If I had to pick one Rule for my North Carolina Divorce clients to follow, what would it be?
To answer that question I considered another.
What gets my clients into the most trouble in a contested separation or divorce?
As a Raleigh Divorce Lawyer for over fourteen years, I have learned to instruct my clients at the beginning of my representation to follow this one rule that saves them from costly mistakes that can completely sink their case.
Follow the Number 1 Rule for a Successful Divorce
So what exactly is this Golden Rule of Divorce?
Do not write or say anything that you would not want seen or heard by a Judge.
Sounds easy doesn’t it? Common sense.
The fact is, in a truly contested divorce where each party is telling a different story and emotions are at the tipping point, keeping your cool at all times is incredibly hard.
Don’t Let Emotions Cause You to Lose Your Cool During Divorce
Why is it so difficult to avoid making communications that ultimately make you look horrible in Court?
When separated couples are fighting and trading accusations, evidence becomes critically important. This is especially true in claims where fault or character plays a major role such as alimony, child custody, child support, domestic violence, property disputes and other divorce related claims where credibility is important.
All Couples Communicate Differently
For one thing, married couples operate by their own rules and according to their own moral compasses. Some couples fight dirty, curse at each other, and basically act out scenes from the old sitcom Married With Children. Often they stay married for years and make each other happy. It is difficult for this type of couple to change the way the communicate so as to not offend a more tender eared divorce court judge.
In other cases married couples still trust one another not to betray them by doing things like taping their conversations, showing private communications in court, or lying on the stand about how they provoke or participate in arguments.
Other people are just a little more hot-headed and fiery tongued and their spouses know it. Divorces are filled with deep emotional urges, and it’s never easy for anyone to handle those feelings.
Think About the Things You Write or Display
When entering into divorce proceedings, make sure that you don’t set yourself up for failure. Preparing yourself for the battle ahead will help you avoid mistakes, and help lead to a more positive outcome.
Consider the following:
a. Every text you send to your spouse, friends, or children can be captured and used in court.
b. Every post you make on social networking sites like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and the like can be captured and used in court, even if it is erased.
c. Every email you send to anyone (other than your attorney) can potentially be captured or discoverable in a divorce litigation.
d. Every note, letter, card or other writings you send to your spouse or kids can wind up in front of the Judge.
e. Communications with your accountants, financial advisers, friends or relatives can be obtained by your spouses lawyer in a family law claim.
OK, that is easy enough to understand. However, as I stated earlier, Divorce is one of the most emotional experiences a person will endure in their life. The feelings of betrayal, loss, and anger tend to bring out the worst in people, and it is incredibly difficult to keep control of the things you say.
Your Spouse Knows You, and Knows How to Get a Reaction from You
In most marriages, your spouse knows how to push your buttons, and they will push them. Often divorce lawyers will encourage this “button pushing” behavior in order to help them gather evidence to support claims of marital misconduct on your part (such as verbal abuse or threatening behavior). This is not the norm, but it often occurs in high conflict divorces when you get multiple versions of the truth or the parties are arguing over fault or child custody.
Be Careful When Talking To Your Spouse During Divorce
I have represented countless clients who are very good people but were provoked into a nasty argument only to be recorded or later confronted with ill advised text messages.
It normally works in various forms of the following:
TAPED CONVERSATIONS: Spouse calls or confronts you face to face and starts a fight, pushing your buttons whatever they may be. Sometimes it’s false accusations or absurd and unfounded attacks upon your parenting. It can even be threats to keep you away from your children that are baseless and viscous. They push, push and push and in some cases are very careful how they do it. Then, when they think they have you upset and angry, they discreetly press record on their tape recorder. Often they will suddenly begin to sound very reasonable or afraid even.
Unfortunately it can take people a few minutes to see this change in demeanor, meanwhile you are still yelling in self defense, only it sounds like you are the one attacking.
North Carolina Law will consider that tape as admissible evidence in most cases and the Judge will hear it. You wind up sounding like a crazed, angry or even dangerous maniac while your spouse who a few minutes earlier was screaming epithets at the top of their lungs suddenly sounds humble and afraid.
The best way to avoid this trap is to anticipate it and avoid the situation all together.
TEXT OR EMAIL WAR: You have an argument with your spouse not unlike the one described above. It ends with a threat that you will never see your children again or maybe some other horrible insult. Your spouse knows what button to push. Maybe you have to respond, you just cannot let it go. So you send the angry text or email. Or maybe you hold onto your temper and do nothing.
Your lawyer warned you and you were listening.
Then, you get a cryptic text that contains a veiled threat or insult that only you understand. It sends you over the edge so you send that angry text.
Now, if the Judge knew the entire context, it would not look so unreasonable, but by itself you are again made to look like a horrible person. You may be prompted to call your spouse to defend yourself and you launch into your arguments and defenses but your blood pressure is up and after having been cursed at for the past hour you use some colorful metaphors yourself.
Only now the conversation is taped from start to finish and you wind up sounding like Alec Baldwin.
Every Situation is Different
The details change from situation to situation, but ultimately it’s a trap.
Button pushing, threats and yelling started and escalated by ones spouse wind up making the more innocent spouse appear hostile, vulgar, or threatening.
These responsive or misleading communications are admitted into evidence for cases involving child custody, alimony, domestic violence, divorce from bed and board, and some other fault related divorce claims can be devastating and really make an impact on family law judges.
Make a Decision and Stick to It!
Decide ahead of time that everything you say, write, or do is going to be exposed in court. Refuse to get drawn into confrontations, verbal or otherwise. Wait 24 hours if possible before you respond to nasty emails or texts, if you respond at all. Consult with your Divorce Lawyer if you cannot communicate with your spouse and let them handle it. Just make sure you do not give them any ammunition to portray you as something that you are not.
Contact a Raleigh Divorce Attorney for Support with Your Divorce Case
Divorcing someone who understands you can be difficult because your former partner understands how to get your attention. Working with an experienced Raleigh divorce lawyer will help you avoid situations that can cause you to lose your case. Contact us for divorce support at 919-301-8843 or complete the online contact form below.
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