Divorces are tough. There are so many aspects of a divorce case that you would have difficulty controlling even half of all the circumstances that are in play. However, you will still have control over your actions and still have control over what you choose to do or not do. Today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will pick up where we left off in yesterday's blog by discussing some common mistakes that people going through divorces in Texas tend to make. I wanted to make this as easy as possible for you. Avoiding mistakes takes less effort than actively having to do something and can be just as important.
Go by the book- pay spousal support and child support on time
If you are a husband and father tasked with paying child support and/or spousal support during your divorce, this part of the blog post is for you. I understand that you are probably not all that happy about being on the hook for paying support to your soon to be ex-wife. No, I'm not saying that men in this position do not love their children or want to provide for them. What I am saying is that most fathers would prefer that they know where the money they pay in support is being spent. Many of these folks ask me if there is any way that we can work into the orders a requirement that their wife tells him how the child support is spent. It's an interesting notion, but not one that has a snowball's chance in the desert in getting included in the orders.
Likewise, you may also be responsible for paying your wife spousal support temporarily during the divorce. Temporary spousal support is ordered in situations where your spouse is unable to work due to a disability, due to caring for a child with a disability or otherwise to help support a spouse who is not working. This does not necessarily mean that your wife will be able to receive spousal maintenance or alimony after the divorce. Texas judges are not too keen on awarding post-divorce maintenance. What it does mean is that courts accept that your spouse may need some support for a short period while she adjusts to post-divorce life.
Many times a wage withholding order will be sent to your employer to help ensure that child support and/or spousal maintenance is paid according to your court orders. However, during the divorce, this step is not usually taken. You will be responsible for paying child support or spousal maintenance according to the terms of your order, be it a final decree of divorce or temporary order.
You need to follow the order and make sure that your support payments are made in full and made on time. The failure to do so is a violation of the court order which can result in your being fined and penalized by the judge. The easiest way to avoid this problem is to make sure you have read your court orders, understand what they require of you, and then follow through with your obligation. You may disagree with what the orders have to say but not paying the support isn’t going to change the situation. You can always attempt to modify the court orders later on but not paying support now can complicate that process, as well.
Take care of yourself during the divorce- do not self-medicate
Like I alluded to at the outset of today's blog post, divorce is tough. It is a trying time in your life where you feel like your life is slipping out of your control. Such, many people will attempt to soothe their minds by self-medicating through food, alcohol or even drug use. Yes, even with as much at stake as is the case in a divorce many people will seek out the worst releases possible for stress and anxiety.
Not only is excessive alcohol or drug use badly for you, but it is bad for your children as well. I have had child custody and divorce cases where alcohol and drugs have been a factor and I can tell you that it is not a pretty scene for the parent or spouse who uses drugs habitually.
The first case that comes to mind is a divorce case I handled a few years ago. Our office represented a mother who had used drugs in the wake of her separation from her husband. This woman had not only abused drugs on multiple occasions but did so with her child in the house. The husband came to learn of the drug use and eventually took their son to his parents’ home to live during the case.
Understandably our client was distraught after her son had been removed from the house without her permission or knowledge. On top of that, the husband had been violent with her in the past. On some level her need to lick her wounds and focus on herself was justified. On another level, her decision to self medicate through drug use is something that spelled disaster for her case.
This mother and wife tested positive for several illegal drugs is being tested early in her case. We began with our client having supervised visitation due to these positive drug tests. Our thought was to agree to this (as it is likely what the judge would order if we went to a temporary orders hearing) and then push for more time when we got further and further away from the positive drug test.
Ultimately that is what happened. Our client stopped using drugs, attended the court-ordered therapy sessions with a counselor and was able to win split custody of her son. However, had the drug use never occurred she would have been an easy person to name as the primary conservator of her child. That means more time with her son and the ability to receive child support.
Another cautionary tale that I can share with you involves a situation where an opposing party drove under the influence of alcohol with his daughter in the backseat of the vehicle. He was arrested and had to face his ex-wife (our client) filing a modification of their divorce decree soon after the divorce. He received supervised visitation for an extended period as well as mandatory, random drug testing.
These folks are not unique. Anyone going through a hard time will find solace in things that make us feel better. However, you need to be responsible with your body and with your decision making. No matter how down and out you may feel, you will feel exponentially worse if you use drugs or alcohol and that abuse causes you to suffer harm in your family law case. Don’t let it happen to you.
Be reasonable and only fight when the situation warrants it
There are some aspects of your divorce case that I’m sure you would agree are more important than others. The system is designed for you to be able to fight about whatever you want in a divorce, but ultimately only those things that are of the utmost importance should be contested. Things like your children, your finances and other parts of your case that are critical to the rest of your life are what I have in mind.
On the other hand, pieces of personal property, small concessions regarding pick up/drop off of your child and other minor details probably do not need to be contested all that heavily. The reason is that you do not stand to benefit sufficiently from each of these issues to justify having fought for them. Remember, the longer your case goes on for, the more money you are spending on your attorney. That’s not to say that your attorney will not be earning their fee, but money is money.
The safety of your children, your ability to provide for your children after the divorce and the maintenance of your business are probably the three most important aspects of a typical divorce case. If you are going to push to go to trial on any issues, let it be these. Other issues are probably more minor annoyances in the immediate sense rather than ones that you need to gear up for battle over.
Keep the details of your divorce to yourself
Your children are the people that are going to be around you the most during your divorce. As such, it may happen that you inadvertently talk about your divorce around them or otherwise confide in them about what is going on in your divorce. However, I would recommend that you shy away from doing this. Not only can it damage the long term development of your kids but it can also hurt your case.
Your temporary orders likely bar you from talking to your kids about your divorce. I'm not telling you that a lot of people are taken back to court due to this reason, but it is something to be aware of. This blog post is about avoiding mistakes. This is one where it is easier to follow the advice on what not to do than to go through a more complicated act of doing something.
If you need someone to talk to during your divorce, I recommend a pastor, priest, friend or someone who has no relation to your case. Do not seek out your attorney for this role. He or she will likely bill you for the entirety of your conversation. Your attorney needs to feel like he or she can give you advice based on the facts and circumstances of your case rather than advice based on an emotional attachment to you.
Kids also stress out more about things like this than you may realize. Even if they don't show it immediately, a decline in their academic performance is possible during a divorce. Having thoughts about what is happening next in a process that they have no control over can be a helpless situation to be in.
Be careful what you do say to your children about the divorce
If your children ask you questions about your divorce you would be well served to think carefully before providing them a response. Many parents in your position will over-promise things to their children to help them to feel better about the uncertainty that surrounds divorce. Again, do not do something just to feel better about your situation for a moment or two. If your promise does not come true or falls short in some way, you can make your situation worse for yourself and your children.
For instance, if your kids ask you how long the divorce is going to take do not tell them that it will be over by a certain date. The reason why you don't want to tell your child a specific date is because you don't know how long the case will take. There are so many circumstances in your divorce that you have no control over. Do not fall into the trap of telling your children something that you cannot back up later on. Be supportive of your children during the divorce but do not give them any specifics that you do not know to be true.
More tips to implement and mistakes to avoid in divorce will be shared in tomorrow’s blog post
We will be back here tomorrow to share tips that you can implement in your life to help ensure a better result in your divorce. By the same token, there are plenty of mistakes that you can avoid that will help you do the same. We post blogs every day of the year and hope that you will join us to join in the conversation.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free consultations with potential clients six days a week. These consultations are a great opportunity for you to have your questions answered and issues addressed directly by an experienced family law attorney.