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Periodically, I will post helpful information. My posts are searchable by category, and shared out of a desire to assist you with legal concerns. I invite your comments!
– Curtis W. Daugherty
Of all the things you can do to shoot yourself in the foot during a divorce, this one tops the list. Talking to your Ex about legal issues or personal things that they don’t need to know about. It will cost you money, frustrate your attorney, and set you up for disappointment. And who wants that?
It happens more than you think. You hire an attorney, but between all of the child exchanges and communications with your Ex, you get tired and forget that there is a line between co-parenting and litigation that shouldn’t be crossed. The next thing you know, something you’ve said in a moment of (frustration/irritation/exasperation) has tipped your hand in favor of your Ex, and his/her attorney will use that to prove that your Ex’s behavior has been corrected (at least temporarily right before the hearing) or to use against you. Either way, you have just given away your best chance of getting the modification you have spent so much time working towards.
Talk to your Ex about the kid’s homework, about soccer practice, about rehearsals, but don’t talk to them about anything beyond parenting. Handling legal matters is your attorney’s job. Let your attorney do what you hired them to do without making them jump through more hoops because you opened your mouth about a recent purchase, the party you attended or the lavish trip you took, or whatever. Sometimes the best way to help your attorney help you, is to remain silent.
Few things will test a person’s character like a divorce. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I typically advise my client’s to keep things calm, be reasonable, and try to work peaceably toward a sensible resolution. I have seen cases, however, when the opposing party seems determined to walk away with everything, or to inflict as much emotional pain on my client as possible. In those cases, playing defense simply isn’t enough, and depending on the circumstance I will sometimes advise my client as follows:
Push Your Soon-To-Be Ex’s Buttons. Just like nobody knows how to push your buttons more than they do, nobody knows how to push their buttons better than you. If you can get him/her to lose control and you document their behavior, it may just give you the leverage you need to get something that is important to you. If they are trying to irritate you, return the favor.
Proceed with Caution! Only use this tactic if you’re confident that you can control your own emotions throughout the exchange. Typically, the more calm you remain, the more it will irritate your soon-to-be Ex. Secondly, push their buttons without being obvious, and never try to agitate someone who is likely to cause you physical harm.
1. Don’t Fail to Keep Your Attorney Advised of Your Whereabouts.
The only thing more exasperating to an attorney and more damaging to your case than lying to your attorney, is falling off the face of the earth. You’ll look bad to the court when your attorney has to tell the judge that they don’t know where you are, and you’ll wind up paying them for the time they spend tracking you down.
2. Don’t Run Down Your Ex, Especially When the Kids are Around.
From the first court order in any family law case where children are involved, you are under orders not to say bad things about your soon-to-be Ex. This means not saying negative things directly to the kids, or expressing those negative views to someone else while in front of your kids. Chances are, your comments will reach your soon-to-be Ex who can then use the information against you in court. Even more importantly, your kids don’t need or want to know that one of their parents cheated, or is a no good dirty rotten scoundrel. As tempting as it is to paint yourself as the saint and your soon-to-be Ex as the devil, remember that it’s not just your world that is going through a drastic change. Your kids’ world is being turned upside down, and they had no say in the matter. All they need or want is to be loved, and to feel safe at a time when they need it most.
3. Don’t Fail to Understand that a Happy Ex is Key to Your Happiness.
Few things can make your life more miserable than an angry Ex. Whether their anger is with you or they are just having trouble in their new life with money or anything else, you are likely to be the one they take it out on. On the other hand, if you take the initiative to make their life easier, they might be less inclined to look for ways to get back at you.
Or at Least Have a Say in Your Own Fate?
Seriously, it makes the most sense to actually work toward resolution rather than pay lip service to it while quietly working on your Ex’s last nerve. Earnest efforts toward resolution will get you through the process faster and cost you less in attorney’s fees. Your attorney will ensure that:
1. You are protected
2. The resolution is fair to both you and your soon-to-be-Ex, and
3. You won’t have to leave your fate to someone else to decide, i.e., a judge!
No matter how crazy your Ex is, working with them is better than making them angry and waiting to see what accusations will come out of their mouth in front of a judge. Everyone has a nugget that they’ve been holding onto, and having to deal with it on the fly in a courtroom is never easy. Think about it…What tidbit do you NOT want in the Court record, that your Ex would just LOVE to hold over your head until ALL the kids turn 18? Avoid all that by actually working with your attorney, not against your Ex.
1. Don’t Argue Religion.
You are not going to convert anybody during your divorce case, but you can turn your soon-to-be Ex against you and set yourself up to look like a hypocrite. I’ve seen it happen.
2. Don’t Make Proposals You Are Not Fully Prepared to Live With.
It’s a good way to either destroy your credibility or end up having to live with something you didn’t want, all because you opened your mouth when your emotions were running high. Which leads me to my last point.
3. Don’t Give Your Ex Access To Your Emotions.
They will use them to manipulate you. They will use them to irritate you into doing something they can use against you, or use them to make you look easily manipulated. Either way, you lose.
Doing so will only irritate your soon-to-be Ex, who already doesn’t like the new girl/boyfriend in the first place. You will end up having to defend your new girl/boyfriend against the accusations of your soon-to-be Ex, and possibly end up with a court order prohibiting them from being around your kids.
2. Don’t Make Irritated Comments in Response. Showing emotion in court will only demonstrate that you can’t control yourself. This will make it easier for your Ex to convince the court that you did something while you were upset, and use it against you.
3. Don’t Show a “You Owe Me” Attitude. Maybe your soon-to-be Ex does owe you, and maybe they don’t. But the more you claim they owe you, the more they are going to magically remember all the things they did for you, which will likely end up outweighing the few things they remember you doing for them.