Author: Andrew B. Howie


1. Filing Taxes? Double-check your marital status.

Here’s a good tax-season tip — if you have a divorce case pending, how you file your income tax returns is based on your marital status on December 31 the previous year. For example, for tax year 2015 (federal returns due April 18, 2016), your filing status (married filing jointly, married filing separately, single, or head-of-household) depends on whether you were married at 11:59 p.m., December 31, 2015. Be sure to bring this to the attention of your tax preparer. If your divorce is pending, the court can force you to refile under a different status if you’re not careful which means owing more in taxes or giving back that refund.

2. Think before you text…or post…or email

Always presume that your ex (and inevitably a judge) will discover (no matter how tight your passwords or privacy settings are) every photo, voicemail, email, text message, or social media posting that is from you, includes you, or is about you. Never leave a voicemail message for anyone after you’ve been drinking (or even if you’re sober for that matter) that you do not want played in court for a judge to hear.

3. Don’t ditch those divorce papers

If you are served with divorce papers, do not ignore them. Each jurisdiction has a deadline to formally respond a petition for divorce. If you are served and fail to timely respond in a timely manner, your soon-to-be-ex can obtain a default divorce judgment against you and receive virtually anything and everything he or she asks for.

4. Discussing your ex? Watch your language.

Anything you say to another person about your ex may be used in court against you in your divorce case. No matter how frustrated you are, never threaten your ex or talk badly about him or her to or near your children.

5. Keep your kids involved in your ex’s life.

Don’t try to remove your ex from your children’s lives, even in small ways. Subtle actions can be used to build a case against you receiving custody. For example:

  • Hiding all photos of your ex and your kids.
  • Denying or limiting agreed-upon opportunities for your children to talk to or interact with your ex.
  • Loading your kids’ schedules with extracurricular activities, then claiming that they’re too busy to visit your ex.

The key exception in these situations is if direct physical harm or significant emotional harm to your child or yourself will likely result from such contact with your ex. Remember, judges hear in virtually every case, “my ex is crazy” or “my ex is verbally abusive”. Those claims only influence the judge if there is clear evidence of direct harm to a child or yourself. In other words, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words don’t hurt me” holds true in divorce cases.