For many people, the decision of whether to divorce is an all-encompassing one. A process that hi-jacks not just your emotions but often the ability to think clearly as well. Many times spouses want the process to “just-be-over-with” once the decision to divorce is made. But the time between deciding that you need a divorce and actually telling your spouse is a very important period. If you handle this period well, you will enter the divorce case with an advantage. If you handle this period poorly, you can drastically diminish your potential recovery, as well as driving skyward the attorney’s fees ultimately paid by both spouses.
The following 20 pointers are meant to help you handle the time between deciding to divorce and actually hiring a lawyer and filing the lawsuit:
Communicating with your Spouse
- Always assume that you are being recorded. Texas is often described as a ‘one-party’ state regarding recordings because it is legal to record a conversation so long as one party to the conversation is aware the recording is occurring. Your spouse is the ‘one-party’ to the conversation with knowledge of the recording.
- Always be polite and respectful in your conversations – if for no other reason than you are assuming that you are being recorded! The simple rule is: Don’t say or do things to your spouse that you would not want to explain to your grandmother or your children.
- If you have children, do not discuss the legal proceeding or your relationship with your spouse in the presence of them. This includes adult children!
- Write every email and text message to your spouse with the belief that it will be read aloud in the courtroom.
- Preserve all text messages and emails exchanged with your spouse from the moment you begin thinking that a divorce may be in your future.
- Consider revoking any powers of attorney which you have signed giving your spouse decision making authority over your personal or financial matters. If your decision is to revoke such powers, it is time to retain a lawyer to help you before you make the revocation.
- Consider changing your beneficiary designations for life insurance, financial accounts, and retirement accounts. If your decision is to change the designations, it is time to retain a lawyer to help you before you make the changes.
Information and Documentation Gathering
- Do not acquire any documents or information by ‘guessing’ your spouse’s password to any electronic device or safe.
- If your spouse has previously shared a password with you, consult with your attorney regarding the admissibility at hearings or trial of the information or documents obtained through the use of the password before using the password to gain access.
- Create a list of the property you and your spouse own.
- Take photos or videos of high-value electronics, furniture, paintings, artwork, antiques, and jewelry.
- Change the passwords and security questions to social media accounts.
- Open a Gmail or Yahoo email account in your own name if you do not have one.
- Change the passwords and security questions to all email accounts that are only in your name.
- Consider de-activating social media accounts (if held in your own name, advised by your attorney, and not in conflict with any existing court order).
- Do not post to social media accounts. If you are going to post to social media accounts, assume that one of your trusted “friends” in your private account settings will share your postings, photos, and information with your spouse.
- Many spouses share Apple and/or Google cloud storage accounts with one another or one or more of their children. This can result in the unintended sharing of photos, text messages, email, or other information or data (such as “find my phone” location information) between all cell phones and electronics that share the cloud storage account. If you share a cloud storage account of any type with your spouse or child(ren), unregister all your cell phones and electronics (iPad, laptop, …) from the shared cloud storage account.
- Develop the habit of ALWAYS ‘signing out’, ‘logging-out’, and powering off computers and electronic devices when you are not currently using the device.
- If you save your passwords in your browser or other storage application, discontinue the practice or application and ensure that all passwords are deleted from the electronic device.
Lastly and most importantly
- If you and your spouse have children, be engaged with your child. Make yourself available to your child when he or she needs to spend time with you so that your child will know that they are your priority!