Common Mistakes to Avoid in an Ohio Divorce
1. Unproductive/Negative Communications and Contact with your Spouse
This category is listed first because it is the one that seems to cause my clients the most downright misery. Unproductive, negative, and rude communication is likely a reason why you and your spouse are not compatible and seek separation. Whether or not they or you are at fault, it is a bad and ugly thing that must be avoided to the furthest extent possible, especially in divorce proceedings. Considering you have likely been so connected with your spouse (children, families, residence, etc.) for so long, it is likely impossible or unhealthy to cut off communication completely (that is of course unless there is a fear of violence), but do your absolute best to limit communications and contact to necessary and productive meetings. If your spouse insists on being negative, rude, or inflammatory, cursing at you, telling lies to friends and family, bothering you at work, etc. tell your lawyer about all this, and they will advise you on how best to react. The worst thing you can do is reciprocate or respond, even when you are in the right. Responding only fuels their anger, making them think they are getting to you.
2. Dividing any Assets before first making a Complete Inventory
A common thing that happens when spouses begin to talk about divorce, even at that first conversation or fight, is the phrases “Who gets what?” or “So you are gonna take X, so it’s only fair that I get Y.” I will simply say this is a bad idea, not as much that you might be forming oral contracts by these conversations (which you almost certainly are not), but this type of informal tit for tat could confuse later parts of your divorce proceedings or limit your scope of what is actually fair. Even before you have the first discussion with your attorney, write out all the assets and debts you and your spouse hold together or separately. List their respective values if you can. Note any sentimentalities you might have, and include the time the assets or debts were acquired, and under what circumstances they were acquired.
3. Communicating too much or too little of the Divorce process to your Children
Divorce can be awful for a child, but you are the person who has the biggest impact on how it affects your children. Unless your child(ren) is an infant, they will understand that something is going on, and if they are old enough, they will resent being kept completely in the dark. Conversely, the last thing you want to do is have your child intimately aware of or (even worse) involved in the disagreements you have with their other parent relating to the divorce. The vast majority of children want to be left completely out of a divorce. They may wish to be primarily with one parent or the other, but do not press them on the subject. If you believe your spouse is pressuring your child(ren) to say or feel one way or the other, consider asking the court to appoint a Guardian ad Litem to represent their best interests. What your kids want is support and love, show that to them, and insure them that you will do whatever is best for them. It will help both them and you get through this.
4. Letting Family Members (yours or theirs) have too much influence in Your Divorce Proceedings
Most will read this heading and think, “of course, I’ve already thought of this. This is my divorce, not theirs.” And that’s good. This section will simply list a few things to look out for. A lot of your friends and family upon hearing of your divorce will come up to you or call you to say “we are behind you, no matter what.” That’s awesome. Problem is, what are they doing back there? Many of your loved ones will want to be your sword and shield. Swords and shields are for warfare, and no matter how nasty a divorce gets, that’s not what you need. Better to have reason, closure, and security, and no one is secure when bullets are flying. So take charge. Tell your friends and family that you have this down. You will need anything and everything they can give you in love, support, babysitting, covering at work, ears when you’re pissed off and need a good rant. Tell them the best thing they can do for you is lift you up on their shoulders, not defend you from the nastiness of this split. You are strong enough to do that all on your own with so many shoulders to lean on.
5. Letting Your Attorney Dictate your Divorce Proceedings
As much as it is aggravating when clients do not take my advice, this is not my divorce. It is YOURS. I work for you, and it is YOUR LIFE I am counseling you on. While we as attorneys are ethically bound to advocate your interests, and I personally can say that I have accumulated wisdom gained by past experience that can help you through situations I have experienced in the past, we cannot weigh your interests as accurately as you can. To effectuate the best relationship with your attorney, be candid about all the facts of your case, especially the facts that could make you look bad or those you think your spouse will use to make you look bad, and also of your feelings at each stage of the proceedings. A good attorney will likely know the best way for you to move forward, and will have the cool head to weigh the situation objectively, but only because they have witnessed persons like you in these situations, not You.