Ten Things You Should NOT Do During A Divorce Or Custody Battle

Emotions often run high when people are arguing over money, property and children. They frequently do not trust each other and are working hard to advance their own interests in their legal matter.  While we all understand this, it is important that cooler heads prevail in many circumstances. Often, acting spontaneously may feel good at the moment but there could be a very high price to pay later. While this list is not exhaustive, it does contain very common acts that often turn out to be bad ideas.

  1. If you move from the family residence, do not leave your personal belongings behind.  Take your clothes, your personal effects, your personal computer and the like. Take photographs and/or a video of whatever you leave behind. If you leave any belongings behind, assume you may never see them again.
  2. If you moved out of the family residence, do not return unannounced – even if you still have the key. Once you move, even if you are still the owner of the property (assuming you own vs. rent), it is no longer your residence and returning unannounced may rise to the level of a crime.
  3. If neither person has moved out of the residence, do not change the locks. Even if one person is not on the title to the property or not on the rental agreement, but has lived in the home, then it is their residence. One person cannot unilaterally lock the other out of his or her residence without first obtaining a court order.
  4. Do not involve your children. A divorce or separation is an adult matter. Let the children know they are loved and support their relationship with the other parent.
  5. Do not destroy or otherwise waste assets. This means you cannot drink the wine collection until it is gone, let property go into disrepair, unilaterally donate all of the belongings in the house or other do similar acts which would deny the other person their rights in the property. If you do so, be prepared to pay a high financial cost for your actions.
  6. Do not read the other person’s mail or email. Doing so may constitute a crime.
  7. Do not alter your spouse’s medical insurance. The last bill most people can afford is to pay for a large uninsured medical expense. If a spouse is removed from medical insurance before the divorce becomes final, exposure to a large uninsured medical expense may very likely fall on the shoulders of the spouse who terminated, removed or did not renew the other spouse’s insurance.
  8. Do not flaunt a new relationship in front of your soon-to-be ex. This means it is often not a good idea to bring the new love interest to court, or to send that person to pick up the children or other similar actions. While there is nothing illegal about this, it does often create a very difficult emotional component to the case.
  9. Avoid using absolutes. It is wise to not use the words “never,” “always” and “clearly” in a divorce or custody battle. Just when you may really believe something “never,” “always” or “clearly” occurred, be prepared for that one exception to be brought to your attention when it will be the most damaging to your credibility and your case.
  10. Do not forget….you and the other person with whom you are now fighting used to love each other. Keeping this in mind may help to keep your children out of the legal proceedings and to take the intensity of the litigation down. Regardless, it couldn’t hurt to try.