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Sometimes, people know divorce is coming. The parties have talked about, it’s a miserable experience, you’ve been separated for 6 months and everyone is just getting things together before pulling the trigger on the paperwork. Other times unfortunately, a divorce will come out of no where and shock 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 best tips so you don’t screw everything up before you get to an attorney.

Nashville Divorce Attorney Morgan Smith’s Top 5 Best Tips Not to Screw Up Your Divorce Before You Get to an Attorney:

1. STAY COOL – 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 we deal with the repercussions of it all the time. Just like we 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). They’re 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 wind up recorded and played back in Court, and your attorney will not be able to go back in time to tell you to chill.

2. PRESERVE YOUR EVIDENCE – Seems simple, right? Everything you need to win is on your phone. This is fine, until conveniently your cell 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 them if you need them as 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 turn up 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. It is a quick way to get on the wrong side of the Judge and get thrown in jail. However, you have not lived through the headache of trying to get another copy of a foreign birth certificate for a person who was adopted from a different country as part of a closed adoption like my office has and it is not fun. As soon as you have your lawyer, you will want to turn these documents over to her to hold on to 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) and use a password that is not related to anything your spouse knows or that you have used before. You will want to use this email to communicate regarding the divorce, and as part of #2 to preserve your evidence. Also use this email to reach out to potential divorce attorneys and to write up a summary of what the heck just happened. In a related note, put a password on your phone immediately unless you want your spouse to start monitoring everything you do. If it’s not password protected, it’s fair game, and the last thing you want is the text message you sent your best friend venting about how “you could murder them” 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

5. CONTACT AN ATTORNEY – You may be able to reach one on the weekend (emails and contact us 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 breath. Further, they can give you an idea on price so that you can figure out what level of divorce attorney you can afford. A lot 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 fact patterns all the time, and they will let you know if its urgent and if they can’t help probably have several attorneys they can refer you to and frankly, we are better at picking than you are because we see these attorneys in court every week.  Do not bury your head in the sand for three weeks and then go deal with hiring counsel. It will create a situation where you are rushed and potentially create extra work for your divorce attorney. 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.

Obviously, this is not a fully comprehensive list, but if you can manage to follow these five best divorce tips your attorney will thank you!

Can’t find what you are looking for on our website? Did this article create more questions than it answered? Call our office at (615) 620-5848 to set up a consultation with divorce attorney Morgan Smith, named 10 Best in Client Satisfaction for four years in a row by the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys, and a Three Best Divorce Attorney for the third year running.  We practice primarily in Davidson County (Nashville, Tennessee), Sumner County (Gallatin, Tennesse), and Williamson County (Franklin, Tennessee).