Filing for divorce may give you a sense of freedom and release. You’ve finally taken that big step to make big changes in your life. Although this can be a time of conflict and stress, it is also a time when you feel great relief and want to spread your wings and enjoy your newly found flexibility.
While there may be many things you want to do and try at this time of growth, there are a few things you should be careful not to do.
Violate Automatic Court Orders
When a divorce is filed in New York, the court issues automatic orders, directing both parties not to make changes to property or finances while the case is pending.
This means you cannot:
- Make any changes to property. You cannot sell, transfer, or take out loans against any property. This applies to items such as real estate and cars, but it also covers stocks, investments, and bank accounts. It includes individual and joint property. There are a couple of exceptions to know about. If you and your spouse agree to sell or transfer property, then that is allowable. Any changes that are made in the regular course of business are also considered acceptable. And changes necessary to secure funds to pay for attorney fees are allowed as well.
- Make changes to non-liquid accounts. This applies to tax-deferred accounts such as IRAs and 401(k)s. These accounts must remain as status quo. If your account is already paying out, however, you can continue to accept those payments.
- Remove your spouse or child from your health insurance policy. Policies must be kept in effect throughout the divorce case.
- Take on new debt. There are specific types of debt you are prohibited from incurring during the case including a home equity line of credit against the family home, over-the-top credit card charges, or loans against other assets. Loans in the normal course of business are allowed, as are loans needed to pay for attorney fees.
- Alter insurance policies. You cannot change your life insurance beneficiaries or cancel any insurance policies (including homeowner’s, vehicle, life, and umbrella policies) during the case.
Fail to Disclose Financial Information
Divorce is primarily a financial transaction and for it to be a fair one, both parties are required to complete a financial affidavit fully disclosing their financial positions. It is imperative that you are honest and truthful when sharing your financial information. Attempts to conceal or hide assets will almost always backfire and actually hurt your case.
Hide or Destroy Evidence
Your attorney can help you understand what kinds of evidence will be important in your case. You should not attempt to conceal or get rid of evidence, no matter how damaging it may be to your case.
Involve Your Children in the Case
While your minor children are an important topic in your divorce case because custody must be determined, they should not be asked to take sides and should not be a sounding board for all of your anger, resentment, and thoughts about the divorce.
While it is important to be honest with your children about the divorce and what will happen, it is also crucial to present a united and civil front to them and provide as much reassurance as possible.
Discuss the Details of Your Case with Others
Divorce can be stressful, and it’s normal to want to share what you’re going through with friends and family. While it’s perfectly fine to talk about the way the divorce is affecting you and your children, you should keep the details of the case close to the vest. Anything you tell someone could become public knowledge or it could get back to your spouse and their attorney. Your therapist is a safe zone, however, and you should feel free to talk about anything and everything in that confidential setting.
Post About the Divorce or Your Spouse on Social Media
If social media is an important part of your life, business, or brand, work with a PR professional to help you craft posts. You should not mention your divorce or disparage your spouse on social media. If a statement needs to be made, your PR team can help you craft one.
Involve a New Partner with Your Children or the Case
If you choose to date and find a new partner, just be careful not to involve them with your children too soon. Doing so can complicate your custody case. Bringing them to court or to drop-off times for custody exchanges can inflame the situation between you and your spouse, so it’s best to maintain some clear boundaries. If you wish to be seen in public with a new partner, be sure to talk this over with your attorney and your PR team before making any moves.
Prevent Your Spouse from Seeing Your Children
No matter how heinous you think your spouse is, they are your children’s parent. Unless your children will be in danger while in the care of your spouse, it is best to make sure they maintain contact with each other and spend time together. Your attorney can obtain a temporary custody order, but until that happens, it is important not to be seen as preventing your spouse from having access to your children.
Get Legal Advice from Anyone Other Than Your Attorney
Most people you know will have had some experience with divorce. Either they’ve gone through it, their parents did, their children are, or their best friend did. They all will have opinions and advice. While it can be helpful to talk to other people and hear their stories, the only legal advice you should take is that which you receive from your own attorney. Your case is unique and only your attorney understands the details and legal matters involved in your case.