Orlando Divorce Attorney Explains Top 10 Mistakes Made in Divorce
1. Engaging in Domestic Violence or Stalking.
Domestic violence or stalking may lead to criminal charges or domestic violence injunctions. This can severely impact your divorce case because a judge may award your spouse exclusive use and possession of the marital home and could impose supervised or restricted timesharing with your children as part of an injunction. Additionally, criminal charges could detrimentally impact your future as it may impede your ability to maintain your security clearance or pass an employer’s background check. If the situation with you and your spouse has become volatile, it is recommended that you vacate the marital home and seek alternative housing. If alternative housing is not possible, it is recommended that you limit one-on-one contact and maintain security cameras in the marital home (with your spouse’s knowledge and consent) to prevent any false allegations or charges.
2. Withholding information from your attorney.
You must disclose all relevant information to your attorney. Without the pertinent information, your attorney cannot adequately represent you. There is nothing worse than detrimental information being disclosed to the court, which was not previously disclosed to your attorney because your attorney is unable to mitigate the potential damage. If there is a history of substance abuse, domestic violence, or criminal charges it is important to discuss these matters with your attorney during the initial consultation. Additionally, it is imperative that you disclose all assets and liabilities including any cash. Failure to disclose this information could lead to the divorce judgment being overturned, which will prolong the litigation, the frustration, and the expense.
3. Leaving hurtful messages via email, voice mail, or social media.
Expect that any voice messages, emails, or social media posts will be presented to the judge. Do not allow your spouse to paint you in a negative light by leaving messages or postings that could be adverse to your case. Keep in mind that your spouse’s divorce attorney will look through your social media accounts for disparaging comments and evidence of elaborate spending, drug or alcohol use, partying, vacations, and any other evidence he or she may be able to use against you.
4. Believing that your spouse will be fair and cooperative.
A divorce is a uniquely personal area of litigation. Many people believe that their spouse will be fair and cooperative because of the past relationship. However, once attorneys are involved, all bets are off. You are no longer dealing with your spouse or what they believe is fair. You have attorneys on both sides that have influenced your spouse and their expectations. Do not expect that your spouse will play fair or be reasonable. Moving forward both spouses need to protect their own interests and realize that the other party is doing the same.
5. Parental alienation.
Parental alienation is where a parent brings the children into the divorce by disparaging the other parent to the children in order to alienate the children from that parent. If you or your spouse engages in parental alienation, it will negatively impact your case, as it is a factor that the court may consider when determining timesharing. Courts typically dissuade children from testifying. However, a judge may appoint a guardian ad Litem or child psychologist to testify as to parental alienation. Additionally, parental alienation puts the children in an awkward position that can affect their future mental health and relationships.
6. Failing to consider tax consequences.
It is important to consider the short and long term tax consequences when going through a divorce. With the exception of issues surrounding the children, a divorce is really a financial transaction. Potentially, you will be dealing with alimony and child support and distributing 401K or IRA accounts, real estate, cash accounts, stock accounts, business assets, and other tangible assets. For most marital assets, the IRS allows for a tax-free transfer, which means that if one party takes the retirement account and the other party receives the marital home, each party takes the item without any transfer or sales tax. However, if those assets are liquidated or sold after the divorce that spouse may be responsible for the tax liability. There also may be opportunities to distribute cash from retirement accounts during a divorce without paying a penalty, although you would still be liable for the tax consequences. Additionally, it is important to consider the tax implications of alimony as it is tax deductible to the payor and taxable income to the recipient. Not evaluating the tax consequences ahead of time, may lead to tax consequences that are irreversible.
7. Using Litigation as a tool for revenge.
A divorce process can be very contentious, as parties often want to enact revenge for what his or her spouse has done in the past. However, with the exception of domestic violence and dissipation of marital assets, most courts will not consider evidence of “wrong-doing”. As Florida is a no fault divorce state, the courts do not consider evidence of infidelity, unless it is associated with dissipation of marital assets. It is important to remember that a divorce is the first step in moving on and starting your own successful new life. The sooner you decide to not use the divorce as a tool for revenge, your divorce will become less stressful and will resolve in a manner that is more beneficial to you.
8. Agreeing just to get the divorce over with.
A divorce can be an exhausting process and often one spouse will succumb to an agreement just to stop the emotional and financial bleeding. However, you will have to live with the outcome of your divorce for many years. It is important to listen to your attorneys and financial advisors when entering into an agreement to resolve your case. If your attorney advises you that you would be better off proceeding to trial, you should discuss your options moving forward. Entering into an agreement that is not in your best interest may have drastic consequences on you and your family’s future. Additionally, it may be more difficult to modify the divorce decree in the future, as you will need to show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances.
9. Ignoring claims of drug or alcohol abuse.
Claims of drugs or alcohol abuse are common in divorce cases. Typically, one spouse makes such an allegation in an attempt to gain an advantage during the litigation, especially when minor children are involved. If your spouse makes allegations of drug or alcohol abuse, submit to a drug or alcohol test on a routine basis. This will exonerate any concern and will hurt your spouse’s credibility, as the allegations will be proven to be unfounded.
10. Not updating your estate plan after the divorce.
Every divorce client needs their estate plan updated after a divorce is finalized. Pursuant to Florida Statute, any provision of a will executed by a married person that affects the spouse of that person shall become void upon divorce. This provision also invalidates revocable trusts, life insurance policies, annuities, and other payable upon death accounts, unless they are reaffirmed after the divorce. After a divorce, you need to re-evaluate your estate plan, as your current plan may no longer be valid due to the changed circumstances.