It’s an unfortunate reality that the divorce process can bring out the worst in people, even those that you loved and trusted at one time. When people let their emotions get the best of them and negotiations dissolve into petty squabbles, it can draw out the whole process, not to mention create very challenging emotional situations for everyone involved (not in the least the children, if there are any).
However, if you are in the middle of a divorce proceeding (or preparing for one) and you know that your former spouse is bringing much animosity to the table, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
Avoid He Said/She Said
I am a firm believer in avoiding a “he said/she said” scenario if at all possible. You never want to go to Court and ask the Judge to decide who to believe — the outcome could have a huge impact on the years to come.
To avoid this kind of situation, document everything as much as possible. If you have children, make sure things like the parenting schedule, agreements on medical treatments, vacations, etc., are in writing, say, over text messages that you document or through email.
Here’s an example of a real-life war story:
I was hired by a young mother whose husband decided he wanted sole custody of the kids, claiming that the woman had serious mental issues that would prevent her from being a good parent. After overcoming every one of his motions to prevent her from seeing the kids, and proving that she was of sound mental health, the judge told my client, “Okay, you can have the kids this weekend.”
I warned my client that her husband was going to be furious. “Document everything,” I said, “he’s madder than a wet hornet and will try to pull something.”
My client followed my advice and documented everything. Sure enough, there was a verified motion on Monday morning to terminate her parenting time: the father claimed that at the parenting exchange, my client hadn’t even showed up — instead she just left the kids alone in a public place for the father to collect them later.
We had a hearing. The other side could have won an Academy Award for acting, he was so convincing. He was so calm and measured that I almost believed him. Fortunately, my client had followed my instructions: She had her mother film the parenting exchange from the corner nearby, which proved that my client did indeed show up, that the exchange went smoothly, and that the other side was lying through his teeth.
The Judge ruled in our favor and ordered the other side to pay 100% of my client’s attorney’s fees. However, if my client hadn’t followed my instructions, there’s a chance we would have lost, and she wouldn’t be allowed to see her kids.
Make Sure You Understand the Rules so You Don’t Break Them
There are certain guidelines when going through divorce that are important to follow; if you break them, even accidentally, it can really come back to haunt you — especially if the other side is feeling vindictive. (Talk to your attorney to make sure you’re clear on what types of behavior is deemed appropriate by the Court during a divorce proceeding.)
One of these rules is that you’re not supposed to make extraordinary expenditures during the divorce, like buying a new car, doing upgrades to the house/yard, going on vacation, etc.
I once represented a woman who was going through a divorce. During the process, she and her husband decided that she would temporarily live in the house while he lived in an apartment, until they sorted out the living arrangement. Before they had decided to get divorced, they had put down a deposit on an extensive roof repair project. Together on the phone, they decided that they would still go through with the roofing project so that they wouldn’t lose the value of the deposit.
Her mistake was that she only talked about it with him over the phone… nothing was in writing.
Sure enough, as the divorce dragged on and grew increasingly contentious, her husband cited her for contempt the moment the final payment for the roof repair went through. He denied that he had ever agreed that she could complete the roofing project.
Moral of the story: Have witnesses, get agreements in writing, and document everything. I’ve had clients take photos of their kids before the parenting exchange so the other side can’t say, “You brought them home covered in bruises.” Yes, it gets that ugly.
Work with an Experienced Attorney
Perhaps most importantly, the best way to protect yourself through a challenging divorce situation is to hire an experienced attorney who can offer guidance and expertise, especially if you suspect that your former spouse carries animosity.
If you are going through a divorce in Boulder County, let’s talk. Call our office today at 303-449-1873 to schedule a complimentary consultation and find out if Barre Sakol is the right representative for your case.