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Lost Your Valentine? Top 10 Traps When Going Through Texas Divorce

Most Texans do not want to go through a divorce. However, if the divorce is inevitable, preparation is key. Without realizing it, parties can make mistakes when planning for or going through a Texas divorce. These mistakes can have ripple effects down the line that can impact their lives, the lives of their children, the cost of the divorce, and even the ultimate outcome. Many of these traps, the top 10 of which are listed below, are easily avoidable with awareness and careful consideration.

Trap #1: Hire the first lawyer that you talk to, that specializes in criminal law, estate planning law, business litigation, bankruptcy work, tax law, and real estate law, and who your great uncle found in the yellow pages.

Instead, get recommendations from trusted friends or family members that have gone through a divorce in your town and were happy with their representation. Meet with more than one potential lawyer. Find someone that makes you feel comfortable. Consider hiring a family law specialist, or at least an attorney who practices in just a few areas of law, as opposed to everything.

Trap #2: Lie to your divorce attorney or omit key facts. 

Instead, tell your attorney the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Do you have a drug or alcohol dependency? Have you strayed from the marriage? Do not hide from these facts—tell your attorney, and tell them soon. Facts drive the case, especially in a divorce. Your lawyer is only as good as the information that he or she has, and when you lie to your attorney, or omit facts, you are absolutely doing a disservice to yourself and your case. Those facts that you were trying to hide or minimize will certainly come out, and if your attorney is caught off guard when those facts are revealed, it puts him or her in a terrible spot. Get ahead of the problem, and deal with it. You will undoubtedly be in a better spot tackling the “bad facts” head on.

Trap #3: Try to hide assets, or delay compensation.

Instead, be honest about what assets you have, where they are, and if you anticipate deferred compensation. Similar to #2 above, these facts that you are trying to hide will be revealed. And if you are found to be intentionally misleading the other side or the court about the estate, the penalties can be tremendous. And importantly, your credibility with the court will be irreparably harmed. It is not worth it.

Trap #4: Be rude to the court, its staff, or the opposing attorney.

Instead, be deferential and polite to anyone addressing you in the courtroom. Even if the opposing attorney seems like they are being rude to you, returning the favor and spouting off back to them will not gain you points with the court.

Trap #5: Post to social media about your divorce.

Instead, consider not posting anything to your social media during (and before) your divorce. It does not matter if you think your account is private. Assume that everything that is ON your social media, and everything that you POST on your social media will be read by the Judge. Because oftentimes, they are! On the same note, do not delete your social media accounts or any postings (old or new) if you are in the middle of a divorce. Talk to your attorney on this issue because you do not want to violate any standing orders or spoliation rules.

Trap #6: Send threatening/aggressive/nonsensical/highly emotional messages.

Instead, if you are going to have an emotional meltdown about your divorce, have it with your counselor (or trusted friend or family member) in a private setting. If you are going to put a communication to someone in writing about your divorce, your kids, or your property, write it as though the judge is reading it. You have no right to privacy while going through a divorce. Assume that the other side will get a copy of all of your messages.

Trap #7: Close your joint bank account, cut off your spouse, and change your beneficiaries.

Instead, talk specifics with your lawyer and do not do anything outside of the “status quo” as it relates to your family’s household finances. Keep the bank accounts open, keep the salaries deposited where they typically are deposited, and keep all beneficiaries on health insurance, life insurance, or automobile insurance the same.

Trap #8: Deposit your newly inherited funds into the joint savings account.

Instead, deposit the inheritance into a new account, in your name only, and arrange for any interest earned on the account to be swept into a different bank account. If you have separate property (i.e., assets you owned prior to marriage, or assets that you received during marriage through inheritance or third-party gift), do not inadvertently commingle it with community property (i.e., all property that is not separate property). That separate property may become inextricably intertwined with the community property such that it cannot be traced, and the entire account is deemed community property.

Trap #9: Compare your divorce situation to someone else’s.

Instead, listen to your attorney, trust their expertise, and follow their advice. Comparing your divorce (i.e., the results you got in court, the offers made by the other side, what your attorney is telling you) with your friend’s/neighbor’s/cousin’s divorce is a recipe for trouble. The outcomes of cases can vary greatly depending on: 1) your geographic area; 2) your specific assigned judge; 3) your spouse’s attorney; and 4) your facts.

Trap #10: Assume that since you are the mother of the children, and since your husband cheated on you, you are going to win custody, and be awarded most of the marital assets.

Instead, have realistic expectations based on your attorney’s advice. In most counties around Texas, the bias toward mothers is fading as time goes on (and, indeed, the Texas Family Code specifically states that the gender of the parent should not be a factor when considering questions of custody). Additionally, even in the face of adultery, many judges are still inclined to divide the marital property 50-50, or something very close to that. Obviously there are exceptions to these generalizations, so listen to your lawyer, but the point is: do not make any assumptions.

 

Republished with permission from the Feb. 13, 2019 online article on TexasLawyer.com. © 2019 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.