You should also take that warning to heart while ending your marriage.
Everything you say and do comes under the microscope during divorce, and even the slightest slipup can damage a variety of aspects in your case. It is also entirely possible for something you say to be taken out of context or exaggerated to your detriment.
For example, perhaps you and your spouse are having an argument and you say something along the lines of, “I can’t wait until you are gone for good.”
While you may have been referring to simply being done with the divorce and moving on, she may go to the police claiming you threatened her and that she is now afraid for her life.
It may seem like a bit of a jump to reach that conclusion, but the loose evidentiary requirements necessary for a temporary protection order mean that you will probably be kicked out of your home until a hearing is scheduled.
Even if the protection order is eventually dismissed, the damage done by a few weeks of being forced out of the marital residence can be severe — both financially and when it comes to gaining custody of your children.
Avoid supplying ammunition
Problems can also arise from seemingly minor comments, both during a contentious or amicable divorce.
Say you and your spouse are having a fairly smooth divorce and are still on friendly enough terms to have dinner together or grab coffee every once in a while.
During one of these chats toward the end of your case, you mention that a lucrative business deal will be happening soon, which is why you weren’t very concerned about fighting over assets.
(Or in perhaps a more common scenario, you accidently drop this information during an argument in an attempt to make a point).
Armed with this knowledge, your spouse mentions to her attorney that you will soon be coming into a significant amount of money, which may result in stall tactics to drag out the divorce for a shot at a chunk of the money or the need to completely revisit your property settlement.
Obviously, you would think of it as a simple tidbit of news your soon-to-be ex would find interesting or a tool to get the upper hand during a fight; however, she could easily see it as a way to extract more from the settlement.
Even talk about upcoming vacations or plans to purchase vehicles / property can backfire, as it might be used against you to demonstrate expendable income that could instead go toward higher support payments or a smaller property award.
Keep divorce strategy secret
While it is unlikely that you would reveal your entire plan of attack for the divorce to your spouse, it is distinctly possible that little bits and pieces of your courtroom or negotiation strategy might slip out.
For obvious reasons, this is something you want to minimize, if not avoid altogether.
If a big part of your plan to gain primary custody is to demonstrate that your spouse drinks too much, don’t give her advanced warning by saying, “Just wait until the judge hears about how many bottles of wine you go through every night.”
With potentially months until your hearing, she now has plenty of time to clean up her act, join and complete a rehab program, find character witnesses, dig up evidence of you partying, etc.
Even that simple offhand comment has the potential to completely ruin your side of the case, turning what could have been a homerun into a can of corn.
As a good rule of thumb for communicating with your spouse during divorce, you should be mindful of what you say and how it can be interpreted, keep your cards close to your vest in terms of divorce strategy and only talk about case-specific matters.
Divorce is not a game, and you need to be careful about what you reveal once papers are filed. While talking about work or having heated arguments may have been the norm during marriage, everything is put under a microscope once a divorce is underway.
To avoid potentially damaging your case, it is best to keep things professional and be careful about what you say to your spouse.
Remember, everything you say can and will be used against you in the court of divorce.
Mat Camp is a former Lexicon Services Online Editor, who focused on providing a comprehensive look into all aspects of the divorce experience. On MensDivorce.com, he concentrated on issues, such as parenting time, custodial rights, mediation, the division of assets, and so much more.
Mr. Camp used the wealth of experience of Cordell & Cordell attorneys to bring tangible answers to reader questions in Ask a Lawyer articles, as well as offer a step by step process through the divorce experience with Cordell & Cordell Co-Founder and Principal Partner Joseph E. Cordell in Divorce 101: A Guide for Men.
Mr. Camp used thorough research to highlight the challenging reality that those who go through divorce or child custody issues face. He helped foster the continued success of the Men’s Divorce Survival Guide, the Men’s Divorce Podcast, and the Men’s Divorce YouTube series “Attorney Bites.”