I’ve been practicing Divorce and Family Law in Charlotte, North Carolina and the surrounding counties for many years. In that time I’ve seen clients who have made some really terrible divorce mistakes. Some of these mistakes have cost them millions of dollars. These are the five biggest types of divorce mistakes that I’ve seen in my practice.
Divorce Mistake #1: Arguing With Your Spouse in Written Form
The best advice is to not argue at all, but I understand that can be impossible during this emotional time. You just need to remember that every text message, email, or facebook message you send from now until your case is concluded, can (and likely will) be used against you. I can’t tell you the embarrassed faces I’ve seen on some people in court when I show them a message they sent to my client calling them all sorts of awful names and threatening to “destroy them in court no matter what it takes”. Needless to say, these types of messages makes you look incapable of co-parenting children and can threaten your credibility to the judge. If the judge stops believing you then you’ve already lost.
Divorce Mistake #2: Playing “Keep Away” With the Children
I know you have all sorts of justifications, but unless the court directly gives you permission to withhold visitation from the other parent, you’re just asking for trouble. My advice to my clients is this: If there is a court order you MUST follow it. In the event of an emergency, we can file a motion to have the court change or modify that order in only a few days. You cannot simply do what you believe is best.
If there isn’t a court order, and you withhold visitation, you run the risk of the judge holding that against you when you get to a custody hearing. I know of one mother who withheld her kids from seeing their father for over a year. In the end, the father got primary custody and the mother was only permitted supervised visitation. She was also forced to pay HIS legal fees. Judges absolutely hate when parents play games with the children.
Unless you know of an imminent threat of physical injury to the child, or some other extreme safety concern, your best bet is to work out custody and visitation with the other parent while awaiting the hearing.
Divorce Mistake #3: Trying to Hide The Assets
I’ll keep this one short and sweet, you won’t get away with it. No, really. Unless you’ve only been paid in untraceable gold bars, the money WILL be found. Forensic accountants are really good nowadays, and discovery is almost limitless in a family law case. The other side will get your bank account information, and they will find the funds.
Oh, and even if you do manage to hide it, if the assets are ever discovered you can go to jail for perjury and your entire case will be reopened to redistribute the money. In short, be open and honest about what assets exist. There are other, more legal, ways to protect your assets during a divorce.
Divorce Mistake #4: Lying to Your Attorney
We all have things we aren’t proud of. However, you cannot lie to your attorney and expect to have a good outcome in your case. You hired them to help you! If we know about it, we can help you defend against it. If we don’t, and the first time it comes up is in court when you’re being cross-examined, then it’s already too late. It’s safe to assume that whatever your spouse knows, their attorney knows. It’s better to assume they know everything.
There’s a reason attorney-client privilege exists. Tell us what secrets you have, so we can strategize around them.
Divorce Mistake #5: Trying to “Do It Yourself”
A man once sat across from me in tears, because he signed a document that was legally binding without speaking to a lawyer. He lost over a million dollars in marital assets because of it.
A woman once sat across from me in disbelief. She agreed to pay her spouse $5000 a month in alimony but lost her job. However, her agreement didn’t include a provision that would let her modify that alimony in the event of a change of circumstances. In the end, she was stuck paying that amount even when she was making 10% of her old salary.
I could go on and on about the horror stories I’ve seen. In the end, a simple consultation with a lawyer could have helped these folks to avoid these divorce mistakes. You don’t go to Web MD when you need surgery. A divorce case is like surgery and you need a skilled surgeon. Trying to do it yourself could lead to a complete disaster that you will never be able to recover from.
If you’re in Mecklenburg, Gaston, or Union Counties in North Carolina, set up a consultation with Emblem Legal today so we can help you avoid these divorce mistakes, and many others. Our office is conveniently located in downtown Charlotte, just across the street from the courthouse. We can even do a virtual consultation from the comfort of your own home or office. To get ahold of us, call 704-248-7683 or fill out the contact form on our website.
P.S. to learn about the Do’s and Don’ts of Co-Parenting, check out our article.
Or, if you want to learn more about the biggest financial Divorce Mistakes, you can read this article from USA Today by clicking here.