Best Divorce Tips and Strategies: Top 5 Ways to Protect Yourself
Sometimes, people know divorce is coming. Maybe both parties have talked about it. Maybe you’re in a miserable experience: you’ve been separated for 6 months and everyone is getting things together before pulling the trigger on the paperwork.
Other times, unfortunately, a divorce blindsides you and shocks you to your core. Sometimes, you have the ability to get an attorney on the phone immediately to protect yourself and your interests, but if you suddenly get served divorce papers on Saturday night or walk in on your spouse cheating what do you do?
Now, I could wax poetic about all the things someone should do when served with papers (and have done some of that already in this blog) but here are the top 5 divorce tips and strategies so you don’t screw everything up before you get an attorney.
1. STAY CALM
This sounds so simple, but it’s not, and it is the most important thing.
Did you know that if you take someone’s cell phone away during an argument (say, for example, to try to read all the sext messages between your spouse and their side piece) you are preventing them from calling 911 and even if the other allegations they made against you when they called the cops are completely bogus you will go down for taking their phone?
Your future divorce attorney knows all about this one because they have dealt with the repercussions of it. Just like divorce attorneys also deal with the recordings your spouse made while you went off the handle on them because you got served with divorce papers accusing you of inappropriate marital conduct (and you don’t know what that actually means yet).
Your soon-to-be-ex-spouse prepared for this. They’ve talked to counsel, and they are setting you up, so whatever you do – DO NOT LOSE YOUR COOL! Because everything you say or do is going to get recorded and played in court. Unfortunately for you, your attorney will not be able to go back in time to tell you to chill at that moment.
2. PRESERVE YOUR EVIDENCE
Seems simple, yes? Everything you need to win is on your phone.
This is fine until conveniently your phone “disappears” and you learn that your cell carrier doesn’t preserve the content of those horrible text messages you received from your spouse. Pictures, texts, recordings all somehow magically get deleted while you are sleeping.
It is of the utmost importance that the evidence you have for your case is preserved. You need an additional copy somewhere safe where your spouse can’t destroy it.
Evidence is also not always clear cut text messages. Evidence includes random receipts, notes to refresh your recollection about when someone came home, contact information for friends or paramours, work schedules, grocery receipts, loan applications, or emails.
Make sure you still have the backups in case you need them. Remember that most destruction seems to happen in the first 48 hours, regardless of what the statutory injunction says!
3. COLLECT YOUR PASSPORT, BIRTH CERTIFICATE, IMMIGRATION PAPERWORK (if relevant) AND WILL
Not saying your spouse is petty and conniving, but you do not want to have to replace these things after they magically go missing. Collect them and turn them over to a friend or relative or, if that is not feasible, lock them up at your office.
DO NOT, and I repeat, DO NOT TAKE YOUR SPOUSE’S DOCUMENTS.
That is a quick way to get on the wrong side of the Judge and get thrown in jail.
You have not lived through the headache of trying to get another copy of a foreign birth certificate, however, for a person who was adopted from a different country as part of a closed adoption like my office has – it is not fun.
As soon as you have your lawyer, you will want to turn these documents over to her to hold for you during the pendency of the divorce.
4. CREATE A NEW EMAIL ADDRESS AND PASSWORD PROTECT YOUR PHONE
Immediately create a new email address with a provider you do not already use (I.E. if you have a yahoo account, get a gmail account). Use a password that is not related to anything your spouse knows or that you have used for any account previously.
You will want to use this email to communicate regarding the divorce, and as part of strategy #2 – to preserve your evidence. Also, you should use this email to reach out to potential divorce attorneys and to write up a summary of what the heck happened.
On a related note, put a (new) password on your phone immediately unless you want your spouse to start monitoring everything you do.
If the phone is not password protected, it’s considered fair game, and the last thing you want is the text message you sent your best friend venting about how “you could murder [your spouse]” showing up in court on your spouse’s Motion for Exclusive Possession of the Marital Residence.
If you don’t have a password, they will argue you have no expectation of privacy. Use a password.
If it’s a Google Account, you get a few gigabytes of a cloud drive for free. You can use this to keep copies of the documentation and evidence you have.
5. CONTACT AN ATTORNEY
You may be able to reach an attorney on the weekend (emails and contact forms sometimes work better for weekends and holidays). Talk to staff, they will set you up to speak with the attorney and can let you know whether your matter is super time-sensitive or if you have room to breathe.
Further, the staff can give you an idea on price for hiring the attorney. This will help you figure out what level of divorce attorney you can afford.
Many of the best divorce attorneys are expensive, so ask about financing options and if they take credit cards or require cash (and will they charge additional fees for credit). Divorce attorneys see these patterns all the time, and they will let you know if it is urgent. If they can’t help, they probably have several attorneys they will refer you to – and frankly, we are better at picking the correct attorney than you are because we see the other attorneys in court every week.
Do not bury your head in the sand for three weeks and then be forced to deal with hiring counsel last minute.
This will create a situation where you are rushed and potentially create extra work for your divorce attorney. Don’t do this to yourself.
Rip off the band-aid and make the call. Even if you don’t go with your first call, you will have a better understanding of how not to screw things up for yourself.
Conclusion of Best Divorce Tips and Strategies
Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list, but if you can manage to follow these top five divorce tips, then your attorney will thank you!