Children come first in this guide simply because children should always come first. The emotions and financial issues accompanying divorce have a way of confusing priorities. Don't let that happen. Whichever way the wind may be blowing on any given day during the proceedings, you WILL have a relationship with your children at the conclusion and you want that relationship to be a good one. It is generally a good idea for parents to tell the child(ren) about the divorce together. If there are circumstances that would prevent this from occurring (or you are simply uncomfortable with it) I recommend you seek out a therapist / professional counselor who can help you break the news in a way that minimizes any potential emotional harm. A school can often provide a referral for someone who is qualified to assist you. Do NOT speak ill of your spouse during this period. DO NOT introduce the children to someone new in your life until after the divorce is final.
If you are looking forward to "starting over" and meeting someone new, you need to wait. A relationship that commences during divorce proceedings can lead to complications. If you are in a relationship at the time the divorce is filed, or one starts during the legal proceedings, be upfront with your lawyer. It is very important that your legal counsel is aware of another person in your life. Concealing any information from your attorney could hurt your case. If you do proceed with a relationship against this guide's advice, beware of making the relationship public, as again, it could lead to complications with the divorce proceedings. It is, for example, very difficult to explain to a family law judge why you need money for support when your photo was just taken at a social function that charged $200 / person to attend, and you took a date. Although you may find such restrictions on your freedom to be confining, take comfort in the fact they are only temporary.
Communications with Spouse
It is difficult to stop communicating with your spouse when you have been speaking with him / her on a daily basis for years. This person was, after all, the one you turned to for comfort and support when you were in need. Unfortunately, the sad fact of the matter is that once you file for divorce your spouse is no longer your friend, and any communications you may have with him / her can be used against you later. Communications with your spouse can complicate matters for your attorney. If, for example, your spouse begins talking in open court about a conversation he / she had with you during which you jointly decided on a parenting plan, and your attorney knew nothing about this conversation (or that you were speaking to your spouse at all), the surprise your attorney will face may not be good for your case. The one exception to this rule concerns children - always speak to your spouse about issues directly related to them.
Communications with Others
It is a natural human tendency to seek out a sympathetic ear when things haven't gone your way. When it comes to divorce, you need to fight this urge. First, understand that there are only two people who can really help you during your divorce - you and your attorney. Other people may / may not have the best of intentions as you cry on their shoulder (and you may end up surprised as to who is, and who is not, your friend when the smoke clears). The more conversations you have, and the more confidential information you divulge, the more witnesses you create who may / may not be on your side. In addition, stirring the pot tends to lead to more discussion in the community. If you have ever played a game of "telephone", you know that what starts with "Mary is filing for divorce" ends up as "Mary has a French boyfriend and is moving to Paris." Such talk does also, unfortunately, have a way of eventually being heard by your children. In short - don't discuss your divorce with others.
Rest assured, as soon as your spouse was served your privacy came under attack. You should take some immediate steps to protect your privacy such as -
1) Passwords - Immediately change passwords on any financial websites. Also change your passwords on any computers / mobile devices.
2) Financial Accounts - Call any credit card or other financial companies and have them place a verbal password on the account. If there was already a password, change it.
3) Email addresses - Stop using your old email account - open a new one. Do not use your business email address to send any personal correspondence. If you do, whatever you send may be subject to discovery by your spouse's attorney.
4) House alarm - If you have exclusive use and occupancy of your residence, change your alarm code.
Your Spouse's Privacy
It may be very tempting to violate your spouse's privacy. Be careful. Do not install any "Spyware" (keystroke monitoring software) on any computers. Do not purchase any devices designed to track the whereabouts of a person or vehicle. There may be situations in which it is appropriate to conduct an investigation --- but let your attorney be the one to make that decision. Privacy law can be complex and very situation specific. It is too risky, when you are emotionally invested in the outcome, for you to make that call yourself.
Social Media / Online Dating
Facebook / MySpace / Google+ / eHarmony / Match.com - If you have a social media account, close it. It is amazing how your spouse's attorney can take that picture from the Halloween party and twist it against you in court. Or, how damaging it can be if you are "matched" with your spouse's best friend online. Again, although these restrictions on your freedom may be irritating, they are only temporary. You will be able to have a digital social life again as soon as the divorce has been finalized.
If you can afford it, get a new mobile phone and keep the number private. Do not disconnect your old cell phone until your divorce has been completed and you are comfortable your relationship with your ex-spouse has stabilized. I recommend that you communicate with your spouse exclusively through the old mobile phone as wireless account statements typically list the date and time of all calls. This can also be very helpful in documenting parental contact with the children if they are small.
Document, Document, Document
It is extremely important that you begin to document everything that could be of future relevance to the court. This would include -
1) Expenses - Keep a detailed record of all expenses you incur during the pendency of the divorce. These records will help the court determine what temporary support you may be entitled to. It may also be the only thing that saves you if there are no records and your spouse (incorrectly) claims you have paid for nothing.
2) Visitation - Keep a detailed record (dates and times) of all visitation your spouse has had with the children. This can be absolutely critical down the road if the spouse is seeking 50-50 visitation but has only seen the children twice during the divorce proceedings.
3) Communications - Keep a detailed record (again, dates and times) of all communication with your former spouse. If he / she threatens you, write down exactly what was said. Always be polite and maintain your composure - if necessary hang up.
Consult with an Attorney
It is very rare that a divorce is so simple and so amicable that the parties can effect it without legal representation. Usually, there are at least some disputes and those disputes are best resolved with the aid of an attorney. It is difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to maintain the level of objectivity necessary to represent themselves in the emotionally charged atmosphere of a divorce. For the same reason, doctors do not operate on family members - you do not want emotion to overpower logic at the worst possible time.
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