What Can Be Used Against You in Divorce?
Divorce is the second most stressful live event after the death of a loved one, and if your spouse is a high-conflict narcissist, death may feel like a preferable option.
Even in the best of circumstances, divorce entails a potentially painful disentangling of assets and family. Worse, it all happens while you’re losing the person who should be your number one supporter. It’s a recipe for anger, resentment, and heartache.
Unfortunately, the pressure cooker of assets and emotions can turn a separation adversarial, and when that happens your spouse—even if they’re usually very reasonable—may start searching for anything they can weaponize to their advantage. It’s awful to think about, but if you’re beginning the process, it’s critical to know what can be used against you in divorce.
Understanding the Divorce Playing Field
When we talk about divorce in the proper sense, we don’t just mean “splitting up.” Marriage is a legal contract that involves joint ownership of property in its most basic form. A “divorce” in law means you and your spouse have been unable to agree how to divide everything up, and you’re asking the court to do it for you.
That means you’re going to have to go before a judge and explain why they should rule in your favor. In that environment, just about anything might be used against you in a bid to influence decisions about finances and custody.
How you behave as your divorce unfolds can have a huge impact on the proceedings. Most people barely understand the law as it is, much less divorce law, and engaging a certified divorce coach early and earnestly can help you avoid costly pitfalls.
The Basics: Fault vs No-Fault
“What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” —Matt. 19:6
Putting aside the obvious gender problems of this 17th century formulation from the New Testament, the religious aspect of your marriage may be the most important to you personally, and that’s a wonderful thing.
However, in legal terms, none of that matters, and the reason why you’re breaking up can matter a great deal. Depending on whether it’s you or your spouse who alleges fault, the judge may treat you differently.
There are thirteen states where divorce proceedings are always or nearly always blame-free. It doesn’t matter why you’re getting divorce; it’s sufficient that one of you wants to leave. Conversely, even if you’re abused, you can’t file for divorce on the grounds that a spouse did something bad.
No-fault divorces offer the advantages of speed, increased privacy, being easier on children, and reducing the potential for introducing difficult or false allegations.
All 50 states offer the option of a no-fault divorce, but in 33 you can file for divorce because of something your spouse did. It can be abuse, cheating, financial impropriety, and a host of other options. The idea is that, by proving fault, you have essentially proved breach of contract and should be entitled to damages.
Protecting Yourself During Divorce
Particularly in a fault divorce, the potential for your spouse to hurl every pithy email or angry phone call against you in front of a judge is very real. Divorces are emotionally stressful and judges know this. However, there are some mistakes that are easily made when you’re upset and frustrated that can seriously alter the outcome of your divorce proceeding.
Keep Your Poise
It’s so hard when your spouse knows all the buttons to push, but trust us: you’re bigger than that.
If you’re sending angry messages and screaming into voicemail when you can’t take it anymore, you’d better be ready for that to show up in front of the judge. We weren’t kidding when we said a divorce coach is a crucial asset. You know who you can send all that to if you really have to get it out?
Us! Vent to us! We’re on your team!
And don’t feel bad. We get it. We’ve been there.
Don’t Mess With Money
If you’re hoping to convince a judge to divide assets your way, don’t make your way look bad. If you’re hiding assets from the court, you’d better be prepared to get a rude awakening if anyone—especially a vengeful spouse—finds out. Just don’t.
Also, when divorce is grinding you down, it’s very natural to want to spend some cash and get away from it all. Unfortunately, making large purchases with money you know is not settled is inviting trouble you don’t need.
Getting Back in the Dating Game
Look, we get it. Some marriages end long before it’s official, and that may mean there’s overlap. That’s a very real and very common experience and we’re not judging.
Your spouse, however, will use that as a white-hot poker in a courtroom. Judges are smart and they know how to listen past the rage, but be careful. If the new person you’re seeing has personal problems, that may hold weight in custody arguments.
Turn Off Social Media
This is very simple: whatever you post will be shown to a judge. Guaranteed. So don’t mention Frodo and the Ring. And say nothing of Aragorn either.
In fact, it’s better if you don’t speak at all, Peregrin Took.
Divorce Right With Better Divorce Academy
My name is Paulette Rigo, and I started Better Divorce Academy after I suffered an 8.5-year, fully litigated divorce and appeal with a high-conflict spouse who tried to ruin my life in the process.
I know the law, the process, and what your spouse can use against you. In divorce proceedings, having a certified divorce coach in your corner can empower you to come out the other side with dignity, financial security, and the courage to pursue your new life with the vitality you deserve.