Going through a divorce is tough. For most, it is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting. The divorce process can make even the most sensible people do crazy things. Before you do something you may regret, take a deep breath and consider the following Dos and Don’ts:
DO get organized. First, start gathering documents. Gather everything from the deed to your home to your credit card statements from two years ago. You are going to need to produce all this information during a fact-gathering process called ‘discovery,’ so the more time you give yourself to gather these documents, the better. It will also give you a chance to familiarize yourself with your assets if you were uninvolved with the finances during the marriage. Next, organize the documents by account, date, etc. Trust me, you (and your attorney) will be happy you did.
DON’T put your children in the middle. Divorce is difficult for the whole family and there are many changes ahead. However, it’s important to do what you can to shield your children from the fallout. Try to focus on developing a healthy co-parenting relationship for the sake of your kids. Above all, never use your children as a weapon to get back at your spouse. In other words, don’t cancel the kids’ visit with Dad just because you’re angry at him. I know it feels justified in the moment, but trust me, this behavior will only harm your children.
DO keep an open mind. When people think of divorce, they often imagine a nasty court battle. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are several effective alternatives to litigation, such as collaborative divorce and mediation. If you have children, the State of North Dakota will provide you with six free hours of mediation. When a divorce is settled in mediation, both parties are more involved in the outcome. So, go into mediation with an open mind and take advantage of the six free hours you are given. But . . .
DON’T assume your spouse has your best interests in mind. It is possible for two people to reach a settlement without involving attorneys or going to trial. It happens all the time. However, you still need to make sure you have a full picture of your marital assets and your legal rights before entering into a settlement agreement. This is why it’s important to hire an attorney who will advocate for you.
DO keep a journal. The more specific, the better. Keep track of dates, times, and events that could be relevant to your divorce proceeding. If Dad doesn’t show up for a visit with the kids, write it down. If your wife moves out and takes certain household items, keep track of what she took. These journals could come in handy down the line, especially if your case goes to trial.
DON’T remove your spouse from your medical insurance or life insurance policies. You may feel a gut reaction to self-preserve and separate yourself from your spouse in as many ways as possible. However, if you provide insurance coverage for your spouse, you are bound to maintain and continue insurance coverage during the pendency of divorce. The same goes for beneficiary designations. If you change beneficiaries or cancel insurance coverage after the divorce has commenced, you may be in contempt of court.
DO consider therapy or counseling. As I said before, divorce is a grueling process. It is a good idea to seek out a licensed therapist to help address your emotional and mental health needs. Therapy can also help you navigate life after divorce.
DON’T air your grievances on social media. I know you want to vent and tell everyone how terribly your spouse treated you, but please don’t. When you are going through a divorce, you should act as if everything you say and do (and post) will be scrutinized. Even if you think you blocked your spouse, you should assume that your spouse (and his/her attorney) will see your posts, and you should expect that they will be used against you in court.
DO hire an attorney. There are many moving parts to divorce and trying to do it alone can put you at a disadvantage, especially if your spouse is represented by an attorney. Hiring the right attorney to be your advocate can make all the difference in your case.
*The information provided above is of a general nature and should not be acted upon without prior discussion with your Ohnstad Twichell, P.C., attorney.