Maximizing your success in a divorce: What to do (and what not to do)

The way you act at your grandmother’s house on Thanksgiving is probably different than how you would act on a night out with friends or how you act at work. That’s not a critique of you or anyone else (myself included). The fact is that we as humans act differently based on the setting that we find ourselves in. If we are invited to go to an event in a location that we’ve never been to before, we will likely ask the person who invited us questions about how to dress, what to bring and what the atmosphere will be like. We don’t want to wander into the event unprepared.

This is a wise mindset if you are going through a divorce. You may not know precisely how to act in your divorce since you’ve never been through one. And let’s be honest: you may be one of those people for whom social graces and norms do not come naturally and easily. That’s fine! Knowing that you may not know precisely how to do something is the first step to learning.

That’s where the attorneys from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, come in. We want to share with you some information on how (and how not) to act towards certain people and certain things about your divorce. If there is an area of divorce that we did not cover, please feel free to contact us today, and one of our licensed family law attorneys would be happy to discuss those areas with you.

Your spouse: How to act towards them during a divorce

Awkward, am I right? You spend what could be decades with someone, and then one day, you or your spouse tell the other one that you no longer want to be married. Sometimes that message is not delivered with words over a meal at home but by a process server in the form of a citation and Original Petition for Divorce. Now you have to take months to decide how your marriage should be terminated, but you have to work with your spouse in many regards to do so. Awkward, indeed.

Well, you can save yourself some of the awkwardness of divorce by knowing how to treat your spouse, at least while your divorce is still active. Of course, I don’t know you or your spouse, so some of what I am writing about may not apply to you. That’s fine. I do think that everything I am typing is pretty universal and should apply to most people in most situations.

Let’s start here: be nice. The golden rule. Treat others how you would like to be treated. These are all variations on a similar theme. Do unto others as others would do unto you. Don’t throw civility out the window because you are getting a divorce. You may be as angry as can be at your spouse. That is fine. However- don’t let the frustrations of divorce boil over into how you treat your spouse. Be respectful and decent to your spouse if it is the right thing to do for no other reason. If you need a second reason, you should understand that you stand to gain nothing from being disrespectful and belligerent towards your spouse.

Are you living in the same house? Show your children that you are consistent in your parenting.

In some divorces, spouses choose (or are forced by circumstances) to stay living together for the duration of the divorce. While this may seem awkward (and it may well be that way), you can use this opportunity to show your children that you are still parents and still able to co-exist with one another. If you can live together and co-parent successfully, imagine what you can do after the wounds of divorce have healed? You must engage your spouse with respect, especially when it comes to matters surrounding your children.

If your spouse attempts to engage with you in an aggressive or belligerent manner, it is best to walk away and avoid confrontation. If it escalates to the point where you feel your physical safety is in harm’s way, you should speak to your attorney and have a judge address the problem directly. There is nothing more important than your or your children’s physical well-being.

Stay away from relationships outside of your marriage during your divorce.

Just because you and your spouse are getting a divorce in the future does not mean you should be angling for a new relationship while the divorce is still ongoing. A future divorce does not constitute a present divorce to put yourself on the dating market. During your divorce, being in a relationship takes away your attention, time, and resources from wrapping up your divorce and caring for your family. Another effect of the relationship could be further alienating your spouse. You want to do what you can to keep your spouse in your good graces while simultaneously achieving your goals. This is a hard enough balance to strike as it is. Starting a relationship during your divorce only adds to the complexity and degree of difficulty.

Part and parcel with this advice are not spending money on that significant other during your divorce. Did you know that a typical temporary order forbids you from wasting community resources in Texas? This means that money commonly held by you and your spouse should not go towards anything not related to your divorce, your children, or a business. Extracurricular spending is off-limits during your divorce—especially spending on an extramarital relationship.

You assume that the judge will read whatever you decide to write/text/post.

I utilize a personal rule whenever I send an email to another attorney or client: I assume that a judge will read it. Making this assumption helps me keep my language professional and causes me to be more diligent in my communication. Attorneys should not be sloppy in doing their jobs, and I do not want an email to be misinterpreted against me for any reason. Maybe I am being overly cautious; I will grant you. However, it is something that I have practiced regularly since I became a lawyer and is something that I recommend you do as a person going through a divorce as well.

What do I mean by that? If you absolutely must text with your spouse during your divorce, make sure to keep it civil and do not text something that could be construed against you. Foul language especially makes you look bad. Be civil. Overly civil, even. Even if your insides are bursting with anger, you should hide it beneath a smile and friendly demeanor.

Are you an active social media person? That’s all good and well, but you ought to be very careful what you say and do online during your divorce. This is especially true if you communicate with your spouse via social media. Do not post anything about your divorce online. Period. Even if you are merely expressing frustration with the process. It’s not worth it. You will gain nothing from doing so.

Consider a total blackout of text messaging, social media usage, and even email communication during a divorce. The reason being is that you cannot explain away a nasty text message or derogatory comment about your spouse made on social media. Even if you are diligent 99% of the time, the 1% of the time you let your guard down could end up costing you in the long run.

More advice on how to act in your divorce will be posted tomorrow

I appreciate your interest in the subject matter we’ve had up in the past few days. We will continue discussing some tips and tricks associated with behaving and conducting yourself during a divorce in tomorrow’s blog post.

If you have questions for us, please consider contacting the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. One of our licensed family law attorneys would be honored to speak to you about your case and answer your questions in a free-of-charge consultation.