Divorce is brutal—emotionally and financially. That’s a given.
But they don’t tell you that during this process, anything you say or do will be used against you in a court of law.
In fact, there are several things you could be doing or saying that may be detrimental to your case. You might want to believe your spouse would never stoop so low as to use these things against you. But when it comes to protecting your family’s financial future, as the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Here are five examples of what can be used against you in a divorce.
# 1 Your New Romantic Relationship
Dating before your divorce has been finalized can send alarm bells ringing through divorce court. New romantic relationships can negatively affect your divorce settlement, regardless of how long it’s technically been “over” between you and your spouse.
Your spouse can use your newfound love as a reason to claim infidelity in your marriage, prolong the divorce proceedings and fight you for child custody. Divorce is already emotionally charged; getting into a new relationship can be like fighting fire with fire, burning you both in the end. Although the best way to avoid this is not to enter a new relationship, if you already have, speaking with a divorce attorney can help you navigate it during your divorce.
#2 Your Hidden Assets
Even the most smitten couples understand that having a personal rainy day fund makes sense. But when it comes to a divorce, couples are forced to lay it all out on the table: bank accounts, investments, property, that cash stuffed under the mattress you thought no one knew about. If you fail to disclose this information voluntarily and it’s discovered later, you can be in a world of trouble when settling your divorce.
Hidden assets are nothing to bat an eye at. You could be charged with contempt of court, fined, or required to pay your spouse’s attorney’s fee.
#3 Your Spending Habits
Transactions are traceable. Every time you swipe your debit or credit card, write a check, or make a withdrawal, there’s a paper trail with your name on it.
In pending divorce cases, one spouse can use spending habits against the other spouse to claim marital waste. Marital waste is the intentional depletion of marital assets that would otherwise be split equitably between parties.
Wiping out joint bank accounts, selling marital property below market value, and transferring marital funds to another person are all examples of marital waste. If a judge determines you are guilty of marital waste, you may be required to pay your spouse a sum of money, and they may be awarded additional marital property. While spending marital money is not inherently wrong, extraordinary spending crosses the line.
#4 Your Social Media Posts
Exchanged words and actions may be lost to memory, but social media accounts can live on forever. Shares, posts, and comments can all be used against you in divorce proceedings. Sometimes, you could be one screenshot away from losing everything to your spouse.
Switching your account to private mode, blocking your spouse, or deleting posts often isn’t enough to keep attorneys from accessing this information and using it against you in court. If you’re going through or preparing for a divorce, your best bet is to stay away from social media.
#5 Your Texts and Emails
Text messages and emails can come back to haunt you in your divorce. Even if you’ve managed to steer clear of communicating with your spouse without a lawyer present, they may still have access to old texts and emails that could be introduced as evidence in regards to child custody or financial matters.
Retaining an experienced divorce lawyer can help you fight for a fair divorce process and protect you against false accusations.
How Can I Protect Myself During a Divorce?
Protecting yourself during a divorce is not only smart; it’s also necessary. Here are a few ways to safeguard your future.
Keep Track of Your Assets
Keep a record of your assets. Look at your bank accounts, investment accounts, credit card information, and other accounts. If you find anything missing during your divorce, you should have proof of this on your records.
Choose Your Words Wisely
Be mindful of your words and actions. As we’ve seen, words can be used against you in your divorce, whether written down, posted, or vocalized. Avoid saying anything out of emotion. Conversations with your spouse should be intentional and, if necessary, include a mediator.
Don’t Sign Anything Before Your Attorney Says So
It’s tempting to want to sign a divorce settlement and get on with your life. But signing papers doesn’t just mean the end of your marriage; it also means the beginning of a new life.
Signing without a legal consultation with a family law attorney can be detrimental to your future. You can lose your legal rights in the event of property and custody battles, and it may be difficult or impossible to change these details after the trial.
Contact a Divorce Attorney
When you’re going through a divorce, there is often no reasonable expectation of privacy. By being mindful of the above points, you can protect yourself and your right to a fair divorce. Still, the best thing you can do for yourself is to ask for help. Hiring a family law attorney that practices divorce law can give you a leg up in your case.