Divorcing your spouse is an emotionally painful and stressful process. Divorces often require invoking the formal litigation process which is an inherently confrontational process. As such, it is important to understand what can be used against you in a divorce, how your actions and behavior can affect the outcome, and how your divorce lawyer can help mitigate their impact.
This article outlines specific actions which may negatively impact your divorce and what may get used against you.
Behaviors & Things Which May Negatively Affect You During a Divorce or Custody Matter
Pennsylvania is a no-fault jurisdiction. However, your spouse can highlight and use your behavior and actions against you during your divorce or custody proceedings. Stated simply, your behavior during your divorce can affect issues such as child custody and property division.
While your spouse’s lawyer may use these negative behaviors and actions against you during your family court matter, your own attorney can help mitigate their impact. That said, you need to be open and honest with your divorce lawyer about any possible actions which may put you in a negative light.
Social Media Posts
Your spouse’s attorney can compel you to produce metadata from your social media account during the discovery stage of your divorce case or may be able to obtain unflattering, or embarrassing social media posts from your account without your knowledge depending on your privacy settings. Stated simply, your spouse can use this information to demonstrate you are an unfit parent or engaged in an extramarital affair. As such, you should limit posting anything on your social media accounts, or completely abstain from social media activity.
Pursuant to §3502(a) of the Divorce Code, marital assets are equitably divided. Accordingly, under §3505(b) you must provide your spouse with an inventory of your assets and financial information. If you attempt to hide your assets, a judge can award your spouse a higher share of the marital assets and can punish you in the form of fines or sanctions.
Spending Marital Assets
It is also advisable to limit your withdrawals from any joint bank accounts or abstain from selling or transferring ownership of any valuable marital assets, or moving money during your divorce case. Stated more clearly, intentionally excessive or extraordinary spending, or selling or transferring ownership of marital property is known as “dissipation of assets” and “marital waste.” If your spouse is able to prove you are dissipating assets, they can argue for a larger share of marital assets under section §3502(a)(7).
Acting Out of Spite or Anger
Due to the personal nature of a divorce case, many people turn the divorce process into an all out war. Instead of focusing on hurting your spouse, you should focus on obtaining the best result for your divorce. By allowing your emotions to dictate your decisions, your spouse’s attorney may be able to portray you as an unreasonable person and an unfit parent.
Delaying the Divorce
Similar to acting on anger, it may be tempting to delay or prolong your divorce to inflict financial and emotional stress on your spouse. This strategy can backfire as the judge can order you to pay your spouse’s legal fees pursuant to §3323(e) if the judge determines you acted in bad faith. Instead, you should focus on resolving your divorce in an efficient manner.
Getting Into a Romantic Relationship During Your Divorce
While the end of a marriage offers a degree of personal freedom, you should be careful as to whom you choose for a romantic relationship during your divorce. While a romantic relationship in of itself is not harmful, your spouse may be able to use your new partner’s background against you. For example, if your new partner has any history of violence or addiction, your spouse can argue your child’s interests are not served by awarding you custody pursuant to section §5328(a)(14) and (15).
Text Messages & Emails
Yes, text messages and emails can be used against you as evidence during a divorce. Similar to social media posts, text and emails are easily retrievable during the discovery process. Your spouse can use your emails and text messages to embarrass you or impeach your credibility. During your divorce or custody process, treat the content of each email or text as though a Judge will be reading it in your case.
Rushing the Settlement Process
While it is important to proceed with your divorce in an efficient manner, you should not rush the settlement process. It is important to remember your divorce is the beginning of a new chapter of your life. By exercising patience, your attorney may be able to negotiate divorce terms which are more favorable.
It is important to remain honest throughout the divorce process. Many divorce cases feature one or both spouses asserting false accusations regarding domestic violence or other untrue activities against the other party, which can often be disproven during the discovery process. By lying, you risk damaging your credibility for any arguments you assert for issues such as property division and child custody.
Keeping Your Spouse Away from Their Children
It is a mistake to try to keep your spouse away from your children if you have a custody order giving the other parent custody time. If your spouse is able to prove you are preventing them from being with their child, you may end up losing custody. Specifically, being uncooperative with your spouse or attempting to influence your children are factors under §5328 a court will use when determining custody.
Leaving Town Without Warning
Your spouse can argue sudden or unscheduled trips affect your ability to attend to your child’s needs. Additionally, you must provide sufficient notice to your spouse pursuant to section §5337 if you intend to relocate either out of state or in state. A court can modify an existing custody order if you fail to provide sufficient notice.
Signing Anything Without Your Attorney’s Review
Many divorces are resolved via negotiations and the signing of documents such as a marital settlement agreement. A marital settlement agreement is essentially a contract. Due to the binding nature of legal documents such as a marital settlement agreement, you should not sign any documents until your attorney reviews them to ensure they are accurate and correct.
If Your Spouse Plays Dirty During Divorce, Don’t Stoop to Their Level
Some people use underhanded tactics in divorce cases. Stated simply, they want to turn a divorce case into a mudslinging contest. If you follow your attorney’s advice and stick to the facts of your case, you have a better chance of being seen as more credible by the judge.
How a Divorce Lawyer Helps Mitigate Negative Factors
Due to the stress caused by the divorce process, people sometimes make mistakes and commit acts which their spouses can use against them in court. You should inform your attorney if you engaged in behavior which you think your spouse can use to hurt your case. Your attorney can mitigate the negative effects of your action by gathering additional evidence to strengthen other parts of your case.
Summary of What Can Be Used Against You In a Divorce
A range of actions and behaviors can be used against you during your divorce proceedings which can affect issues such as child custody, visitation rights, and property division. At Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, our divorce attorneys have spent over 40 years counseling and guiding our clients through the divorce process and court proceedings. To learn more about our services, contact us today!