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Pitfalls to Avoid in Divorce Litigation



Unfortunately, many divorces cases take longer, cost more, cause more pain, and involve more drama than they should. Parties harm themselves by making common, recurring mistakes. Relatively simple mistakes or pitfalls may wreak havoc on the divorce litigation, as well as the parties themselves. There are several pitfalls to avoid.

Selective Disclosure to Counsel

It is never a good idea to withhold information from the attorney providing counsel in a case. Counsel needs to be equipped to handle the information and not be exposed to it for the first time in open court during cross-examination. If there is a possibility the information is germane and relates to the divorce or will be raised by opposing counsel, parties, or a witness, it is prudent to raise the subject with counsel first and strategize how to deal with the information to diffuse any potentially damaging situation. Most attorneys can turn the negative into a positive and take the sting out of the situation if told in advance. An attorney's ability to do same on the fly is far more limited.

Not Staying Above the Fray

Avoid name-calling, attacks, and verbal assaults against the estranged spouse. The energy expended is wasted and taken away from pursuits such as child custody or finances, where efforts should be more constructively focused and concentrated. Often, the issues raised in attacks are tangential and reflect poorly on the attacker (often more so than on the subject of the attack). Counsel is hired to be the spokesperson for the case, so it is best to limit communications and focus efforts in that manner.

Putting Family Members in the Middle

It is never appropriate nor advisable to involve children in their parents' divorce. In the rarest instances, when children are of a sufficient age and level of maturity, a judge may decide to consult a child on his or her custodial parent preference. Spouses should not relay messages to one another through children, nor spy on one another through kids. Spouses should not manipulate each other through children, put children in the middle of the divorce and pump them for information or reassurances, play favorites, or anything akin to such behaviors.

Failing to Appreciate Full Financial Costs

A divorce case, particularly when child custody is concerned, can be contentious, bitter, and protracted. The matter can last a long time and be involved if the parties heavily contest issues. Nickel-and-diming counsel and attempting to limit representation once the matter is underway, or setting unreasonable goals and expectations, is counter-productive and obstructive. It is more prudent to set a budget and have candid discussions with counsel on the front end to ensure expectations are set appropriately and contingency planning occurs.