Top 25 Things NOT to Do When You Divorce (2020 Guide)
What Can You Not Do During a Divorce?
25 Mistakes Spouses Make During the Divorce Process
If you have recently filed for divorce, or are considering filing for divorce, you likely feel overwhelmed with the number of things that need to be done during the divorce process. This includes calculating child support, deciding child custody matters, and locating and documenting all assets and financial records in order to facilitate the equitable division of property. Additionally, life decisions need to also be made during a divorce, including whether or not to leave the marital home or attempt to find employment if you previously were a stay-at-home spouse. While considering all of the things you must do during a divorce, it is also critical to highlight what you can not do during a divorce if you want to avoid legal challenges simply prevent complications as you move through the divorce process.
What You Can Not Do During a Divorce vs. What You Should Not Do During a Divorce
There are many actions that simply violate the law during the divorce process, including attempting to commit fraud or perjuring yourself on sworn statements given to the court. The following is a comprehensive list of what you can not do during a divorce, as well as what you should not do during a divorce. While some of these topics address items that are not strictly illegal, if you make the decision to pursue these actions during the divorce process, you may suffer serious consequences. All of the suggestions regarding what you should not, or can not do during a divorce are broken down by specific topics. Following this advice will ensure that your legal rights remain protected, and you have an opportunity for a more favorable outcome during your divorce process.
1. Do Not Drain the Bank Accounts
You may feel tempted to drain the bank accounts and purchase large ticket items for yourself. If a court determines that you willfully and intentionally attempted to dwindle the marital assets, you may have legal consequences regarding your decision to go on that shopping spree.
2. Do Not Dispose of Assets
For the same reason, you are not allowed to dispose of any marital assets without the agreement and approval of your spouse during the divorce process. If you make the decision to dispose of marital assets you may face penalties from the court.
3. Do Not Incur Debt in Your Spouse’s Name
A court will not look favorably on a spouse incurring debts intentionally and fraudulently in the name of their spouse during the divorce process. If you are struggling to pay debts, visit with an attorney regarding your options for bankruptcy or other financial solutions.
4. Do Not Increase Debt Substantially During the Divorce Process
You should also not use joint bank accounts or jointly-held credit cards to increase your debt substantially during the divorce process. Courts do not look favorably on those spouses attempting to use their access to a joint account to benefit themselves personally.
5. File Taxes Correctly
If you are in the process of a divorce that occurs during a time frame in which you need to file taxes, you have a legal obligation to file those taxes correctly and accurately. Failure to do so can result in serious penalties from the Internal Revenue Service.
6. Do Not Cash Refund Checks Addressed to Your Spouse
If your spouse receives a refund check from the Internal Revenue Service (or any type of check in the mail addressed to only them), you have no legal right to cash that check. To do so is a violation of the law, and can result in charges and penalties.
7. Do Not Receive a Criminal Charge
Criminal charges include receiving a Driving While Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol (DUI) in the state of Illinois. While receiving a DUI will prove problematic for you personally, it also may impact your divorce case. Your spouse may use this as a way to influence the court to limit your child visitation or limit the amount of spousal support you receive.
8. Do Not Post Anything on Social Media During Your Divorce
Social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are part of most people’s daily lives. However, if you make the decision to post anything during your divorce, you may have these messages, pictures, and other information used against you in your divorce. Even if your account is private, those who view your posts about extravagant vacations or purchases, or dangerous behavior could then screenshot the information and give it your spouse as evidence of financial fraud or behaviors which may call into question whether or not the environment you are creating is safe or suitable for children. Additionally, it is important to note that if you make the mistake of posting something on social media that you regret, you should never delete this information. Deleting information from social media has been determined by courts to be an obstruction of justice through the willful destruction of evidence.
9. Do Not Post Inappropriate Pictures or Content on any Singles Website or Forum on the Internet
Similar to the advice above, posting inappropriate pictures or content on any portion of the internet can be used against you in a divorce case. While you may believe your life is your own and you have the legal right to do as you please, these types of behaviors are frowned upon by the court, and may affect your child visitation rights.
10. Do Not Get Another Person Pregnant, or Get Pregnant Yourself
The law indicates that if you become pregnant during a divorce, the paternity of the child will always legally default to your spouse. The process to overcome this presumption is a complex one, causing additional expense and time. Additionally, if you impregnate another person, that may create an entirely new court proceeding regarding child custody and visitation rights with a new child. Additionally, impregnating another woman during the divorce process could be used against you as an indication of either character or as an indicator that your domestic life is not stable enough to allow for extensive child visitation from your children.
11. Do Not Stalk or Harass Your Spouse
Stalking or harassing your spouse during the divorce process can not only show poor decision making and dangerous behavior, but it can also cause you to receive a protective order against you. Showing up at a spouse’s work unannounced, making threats on social media or texts, or threatening or harassing a spouse in any way can easily lead to a reasonable foundation for that spouse to request a restraining order placed against you. The court will not look favorably on a spouse that has a restraining order against them for stalking, harassing, or violent behaviors.
12. Do Not Fail to Keep a Copy of All Communications With Your Spouse
For your own benefit, both personally and legally, you should always keep a copy of all communications with your spouse that are done through text, email, or on social media. These communications can prove vital if you need to later show that a spouse is a dangerous influence on children or a threat to your safety. Additionally, these communications can prove any number of issues such as the intentional depletion of marital assets or illegal activities.
13. Do Not Make Disparaging Comments in Front of Your Children About Your Spouse
While it is not illegal to make disparate comments in front of your children about your spouse, if there is any record of you doing this, or if the court questions your children and discovers your actions, it may prove detrimental for child custody purposes.
14. Do Not Bring a New Significant Other Near Your Children Prior to the Finalization of a Divorce
Again, there is no reason to bring a new significant other around your children prior to the finalization of a divorce, even if the divorce takes a considerable amount of time. To do so simply brings in the opportunity for your current spouse to indicate to the court that the living conditions at your home are unstable and not appropriate for children. Courts in the state of Illinois will always use the “best interest of the child” standard in order to make determinations regarding child visitation and custody decisions.
15. Do Not Respond Too Quickly to Any Communications With Your Spouse
This is not a legal requirement, but a good standard by which to live during the divorce process. In most cases, tensions run high in a divorce and it is always best to give it some time before responding in an adversarial way. Remember your texts and emails can also be used against you as well.
16. Do Not Withhold Visitation Rights From Your Spouse With the Children
Many times, a court will make an interim decision regarding custody rights as the divorce process moves forward. You are expected to follow those guidelines established by the court regarding child visitation and custody. If you fail to do so, you can be held in contempt of court, which not only has its own penalties but will also work against you as you attempt to obtain custody and/or visitation of your children in the future following the divorce.
17. Do Not Hide Anything From Your Attorney
Your attorney is only as good as the information you provide to them. If you made mistakes, or made poor decisions, disclosing this to your attorney will only prepare them for how to handle these issues if they ultimately impact your divorce case.
18. Do Not Fail to Provide Accurate Information to the Court
Never provide inaccurate or fraudulent information to the court regarding anything related to your divorce, including assets, debts, finances, or any other matter. Never commit perjury by lying under oath. This can lead to additional charges or penalties.
19. Do Not Act Inappropriately in the Courtroom
Courts and judges are deserving of respect. Do not act inappropriately in a courtroom, use obscenities, yell or scream if you do not get your way, bring your new significant other, or dress inappropriately. Your appearance and demeanor will absolutely have an impact on your divorce case.
20. Do Not Fail to Look at Your Divorce in Economic Terms
You may feel you need your day in court to be vindicated for the wrongs done to you. Divorces are expensive endeavors, both financially and emotionally. Take a serious look at whether or not you are continuing to remain adversarial simply to “win” or whether or not it is in the best interest of everyone involved, including the children to find an amicable resolution. It is important to note that you should never make any legal compromises that you will regret in the future, but visit with your attorney and make reasonable determinations regarding what is truly important to fight for, and what you can concede.
21. Do Not Speak With the Attorney for Your Spouse for Any Reason
There is absolutely no reason to visit with the attorney for your spouse for any reason. Anything you say or provide can be used against you in a divorce case. Make sure to alert the other attorney that you do not wish to receive any contact directly.
22. Do Not Fail to Keep a Daily Diary
In most cases, divorce is an overwhelming time for a person. Keeping a daily diary can help you remember when certain conversations or purchases were made, and ensure that you recollect all information accurately if asked by an opposing counsel. A daily diary will also help ensure that your attorney has full access to all events and items related to your divorce.
23. Do Not Fail to Read All Orders by the Court in Your Divorce Case
Many people who are not attorneys feel confused when they read the documents, judgments, or orders in their divorce case. Take the time to seriously look at all the orders and make sure that they truly represent what was finally agreed upon. The failure to do this immediately can cause you to lose your right to contest any part of the order at a later time.
24. Do Not Fail to Update Your Legal Documents
During the process of a divorce, few people are thinking of other legal matters such as estate planning documents or the title to a car. Once you have the legal freedom and official release to do so, you should consider changing these legal documents to protect yourself financially, and protect the financial interests of your children. Additionally, if you have other estate planning documents that make your spouse the beneficiary to certain retirement plans, or if you have your spouse listed as a power of attorney with the right to medical decisions on your behalf, you should take the time to make sure that you select people that you want to represent you in these situations following your divorce.
25. Do Not Represent Yourself in a Divorce
The final item you should not do during a divorce is to represent yourself within the divorce process. Take our free mini-course that provides additional answers to frequently asked questions regarding the divorce process, and then consider visiting with us to see how we can help you in your divorce. Learn how one of our experienced family law attorneys at My Modern Law in Scottsdale, Mesa, Peoria, or Phoenix, Arizona can provide you with answers and ensure your legal rights remain protected. Contact us at (480) 470-7731 or online today.