Your mind is made up. You are filing for divorce. Marriage counseling is no longer an option.
Filing for divorce is a big step because divorce is never easy. This is especially true when the divorce is contested. A contested divorce means you and your spouse don’t agree to the terms of the divorce. Common to all contested divorces is mud slinging back and forth between the parties.
So how do you protect yourself and your case in order to maximize a fair and favorable resolution?
Below is an non-inclusive guide of 5 divorce tips to help protect your rights and to help make the divorce process easier. Although this guide applies to both uncontested and to contested divorces, it is especially important in contested divorces.
1. Suspend Using and Posting to Social Media
Anything you do or say can be used against you in and out of court.
Suspend using all of your social media accounts. Posts, pictures and comments can all be used against you and also taken out of context.
Don’t delete anything.
Although you are just now filing for divorce, chances are this has been brewing for a long time and your soon to be ex probably has copies of all your social media postings – or at least the ones that put you in a bad light. If you delete those postings it can be argued that you are acting in bad faith by trying to hide evidence. It could also be argued that you even agree the posting was inappropriate because otherwise you wouldn’t have deleted the posting.
So what should you do?
Change your account settings to make your profile private so the only person that can see your account is yourself. You aren’t deleting any posts or even your account, but you are preventing access to prying eyes. Even if you “unfriend” your spouse, you never know which one of your mutual friends will report back to your spouse. It’s not uncommon for mutual friends to choose sides.
In a contested divorce, your spouse’s attorney can obtain copies of anything you post on social media through the discovery process, even if your account is private.
THE BEST DIVORCE ADVICE: monitor your own social media use even if you aren’t filing for divorce. If you don’t want your boss, your preacher, or your grandmother to see the posting then chances are you shouldn’t make the posting. Act accordingly.
2. Change all Personal Account Passwords
Change your passwords to all your electronic accounts and personal accounts. This includes email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. The last thing you want to have happen is for your spouse to access your email account to read any correspondence you’ve had with your attorney concerning the divorce.
We regularly tell our clients to create a new email account with a new password. That way you can be assured that your spouse won’t have access to your email or any confidential correspondence.
You also don’t want your spouse to have access to your social media accounts. Change those passwords.
Have a bank account that isn’t jointly shared with your spouse? Change your PIN number.
Again the best divorce advice is to suspend using any social media accounts and NEVER post anything that you wouldn’t want your boss or preacher to see.
3. Don’t Start Dating
This should be a no-brainer, but it’s not.
Although many times it is one spouse “dating” or cheating on the other spouse that is the cause of the divorce, it is surprising to see the number of people that start dating while their divorce is pending.
Many people think they have nothing to lose if they start dating while their divorce is still pending. They are going through a divorce so it’s OK, right?
No, it’s not OK.
Any experienced divorce attorney will tell you the same answer.
While the fact you are dating won’t affect the divorce from being finalized, it can certainly affect the outcome of the terms in the divorce. Issues of child custody, visitation, alimony or spousal support can all be affected if you decide you just can’t wait until after the divorce is finalized before starting to date.
Want the best outcome in your divorce? Wait to date until after the divorce is finalized and signed by the judge.
THE BEST DIVORCE ADVICE: You just ended a relationship that didn’t work out for whatever reason. Maybe its not the best time to jump back into another relationship so quickly. Enjoy time with yourself and your children before committing yourself to another relationship so quickly.
4. Make Copies of All Financial Documents and Other Important Documents
Documents are regularly lost, go missing, or are often hard to get from the other side. Also, soon to be ex-spouses filing for divorce will often take the other spouse off their “joint” bank account, car loan, insurance or utility bill.
Make copies of all financial documents, insurance documents: claims and policies, health related expenses, etc.
All of those documents are evidence. They can prove income, expenses, who has been paying for what, etc. It’s always best to have documentation as proof because, your word is never going to be good enough for the other side or even for judges.
Make a folder. Keep those documents in that folder. Place that folder in a safe place, such as in the hands of your attorney.
5. Hire an Experienced Divorce Attorney
Sure, you can represent yourself in a divorce, but that isn’t always a smart move. That’s especially true when your soon to be ex-spouse is represented by an attorney. The attorney may seem cordial and seem to take a genuine interest in your thoughts and concerns, but that attorney does not have a duty to you. That attorney represents their client, your soon to be ex, and has a duty to them, not you.
Experienced divorce attorneys are trained in the law and regularly handle cases in front of judges so they know how those judges will rule on important divorce issues. Divorce attorneys also know the standards as they relate to child custody, visitation, alimony and child support. You may end up giving up more than you would otherwise have to if you don’t have an experience divorce attorney representing you and your interests in the divorce.
You are locked into the terms of the divorce
You can’t change the terms in the final divorce order overnight because circumstances have changed a little. It is a court order that you must abide by. In order to amend the terms of the final divorce order and other divorce paperwork, you must file a new court action and go back to court.
That costs money. And you must show there has been a material change in circumstances that justify changing the terms.
Experienced divorce attorneys also take into consideration the terms of the divorce and how those terms relate to what may happen in the future. Ex-spouses may remarry, children grow up, ex-spouses may move, or change jobs. These are just a small sample of issues that experienced divorce attorneys try to account for when considering the terms in a divorce filing.
My spouse and I agree to all the terms of the divorce and we printed the paperwork off the internet. Why can’t we file the divorce ourselves and get this over with?
We often receive cases after parties have attempted to file their own divorce paperwork. Sometimes judges have dismissed the parties divorce case entirely because the divorce paperwork was incorrect. This requires additional filing fees to file another divorce action. Additionally, sometimes it ends up costing more money and causes more trouble to amend the paperwork than if the parties had started from scratch with a divorce attorney.
In uncontested divorce cases, the cost of divorce is minimal. Divorce attorneys don’t charge as much for uncontested divorce cases as they would for contested divorce cases. It is worth having an experienced divorce attorney draft and file the documents correctly, the first time. That divorce attorney will also address other issues that the parties may not have thought of. The cost of uncontested divorce cases is minimal and worth the extra peace of mind.
THE BEST DIVORCE ADVICE: Consult with, or hire an experienced divorce attorney. You may be concerned about keeping the cost of divorce as low as possible, however spending a little more money now by hiring an experienced divorce attorney can save money down the road. The divorce attorney knows how to draft the paperwork correctly and the divorce attorney will consider other divorce or child custody issues that you may not have thought about.
Speak with Macon Divorce Attorney Ashley M. Brodie
Ashley Mackin Brodie is an experienced Macon, Ga divorce attorney who handles divorce and other family law cases throughout middle Georgia. Call her office at (478) 936-9842 to schedule a confidential consultation and get the divorce advice you need concerning your own case. She represents clients in both uncontested and contested divorce cases in Macon, Milledgeville, Gray, Forsyth and more.
Not ready for a consultation, but you want to learn more about divorce in Georgia? Go to our divorce question and answer guide or our divorce practice page to see the answers to many common divorce questions and divorce issues in Georgia.