Emotions run high for people going through divorce and it is important to keep them in check. You should never allow your temper to cause you to physically harm your spouse or your children. Not only is a physical injury to your spouse or children a criminal matter, possibly causing you to face public prosecution for your actions, but physical violence can also have profound ramifications on your divorce case. Domestic violence and emotional abuse can serve as a basis for a Personal Protection Order being entered by the court (commonly known as a PPO). Having a PPO entered against a spouse can have a major impact on who stays or leaves the marital home and on who obtains primary custody of the parties' minor children. It can also be a factor as to whether spousal support is awarded and whether a 50/50 property division is ordered.
Moving Out of the Marital Home
If you want to pursue primary physical custody of your children, do not move out of the marital home without taking the children with you. "Leaving the home" where your children have lived for a significant period of time, without taking the children with you, will often be viewed as a form of abandonment. If there is physical violence in the home, either leave with the children or seek sound legal advice from an experienced family law attorney. You may be able to obtain an ex parte order granting you exclusive use of the marital home or be referred to a shelter where you and your children can reside temporarily. The underlying facts that support your request for exclusive use of the marital home, if such an order is to be granted ex parte, need to be compelling and present a picture of the potential physical harm to you or your children that could occur should the ex parte order not be granted.
Starting a Relationship with Someone Else Too Soon
If you have become romantically involved with another person, don't bring him or her "into the marriage" before filing for divorce. Additionally, if there are minor children involved, don't introduce the new person to your children until a lengthy time has elapsed after the divorce process has started. Often, the marriage has "broken down" long before one party actually files for divorce. This delay in time is often when spouses, feeling alone in their marriage, find themselves attracted to someone else "who listens to them" or "who understands," and things happen. When they do, don't make the mistake of waiting too long to file for divorce, otherwise your "affair' may be used against you for causing the breakdown of the marriage when property and debt division and alimony issues arise. If child custody is litigated, the court will hold it against the spouse who makes the mistake of introducing the boyfriend or girlfriend to the children too early in the divorce process.
Disparaging the Other Parent
Don't tell your children how bad their father or mother is, no matter what their father or mother did to you. All children typically want to love both parents; even though what your spouse did may have been wrong, don't be the messenger of such information. When it comes to child custody disputes, Michigan's best interest factor (j), "the willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents," can be an important factor. The factor will be weighed against a parent who "bashes" the other parent to their children. As stated, it is emotionally harmful for children to hear about the poor choices of their fathers and mothers and the worst way for them to hear about these matters is one parent bad-mouthing the other. Resist the temptation to "spill the beans" to the children.
Airing Your Dirty Laundry on Social Media Sites
Do not post anything on social media websites about yourself or your spouse. Also, do not text anything to your spouse or one of your spouse's friends that you do not wish to be introduced against you in your divorce case as "Exhibit 1." In our social digital word, we freely exchange information about ourselves, our friends, our spouses, or our new romances. Many spouses who are upset with their partners will save these "comments" for use in court. Such postings and texts will come back to haunt the offending party and will become potential exhibits to be introduced at trial. The best policy is to never post, text, or e-mail anything damaging, because it could come back to hurt you if your case is litigated in court.
Additional resources provided by the author
For more information about divorce in Michigan, you can access my book, The Divorce Book: What Every Michigan Married Man or Woman Needs to Know and 5 Things That Can Sink Your Divorce Case.