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DIVORCE can be upsetting, no doubt. If you didn’t get along with your spouse while you were married to him or her, odds are, you’ll like them even less now that you are in the middle of a divorce. The whole process can be even more difficult if you are divorcing a person who thrives on conflict, one who seems hell-bent on revenge, even if it comes at great personal cost to him or her—or your mutual children.
There’s no winning with these types of people, which probably is why you have chosen to dissolve your marriage. These are the kind of people who get drunk and then send text messages threatening to call your parents or your boss and share some shameful secret about you if you don’t bend to their will in mediation negotiations. They withhold financial information during discovery, and ignore court orders, pleading hardship and ignorance. They lie and cry and manipulate. They use children as pawns.
If this describes your soon-to-be ex-spouse, here are some tips to help you get through your divorce case:
1. Accept that divorce is a process, and often, a messy one. Life is a journey with peaks and valleys, though. Eventually, you will get through this. Florida law requires an equitable distribution of assets acquired during the marriage. While alimony reform is a hot topic in the legislature, currently spousal support is determined based on the need of one party and the ability of the other party to pay. Guidelines have been established which help the courts determine child support obligations. Hundreds of couples divorce each year in Florida, including many high-conflict couples. They get through it, and you can too. The key is to stay focused on the end game and try not to get caught up in the other person’s drama, which is what he or she wants you to do. Don’t accept the bait!
2. Keep your text-imony to yourself. Unless your spouse is threatening to physically harm you, the Court most likely will not want to hear hours of “he said, she said” testimony. Sadly, they’ve heard it all before. Spouses say nasty things to one another. Judges don’t want to hear it. What they will want to hear is whether the other party has complied with the Court’s order to hand over financials by a particular date and time, or whether one spouse is calling the other spouse names in front of their mutual children. As much as you can, when you are talking with your attorney, or the judge, try to stay focused on the facts and the issues in the case. Save the text sharing for your best friend.
3. Keep your children out of it. One of the quickest ways to lose favor with the Court in any timesharing situation is to play games with your children’s affections. Bad-mouthing the other parent, using your children as messengers, heated arguments about the children or the divorce in front of the children, playing games with the timesharing schedule—all of these behaviors are destructive to the children and could negatively impact your case. Florida law requires the parties to work together to create a Parenting Plan. The primary consideration in the Parenting Plan is the best interest of the child or children. In approving the Parenting Plan, the Court will look a numerous factors, and one key factor is the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship with the other parent. Support your children in their relationship with the other parent and, in the long run, everyone comes out a winner.
4. Don’t be too ‘social.’ As my wise grandmother used to say, “Don’t say it unless you are comfortable seeing it printed on the front page of the newspaper.” In this day and age, if you say it or do it, you may well read about it or see a photo of it on the Internet, via social media, in a matter of hours, if not minutes. If you wouldn’t want Granny, the ex or the Court to know about it, then just don’t do it. Photos and comments posted on social media can be used as evidence in court. Think before you post, and remember: everybody’s got a camera on his or her phone these days.
5. Get appropriate support. Your children are yours to love. It is your job to support them, not the other way around. Divorce, however, is one of the most stressful life challenges. You do need support. Hire a therapist who specializes in high conflict relationships and divorce, or one who deals with whatever types of issues you are facing that led you to the break up of your marriage. This will allow you to fully move on after the completion of your legal case. Also, make time to spend with other people who love and support you, like friends and family, or take up a new hobby. Your attorney can provide the best support for you with regard to your legal case, as anything you say to your attorney is confidential (with limited exceptions) and protected by attorney/client privilege. Whether or not you choose to hire an attorney to help you with your case, do not discuss your case with other non-attorney third parties as anything you share with them will not be protected by the same rules of confidentiality and may be used against you in court.
Divorce is not an easy process, and it can be much harder when one of the parties seems more focused on staying in conflict instead of on resolution. Remember that it takes two to tango. Change your behavior and the other person can no longer continue to respond to you in the same familiar ways. At Sandra K. Ambrose, we are committed to helping our clients resolve their legal issues so they can move on with their lives. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss the particulars of your case and how we may be of assistance.