Do’s and Dont’s When Getting a Divorce

Divorce is a very complex situation with many moving parts, and if someone is contemplating divorce, there are some simple do’s and don’ts that one can follow to put them in the best position to get through their case with little unnecessary trauma as possible.

There are often many issues in divorce cases that could have been avoided, and sometimes those issues can be extremely frustrating and costly.

Fortunately, by taking a few simple steps, one can avoid many of the pitfalls and traps that people fall into when facing a divorce. Below are some guidelines that can go a long way in getting the best results during a divorce case.


The Do’s


Do take self-care seriously.

Take care of yourself first and foremost! Divorce is one of the more traumatic events humans will experience in their lifetime, and the lack of self-care can have negative effects on the person and potentially negatively affect their case. Depression, drug abuse, and alcoholism are all very common issues plaguing divorce. And if self-care is not high on the priority list, the often-overwhelming divorce process can be too much to handle. Stay busy, pick up a healthy hobby, spend more time with your friends, exercise, eat healthily, and go outside and get some sunshine.

Do understand the legal process.

There is a wealth of knowledge online concerning the legal process of divorce, and a general understanding or simply an awareness of the process can pay big dividends. One should familiarize themselves with the legal process and try to identify the important issues they are facing in their case. Understanding the basic issues of the case and having a general understanding of the legal process, it will help them have an informed discussion with an attorney and not waste time on unnecessary matters.

Many divorce attorneys schedule free consultations with potential clients and by being informed one can get the most out of their time spent with the experts, and hopefully save on their case in the long run.

Do create and keep boundaries.

If one spouse in Missouri has decided they want a divorce, according to Missouri’s laws, they shall be granted a divorce and do not have to prove any fault on any party’s behalf to prevail.
Because of the finality of the situation, there are some general tips regarding boundaries that are a good idea to keep in mind. The parties are not going to behave as they once did. They will now be making decisions based on their own self-interest instead of the interest of the couple or union.

It is important to maintain boundaries when wrapping up the business end of a relationship. Avoid arguments, and eliminate emotional, verbal, and physical intimacy to prevent confusion. It also is important to keep communication to a minimum if possible. Communicate via text message or email and communicate only when needed. If the relationship has gotten heated, don’t be afraid to set physical boundaries, and know that if the spouse keeps pushing beyond those set boundaries, call the police or file for an order of protection so that things can cool off.

Do communicate with the children.

Just as divorce is traumatic for the parties separating, it is equally if not more traumatic for any children in the relationship to experience a split of their parents. The good news is that if the parents can work together, they can mitigate some of the trauma caused to the children. The bad news is that learning how to appropriately communicate with the kids and your separated spouse is not always so simple.

There are classes available to learn how to co-parent that teach appropriate forms of communication with children and are highly recommended, if not ordered by most courts during divorce proceedings. Parents should encourage healthy, open communication with the children, and put extra attention on face time calls and video chats in the beginning when the kids are learning their new reality.

Of course, this will be new and awkward at first, and may not apply to all situations, but with a little work, making sure the children feel loved during the spit will go a long way in adjusting to the new normal.

Do take good notes/gather documents.

If one is considering divorce, they must consider that their partner will be faced to deal with a traumatic change and a change of this magnitude can often lead people to behave in almost unrecognizable ways. Again, they are behaving in their own self-interest instead of in the interest of the couple. And when acting in their self-interest, they may not be as forth coming with information as they once were, and documents have been known to disappear when people act in their own self-interest.

Make sure to gather up important documents, financial account numbers, location of safe deposit boxes, titles to vehicles/property, and take detailed notes of all the business of the family while still having full access to everything. Make an inventory of all property and gather up all text messages, emails, letters, or other pieces of information that might be relevant in the upcoming divorce case.

If there are priceless heirlooms, make sure they are moved to a safe place before a divorce is announced. Once these items are broken or damaged, they are lost forever and it is better to be safe than sorry in these instances.


The Don’ts


Don’t argue and keep emotions.

The divorce papers have been filed. Most likely, efforts have been taken to salvage the relationship and it’s still broken. It’s time to move on. There is no reason to argue anymore. There is no reason to be right anymore, and now it’s time to end the business part of the relationship. It’s time to accept that you will now live separate lives and decisions need to be made on how that happens.

Let the lawyers argue. Arguing only prolongs the process because neither person is listening anyway, that’s why they are getting divorced. When irritated, take a deep breath, and walk away, but don’t argue. Avoid intimate settings with your spouse. They will only lead to more pain and despair when the euphoria of the moment gives way to the reality of the relationship.

Don’t post on social media.

Typically, the first two instructions given by lawyers to their clients are to stay off social media with anything that can be related in any way to your divorce and to never argue with your spouse over text, email, or other written communication. Some of the most common pieces of evidence used in family law trials are screenshots of something on social media or text messages.

Once someone sends a message/picture/post, they have lost control of what will happen to that message, and often it will come back and be used against them in court. It’s best not to argue at all when facing divorce, but especially don’t argue over social media or text message/email. And don’t make social media posts that could be interpreted negatively in any way.

Don’t try to hide assets or reduce income.

There are a lot of fears when facing divorce, especially with finances. The parties are now faced with a division of assets and issues such as child support and spousal maintenance. It is a natural reaction to try and lesson the financial liability with these issues, just as people try and minimize their liability for tax purposes.

The issue with this mindset is that there are different rules at play when preparing for tax declarations versus declarations for divorce and dividing up the marital estate. For this reason, it’s not a good idea to hide assets or try to take a lower income in anticipation of divorce.

The paper trail can be found relatively easy when engaging in these types of behavior, and if it is discovered that assets have been deliberately hidden or an intentional deduction in pay has been obtained, the party caught will often face negative treatment from a court.

Don’t talk to the children about the divorce.

While both parents should encourage open commination between the parents and the children during a divorce, it is not a good idea to share with them any information or particulars about the divorce. Sharing information about the divorce with the children will be viewed negatively if presented in front of a judge.

Divorce is very difficult for children, and they often feel like they have to choose sides. The emotions are very confusing for a child, so they do not need specific details or be placed in the middle of this process.

Don’t begin a new relationship

It is a good idea to avoid starting new relationships during a divorce. Missouri is a no-fault state, so you won’t be penalized for the act of starting a new relationship with the courts, however, the complications of a new relationship can be a different story. First and foremost, starting a new relationship during a divorce will most likely irritate one’s current spouse and can make the divorce process more difficult because they might be less likely to settle or bring the process to a conclusion out of spite.

Second, the spouse starting a new relationship is now responsible for the acts of a new person in their lives and any negative act caused by this new person will squarely fall on the spouse’s shoulders. There will be plenty of time for new relationships in the future, wrap up the old ones first. It’s not worth the risk.

Don’t make agreements you don’t understand.

It’s important to not make any agreements, especially written agreements one doesn’t fully understand. In an amicable divorce situation, it is very common for one party to have divorce documents drafted up and then present them to the other party. This is a very cost-effective method if used properly.

However, these documents can be full of language that is often difficult to understand, and if someone is presented with divorce documents, they should make an appointment with an attorney and pay them for a few hours of their time to review the divorce proceeds to ensure all issues are stated as the parties intended.

The above factors do not comprise an exhaustive list of family law do’s and don’ts, and it is true that no two family law cases are exactly alike.

However, if followed, the above list of guidelines will help deliver the most favorable outcomes possible in a divorce situation. If you are facing a divorce and have questions, contact the experienced divorce lawyers at Hale Robinson & Robinson to schedule your free consultation.

by Suzanne Hale Robinson

Owner and Managing Partner, at Hale Robinson & Robinson.