Going through a divorce can be one of the most difficult things a person does. It is mentally and emotionally exhausting. Your life is being changed completely and in every way. Divorce is hard because it touches on every aspect of life. There’s quite a bit to learn before you go through the process.
1. Get Your Information Together
My first bit of advice is to get your information together (Tax returns, an inventory of property, bank statements, paystubs, pictures, texts, emails, social media account printouts, etc.). All of these things may become difficult and costly (i.e. attorney’s fees) to obtain once a divorce has been filed.
Some divorcing spouses will try to hide or destroy key documents pertaining to the case. This problem can be avoided by making copies of important documents as soon as you decide to file for divorce, or learn that your spouse is doing so. Try to round up as much of this information as possible beforehand to give your attorney a clear picture of your case. Remember, knowledge is power.
2. Divorce is a Marathon Rather Than Sprint - Don’t Make Hasty Decisions
In a divorce you will be making life altering decisions at every level. Your children, your finances, your personal relationships. It is an uncomfortable and unpleasant process, and the desire to “just want it over with” will be strong.
Changing the decisions made during a divorce will be costly and may not be possible in some circumstances. Make sure to think everything through before making decisions. Don’t let the temporary unpleasantness of divorce influence permanent decisions.
3. Define Your Goals Up Front
Defining your goals at the start of the case is key. Forget about beating or punishing the other side. What do YOU want out of the divorce? Think about all the issues. What is best for your children? What do you need financially to move on? Do you need to keep the house? Do you need to exclude your spouse from your business?
Knowing your goals and defining them with your attorney up front will help you develop strategies to accomplish those goals. Being proactive is always better than reacting to whatever the other side throws at you. Additionally, knowing your goals up front may help you avoid litigation costs chasing down every possible outcome or resolution.
4. Your Finances Will Be Restricted
Often times, Courts will issue orders “freezing” accounts or preventing parties from making major purchases or sales. The Court doesn’t want a party racking up credit card debt or selling the family home out from under the other spouse. These orders are legally binding upon the parties and carry stiff penalties if they are violated.
DO NOT hide assets or attempt to fraudulently transfer property to keep it from your spouse. These types of transactions will also typically be undone by the court and penalties can be applied for such behavior.
DO NOT use the divorce as an excuse to splurge on a big luxury purchase. Sure, you might deserve it, but wait until afterwards if it isn’t necessary. Usually, any financial difficulties will be exacerbated by divorce and not fixed by it.
5. Think About Your Children
Divorce is difficult enough when no children are involved. Thinking about how the divorce process impacts your children is important. Fighting in front of your kids or saying nasty things about your spouse can have a lasting effect. Keep in mind, that no good so-and-so you’re divorcing is still your kid’s hero.
6. Sex, Drugs and Social Media
Did you know that Courts can and will order drug tests at court? When I say “at court” I mean, right there at the courthouse. There are mobile drug testing units onsite at most larger jurisdictions who can be called in for a quick hair follicle test or urinalysis. This can be an unpleasant surprise or a powerful tactic depending on your predilections.
Also your social media account can and will be used against you if possible. It is public and often times easily accessed by the other side. Don’t put anything on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter you don’t want read in open court, because it will be read in open court.
Often times divorce cases can drag on for longer than the parties have patience to endure. Do not engage in any new relationships while you are going through a divorce. There will be a time and a place to move on to a new relationship, but a new relationship during a divorce can added stress to an already stressful situation. It should be avoided.
7. Do Your Homework
Many people will be giving you advice during your divorce process. This advice will come from the people you trust most and often times from individuals who have gone through this process previously. The internet is another excellent resource for information. Often times, doing your homework can help you better understand the plan outlined by your attorney.
However, free advice is worth every penny you paid for it. Keep in mind that your attorney is a paid professional whose sole job is to navigate the judicial system on your behalf. There is a reason you chose him or her to represent you rather than your friend or family member. Also know that each case is as different as the individuals involved. I always recommend my client’s (or anyone involved in a lawsuit) ask questions and do research, but trusting your attorney’s judgment is essential to staying on track and achieving your goals.
8. Court is Not All That It’s Cracked Up to Be
Everyone loves a courtroom drama… unless you’re one of the parties. I LOVE court. I became a lawyer to go to court, and it is still my favorite thing about being an attorney. However, when it comes to key issues in your life being determined by strangers, the thrill of court can be overrated. The court will apply Texas law to the facts of your case. Texas law is a once size fits all type proposition. This means that it doesn’t necessarily fit anyone perfectly.
Other avenues will allow the parties quite a bit more flexibility to tailor-make a solution to their issues. One method is “mediation” in which a neutral third party facilitates negotiations between divorcing spouses and helps them work out mutual agreements. This way you can work something out that you would never get in court.
9. Be Honest
Your attorney is your advocate and knowledge is power. Keeping your attorney in the dark means your advocate is powerless.
Often times, people won’t disclose facts that cast them in a negative light because they are embarrassed or worried about judgement. However, the things that cast you in a negative light are exactly the things that are going to be used against you. If your attorney doesn’t know about good AND bad facts he or she can’t effectively fight for you.
10. Create an Inventory of Property and Accounts
Often times, the little things in divorce get overshadowed by the major issues involved. Who has time to argue over who gets the couch when you are trying to decide who the kids are going to live with? However, the question of who gets the couch isn’t meaningless because there are also bigger issues at stake.
Having a comprehensive detailed list of property and accounts is crucial in efficiently dealing with decisions about marital property. This can also assist your attorney in making sure that specific items you want don’t get overlooked. To do this, I recommend doing the following:
- Use your phone to take photographs of every item you own (most phones will also digitally time stamp the photo so they cannot be alleged to be taken at a different time.
- Back up your photos (I use Google Photos as it has an automatic backup function)
- Create a list of all items, including where they’re located and your estimated value of each (if the item is particularly rare, expensive or difficult to estimate the value, you might want to obtain a professional appraisal).
We are happy to provide you with forms to help with cataloging and valuing your property. Please fill out the following form and we will send you a form for your financial information as well as inventory and appraisement. This will help in determining the nature and value of the property at issue in your case.
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