Going through a divorce is difficult. It can be time consuming and a major disruption in your life. It’s emotionally trying on everyone involved. But there are ways to minimize the pain of a divorce while it is pending.
- Hire an attorney. You can represent yourself in a divorce, but having legal counsel will help the process go much more smoothly and efficiently. An attorney will be able to help you strategize, formulate legal theories and arguments, and best present your case and evidence at trial or during a settlement process.
- Be mindful of deadlines. Much of the divorce process is time-sensitive. There is a certain amount of time a party has after being served to file an answer, there are discovery deadlines and certain events (such as parenting courses or mediation) must be completed in a timely fashion. Dragging your feet or delaying responses can result in very serious implications on your success at court. Missed deadlines can result in evidence not being available for use at trial, sanctions and attorney fees being awarded, or pleadings being stricken. If you fail to file an answer then a default judgment can be taken against you. When a court or your attorney provides a deadline or timeframe for completion, it is absolutely mandatory that whatever the requested task is be done by that date.
- Be honest with your attorney. An attorney can’t help a client who hides things from them. Whether it’s full disclosure as to property or an affair, your attorney needs to know. A good attorney can help soften the edges on negative facts, but it’s hard to do that when the facts come out at trial rather than in attorney-client conversations.
- Recognize your shortcomings. No one is perfect. Each divorce matter is different as all divorces must account for the parties’ unique schedules, financial circumstances, and goals. If a parent travels five days a week for work it is going to be difficult to win primary conservatorship of the children. If a parent has a documented history of substance abuse then that is likely going to be addressed at trial. It’s important to remember that one bad fact will not torpedo a case, but you need to acknowledge the bad facts and strategize on how to overcome them. Not all shortcomings can be negated, so compromise may be key.
- Ask questions. Your legal team does not expect you to know all the lingo and terminology involved in the divorce litigation process. We are here to help you navigate the process and do our best to explain everything that occurs along the way. That being said, sometimes there can be a gap in understanding. If you don’t understand what your decree says, ask your attorney! If you have concerns about a settlement offer or don’t understand what is expected of you at a hearing, ask sooner rather than later. An open line of communication helps the litigation process run smoothly and optimizes the level of representation you get from your legal team.
- Create (and stick to) a budget. Divorce is hard on the wallet. The household is divided and often going from two incomes to one income. Expenses can increase. Attorney fees can be expensive. Creating a budget at the outset of the case and sticking to it can help with the transition. It also helps if a party is requesting temporary spousal support from the other parties.
- Don’t make any major purchases. Texas is a community property state, so while you may have the means to purchase a new house or recreational vehicle while a divorce is pending, that is just going to add another asset that needs to be addressed and divided in the divorce. There are also usually injunctions in place prohibiting parties from major expenses. Save the big purchases for after the divorce is over.
- Get your paperwork in order and continue to update your legal team with current statements. Much of the litigation process focuses on finances. Whether you’re preparing for a temporary orders hearing, mediation, or final trial, your attorney is going to need all of your current account statements, paycheck stubs, and tax documents. It saves time and legal fees if you continuously update your attorney with recent statements rather than them having to hassle you for them.
- Be patient. Texas has one of the shortest waiting periods for a divorce in the country, but even sixty days can feel like forever if you have an agreement and are ready to finalize the divorce. A contested divorce often takes upward of a year to finalize. Understand that the litigation process takes time. Your attorney will do everything they can to move the case forward in an efficient manner but trial settings are dictated by the court.
- If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Anything you do or say can and will be used against you in a family law case. Don’t make disparaging remarks about your spouse to the children. Don’t make threats. Don’t send demeaning messages through text or Our Family Wizard. Assume anything you say is being recorded and your spouse is going to be saving all text messages and emails. Save the venting for your friends or therapist.
- Be on your best behavior. Don’t give your spouse ammunition to use against you. Domestic violence, aside from being a crime, has serious repercussions on a family law matter. Abusing drugs or alcohol will impact the type of conservatorship and custody schedule you get with the children. Even an arrest for something like shoplifting can have a negative effect on your divorce matter. Stay out of trouble
- Document everything. If your spouse sends nasty text messages or voicemails, send a copy to your attorney. If there are suspicious transactions on a bank statement, make sure to provide that to your legal team. Much of family law is a “he said, she said” situation, so any hard evidence you have can help you reach your goals.
- Manage your expectations. Even with the best evidence and legal team, the divorce process can be unpredictable. Hearings can be rescheduled due to a busy court docket; the other side may not make the property division offer you had hoped for. It’s important to take these small bumps in the road in stride and not let it hinder your outlook for the remainder of the case.
- Be reasonable. Texas is a community property state so no spouse is going to be awarded 100% of the community assets. The Texas Family Code presumes children should have a relationship with both parents, so very rarely does anyone get “sole custody” where the other parent never sees the children. Often a spouse wants
- Follow the orders. In litigious divorces, there are often temporary orders in place that can last for a few weeks to a year before the divorce is finalized. These typically include child support, spousal support, directions for who pays what bills, and other provisions. You must follow these orders. Failure to comply with an agreement or court order can have a negative impact on your case and can hurt you at final trial or settlement negotiations. If there is an order in place, follow it to the letter. If you have questions, ask your attorney to make sure you are in compliance.
- Ask for help. Divorce is hard. It’s emotionally tolling and stirs up a lot of feelings for even the most amicable of couples. If you are hitting your limit emotionally or feel helpful, it is important to reach out to your support network or seek professional counseling. There is no shame in recognizing when assistance is needed.
The divorce process is rarely easy. But keeping these tips in mind and addressing any action items will help the process run as smoothly as possible and will help you achieve your goals. The team at the Ramos Law Group, PLLC will also be with you every step of the way and is here to answer any questions you may have throughout the process.