Separation and divorce are difficult for everyone involved. But you can make this journey easier by considering the most important things for yourself and your family and knowing what to do and what not to do during this stressful time.
There are three main areas in considering how your behavior and actions affect your resulting divorce: the legal process, your behavior including how you react to your spouse’s behavior, and your children.
The legal process requires you to follow certain rules and deadlines as instructed by the court. Your behavior affects your future and how you deal with your children during this time has a great impact on their development.
What Actions Should I Take During My Divorce?
When you’re going through a divorce, it’s hard to remember the obvious steps you should take. So it can be impossible to know the other, less obvious steps you should take.
- When considering the legal system, it’s important to follow all deadlines. If your spouse filed the complaint for divorce or files subsequent motions you must file your response within the legal timeframe. Failure to do so, can result in legal consequences and orders that can impair your ability to change them in the future.
- Follow all court orders. Even if you do not like the judge’s order, you must comply until you are able to get it changed. Acknowledge that some things may be ordered that are permanent.
- When creating any divorce or separation agreement with your spouse, make sure you have included all property and childcare issues. Before discussing with your spouse, make sure you spend considerable time deciding on what is important to you with family and friends you trust.
- When considering child visitation schedules, always consider what is best for your children rather than for yourself or your spouse. Be sure to address holidays, birthdays, emergencies, and future changes that occur as your child ages.
- While temporary housing may be necessary, take steps to find a permanent home for yourself and your children.
- Maintain as much normalcy in your children’s lives as possible. Continue as many positive routines they’ve become accustomed to while the family was intact. If you must change routine, find a new one that you can maintain throughout the divorce and thereafter.
- Always behave politely and respectful when engaging your spouse, their attorney, the judge, and any friends or family of your spouse even when they are not behaving in kind.
- Be as cooperative as possible with your spouse. Reaching an agreement saves money and provides you with more control over the division of assets and access to your children than what a court battle could offer.
- Take care of yourself mentally and physically. Decrease your other commitments if possible and look for ways to decrease your stress. Seek professional help if you are overwhelmed.
What Behavior Should I Avoid During a Divorce?
When you’re going through a divorce, emotions are running high and you can make a foolish choice that can hurt you in the long run. Here are some things you’ll want to avoid while you’re finalizing your divorce:
- Never hide or move assets. This appears suspicious to the court and can result in less assets at the end of the divorce.
- Never violate the law or a court order. Failure to comply with a child visitation schedule can result in a loss of custody or future access. Other violations can prevent you from getting what you want in the final order.
- Never speak ill of your spouse to your children and never discuss the details of what is happening in the divorce. This can cause permanent damage both emotionally and with their family relationships.
- If your spouse is abusive or manipulative, avoid direct contact with them if possible. Use an attorney to handle legal issues with them and a neutral third party to deal with matters related to your children.
- Avoid new romantic relationships. This will only cause unnecessary strife during the divorce process. If you already have such a relationship, never bring that person to any child exchanges, mediation conferences with your spouse or court proceedings.
- Never engage in fights, name-calling, or other spiteful behavior with your spouse. If things get heated, leave the situation and stop contact until you both can behave civilly.
- Never use your children as a bargaining chip and never interfere with your spouse’s relationship with them. Children should feel like they can freely interact with both parents.
- Avoid using your emotions as decision-making tools. Try to resolve property matters, child access, and other intense disputes analytically and never resort to a court battle where you spend thousands of dollars over insignificant matters or property.
When Should I Contact a Lawyer?
A qualified family lawyer can be indispensable in understanding your local jurisdiction’s practice regarding divorce and child custody disputes. Having an attorney helps to resolve difficult disputes with your spouse and when it is necessary, fight for your position in court.
Due to their experience, they can identify areas that need to be included in settlement agreements that you and your spouse may never have considered and thus avoid future problems.