This is the last in a series of blog posts I have written during the past several weeks on how to prepare for divorce and separation. Today’s tip focuses on the practical – be on your best behavior while going through the middle of a divorce. Whether you are considering a collaborative divorce, or a more “old school” divorce, the idea here is the same – be good!
You are about to be put under a microscope. You are reading this blog, so I assume that you may be facing a divorce and you want this unpleasant process to be as amicable as possible. Unfortunately, that is not always possible (although a collaborative divorce greatly increases the chances that you will have an amicable divorce). However, for whatever reason, your spouse may not share that objective. They may be influenced by others (lawyers, friends, etc.) who will convince them that what you are offering is not fair.
Although over 95% of divorce cases settle outside of Court, there is always a chance that your case will end up going to trial regardless of how diligent you and your lawyer are about attempting to resolve the case fairly and quickly. Therefore, you should not put ammunition in the gun for your spouse to use against you.
That means no dating, no carousing, and no partying. If custody may be an issue, it means making the children your number one priority (they should be that anyway, right?) Even things that are perfectly legal and harmless any other time can be twisted to look suspicious or worse in the hands of your spouse’s lawyer.
Suppose, for example, that you go out for dinner and drinks with members of the office to celebrate a fellow employee’s birthday. Harmless enough, right? In a custody case, these questions may be asked: While you chose to go out drinking with your friends, your spouse was at home taking care of the children, correct? Are you having a romantic relationship with Joe/Jane who was also at the party? How many drinks did you have that night? This is something you routinely did during the marriage, isn’t it (i.e. choosing social events over your family)? You drove home that night under the influence of alcohol didn’t you? You get the idea.
One other example. I once conducted a mediation where I expected the mediator to ratify an offer that had been presented by the opposing counsel to my client. My client had hemmed and hawed over whether he should take it. His wife was being more than fair, as she was offering one-half of the equity in a non-marital property that she alone owned. When we arrived at the mediation, this offer was no longer on the table. My client was upset, and I didn’t understand what had changed about the case. I later learned that unbeknownst to my client, his wife had seen him holding hands in public with another woman, causing her to take back her offer. This one moment of indiscretion cost my client almost $75,000. (This case was in Florida – In North Carolina, this event could lead to a mandatory alimony payment, or tort action for Alienation of Affection or Criminal Conversation).
During your divorce you will want to spend quality time with your kids, work, stay around the house, exercise, and attend to your spiritual life. Be above reproach. Be Good.
The information in this post was prepared in part with information originally posted on the Alabama Family Law Blog.