Throughout the years I have seen numerous couples starting their relationship with excitement and joy - holding hands as they discuss the process of obtaining a marriage license or working together to reach a fair pre-nup. I have also seen many couples go their separate ways and ask for help in their divorce applications.
Not surprisingly, a majority of the couples who are just entering into marriage believe that should they get divorced they would do it amicably. Yet, only three out of ten divorces actually end in a respectful and amicable manner.
Feelings of jealousy, betrayal and hurt result in vengeful behaviour. Actions rooted in such negative feelings can lead to very costly and long court proceedings. I have seen cases that are still in court after 6 years of litigation. This is often as a result of one or both parties believing they can get away for tactics intended to outsmart or to corner the other party.
Do know that courts are aware of such conduct and have the ability to reprimand yours or your ex's behaviour if they find it necessary. This could result in costs awarded against you, to losing your home and possible losing the custody of your children.
Any good Family Law lawyer will tell you to avoid the following 10 behaviours. If they suggest you to do anything in the contrary, you may wish to get a second opinion.
Children as Bargaining Tools. Sure, your ex may be afraid of threats of reduced time spent with their child; but once they have a lawyer and realize their legal rights they are unlikely to be fooled by these threats. In fact, any threats related to access or custody of the children can be used by the other party to prove that you do not have the best interests of the child in mind. This will be used against you in court.
Fighting in the Home. Living under the same roof with an ex is difficult but be careful on how you handle it. If the environment becomes toxic for the children or the behaviour is considered violent (verbal or physical), you partner can ask the court to have you removed. The best approach is to divide up the home so you both have individual safe spaces to return to. If an argument starts, simply walk away.
Changing Locks. You cannot change the locks on the property. Both parties have a legal right to live in the home until divorce (or a separation agreement is finalized). Forcing your partner out by changing the locks may have the opposite effect as they may be awarded exclusive possession. Or they may seek financial remedy for the duration they were forced to live elsewhere.
Moving Money. Often a spouse may liquidate assets, change title of property, transfer money to a family member, reduce value ofbusiness interest or move money overseas in an attempt to avoid dividing the family assets. These attempts are readily traceable and the courts will look at the pattern of behaviour during the relationship versus conduct shortly before separation to determine for the innocent party will be awarded a large portion of the assets as a result of such conduct.
Increasing Debt. Before taking out a line of credit or taking the credit card for a shopping spree, you should be aware that you are liable for debts that are used for your own wants/needs. The judge will take into consideration attempts to deplete the family assets and may use it as grounds to reduce your entitlement in the division of assets.
Hiding Property. Tracing, tracing, tracing. There will always be some form of paper trail which will lead to the hidden funds, investments or even real property. The courts are able to provide Orders which will allow your partner’s lawyer to contact financial institutions and obtain information about all your dealings with them for however long they need to in order to discover the hidden assets. This includes monthly statements where money has been transferred to a third-party for “safe keeping.”
False Allegations. This is often done to deny access of children or defame the other party’s character. Usually the allegation is one of domestic assault. If proven false, the court will not take this lightly. The innocent party may even seek damages as a result of the false allegations.
Communication. At times parties will stop communicating and demand that the lawyers do all the talking. Keep in mind, lawyers are charging for their time. If you can speak in a civil manner with your partner, it is a good idea to try do so. Do not sign or write down any agreements via text, email or otherwise until you have talked to your lawyer first.
Social Media. Yes, anything you post or say on social media can and will be used as evidence against you. Think twice before posting anything. Better yet, don’t post anything.
Ignoring Court Orders. Failing to follow the instructions of the court is not in your best interest. The court has the ability to award costs, dismiss your claim, strike your documents or take other measures that it may consider necessary for a just determination of the matter.