What Not to Do During a Divorce – Part 1

Catherine Spanu, Burns & Levinson

A lot of emotions and impulses can arise during a divorce, and it’s critical to avoid any behavior that you may regret– including in the courtroom. What’s at stake? Credibility, time, money, custody, and peace of mind, to name a few. Below, read the top 10 behaviors to avoid during a divorce.

  1. Do not put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want to have read aloud in court.

    This means no harsh text messages or emails to your spouse, and no nasty messages to friends and family about your spouse either. If you are upset or overwhelmed and need to vent, speak to a therapist or other mental health professional, or, if this isn’t possible, a trusted friend or family member in a private location (and never vent to your children about their parent or stepparent).

  2. Do not put any tracking devices on your spouse’s car or electronics.

    Even if you suspect them of having an affair, installing tracking devices or spying on them or their friends will not produce any information that is valuable enough to risk your credibility in court. This type of behavior is frowned on by judges, and infidelity – without something else such as financial dissipation through spending money on a third party – it will not affect the financial issues in your case. If you genuinely believe that your spouse is doing something so concerning that it could impact your divorce proceedings, consult with an experienced divorce attorney and discuss the possibility of hiring a private investigator. But do not go out and hire a private investigator on your own, and certainly do not try to be a private investigator.

  3. Do not access your spouse’s email, social media, or other accounts, even if you know their password.

    There is no information you can learn from email and social media accounts that cannot be obtained through the proper channels if necessary and accessing your spouse’s accounts negatively impact you in court. Your spouse has a right to privacy during your divorce proceedings, as do you.

  4. Do not write erratic social media posts.

    Avoid posting anything about your case, your spouse, your lawyers, or the judge on social media. In general, keep your posts mild and inoffensive, no matter the subject matter. If possible, avoid having a social media presence altogether until the divorce is final. Anything you write could be an exhibit in your divorce case.

  5. Do not bash your spouse online.

    It will not result in anything positive in your divorce, and will in all likelihood anger your spouse, making your case even more litigious (and costly). If you have children, this is even more important. Demeaning your children’s other parent is against your children’s best interests, even if your spouse is behaving badly. Take the high road, remember that the internet is permanent, and think of your children reading your posts in ten years. They will think worse of you, not your ex.

  6. Do not advertise any new relationships.

    Your spouse will hear about it, and it will not make your life easier. The type of anger that new relationships or perception of “moving on” often create in the divorce context make this a surefire way to make your case more litigious and expensive. Keep any new relationships quiet – if your new partner is worth keeping around, they will understand it’s not worth inflaming your spouse. But also, consider whether the middle of your divorce is the right time to jump into a new relationship (especially if you have children).

  7. Do not lie, and especially, do not lie to your attorney.

    Tell your attorney anything and everything that you have done that you think might affect your case, even if it’s not something you’re proud of (especially if it’s not something your proud of!), so that they can determine the best way to handle it in the context of the divorce). Your attorney cannot protect you from any past misdoings or missteps if they don’t know about them.

  8. Do not retaliate against your spouse.

    This includes throwing out their personal property, egging their car, and everything else you’ve seen on TV. Retaliation does not look good in court, regardless of your spouse’s conduct, and it can cost you a lot in terms of time, money, and stress. Try to focus on moving on with your post-divorce life. Engage in positive thinking, go for a walk, do some self-care, and do not give in to anger.

  9. Do not take anything out on your children or put them in the middle.

    Children don’t ask their parents to get divorced and they have very little say about their living situation. Your children love both of their parents, and they deserve to have their best interests considered first and foremost. Speak respectfully of your co-parent in front of your children (and generally – see item one above!), and do not disparage or criticize them. Do not discuss the specifics of the divorce with your children, and avoid confiding in them or putting your adult burdens on their shoulders (even your teenagers). Treat your spouse and your children the way you would want to be treated – putting your children in the middle can have a long-term, serious impact on their mental health and can negatively affect their long-term relationship with you.

  10. Do not take legal advice from your friends and family.

    Everyone knows someone who has gotten divorced, but every divorce is different. Your best friend may be receiving $X per week in alimony while your cousin’s ex only sees his children for two hours every other Saturday, but you do not know enough about the circumstances of their situations to compare them to your own. Every divorcing person has different goals, interests, and circumstances. Taking legal advice from someone who lacks a fulsome understanding of your situation, your spouse’s situation, and who doesn’t have the knowledge and experience of a seasoned divorce attorney can negatively affect your mindset and your divorce proceedings.

In conclusion – divorce can be one of the most trying experiences in life: emotionally, financially, and logistically. Don’t make it harder on yourself by acting in the heat of the moment. Your feelings are valid, but your future self will thank you for thinking long term. Prioritize your children and your goals and be sure to consult with seasoned attorneys who can guide you through the process.

Interested in learning more? Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a follow-up post featuring what not to do with your finances during a divorce.