There are a number of very important things for you to carefully avoid throughout your entire divorce case. Despite what your spouse may do, it is important that you keep a “white hat” on throughout these proceedings. Violating any of the following rules can be very detrimental to your case. Although most of these rules have been discussed above, they need to be repeated.
Do Not Disclose Confidential Information to Others
Remember, the attorney-client privilege only exists between you and your attorney and his or her immediate, in-house staff. Therefore, in order to keep this type of confidential information privileged from disclosure, do not discuss it with or give it to anybody, including your spouse and any professional hired to assist you in this case.
Do Not Hide/Destroy Property or Documents
Whether or not any temporary orders have been entered, never destroy, waste, hide, alter, collateralize or otherwise do anything to affect the title or value of any property, or destroy or alter any documents. Be sure to consult with your attorney regarding any questions that you have with respect to dealing with present property and existing documents.
Do Not Incur Unusual Debts/Liabilities
Whether or not temporary orders have been entered, never incur unusual debts or liabilities (e.g., charge an unusual high amount of clothes, an expensive vacation, etc.). This will generally be considered against you by the judge and, more often than not, the judge will first make an overall “just and right” division of the property and debts and then, thereafter, order that you solely responsible for any such unusual liabilities.
Do Not Discuss the Settlement with Spouse
As previously discussed, the rule precluding evidence at trial of settlement negotiations between attorneys does not apply to settlement negotiations between spouses. Therefore, do not discuss settlement with your spouse unless authorized in advance by your attorney.
Beware of Telephone Tape Recorders
It is not unusual for one spouse to tape record the telephone conversations he or she has with the other spouse. These recordings are admissible into evidence and have been the downfall of many irrational spouses. Any time you speak to your spouse on the phone, you should presume that you are being taped.
Do Not Belittle Your Spouse to Other People, Especially the Children
Judges and juries do not take kindly to one spouse belittling the other spouse to third persons, and especially the children. Everyone realizes that there are certain people with whom you will confide about your divorce and that some criticism of your spouse is natural; however, try as hard as you can to keep this to a minimum, for these people may have to testify under oath as to all of the negative remarks or hot-headed threats you may have made against your spouse in a moment of anger. It is not uncommon to take the deposition of the best friend of one of the spouses, who will admit that the spouse has stated that “I’m going to take that so-and-so to the cleaners, and I don’t care what it costs, even if I have to lie to the courts to do it.” These remarks will have extremely undesirable consequences.
Above all else, never criticize your spouse in front of or to the children. It cannot be overemphasized how detrimental this will be to your case. It has literally cost many a parent custody of the children. Judges and juries are extremely critical of this behavior. Most mental health professionals will tell you that the children get their own self-esteem from both parents; therefore, when one parent tells the child that the other parent is “no good’, this can leave long-lasting scars on the child’s self-image. Also, child psychologists warn that eventually this criticism of the other parent will backfire on the criticizing parent. The child, as he or she grows older, starts to know the other parent in a different and better light and feels that his earlier alienation from that parent was unjustified and caused by the other parent. Thus, the child eventually resents the criticizing parent. In any event, you are strongly advised against making any criticism of the other parent or taking any action which could remotely tend to alienate the affections of the children for the other parent.
Do Not Start a Business or Enter a Contract to Purchase Property
Even if you are separated and the divorce petition has been filed, you are still legally married, and any property purchased, even if it is on the day before the divorce, will be considered community property. If that property is not divided at the time of the divorce, then it will be considered undivided community property to which both parties have an interest. Even years after the divorce, the court can require you to petition that property or order it sold, so that your spouse can own a share of the property. The same rule applies to the establishment of a business. Before you purchase any property or enter into any contracts during the pendency of your divorce, consult your attorney.