When married couples decide that it is time to take the first step for divorce, it is often not an easy decision to make. Such complicated matters of the heart and head can get more complicated when parties make critical missteps as they attempt to navigate through the family courts. Whether your matter is contested or uncontested, here are a few things to Do (and NOT Do) as you prepare for divorce.
- Do compile a list of all of your assets and liabilities. It is important that you have a clear picture of all of your marital property that must be divided. In Georgia, if the property is purchased after the date you are legally married, the property can be considered marital property regardless of whose name is on the title/deed of the property. This is also true of your liabilities. Credit card debt, outstanding bills, and tax liability are only a few of the liabilities that can be divided during a divorce. Georgia is an “equitable distribution” state, so the Court will not necessarily divide the property and debt 50/50. The Judge will look at what is “fair” for both parties involved before determining who will keep property and/or debts.
- Do determine your dealbreakers. Usually, in Divorce, no one gets EVERY thing they want, however, in every divorce, there are some issues that are non-negotiable. For example, if you know that maintaining custody of your minor children is a priority in your divorce, let your lawyer know this up front. If you are less concerned about vehicles or stocks/bonds, this is important to know as well. Divorce negotiations are easiest when your entire Divorce team knows what your motivating factors are at the onset of your divorce.
- DO NOT engage in questionable behavior. While this may seem like a “no-brainer”, infidelity, violence towards a spouse, alienation of children, hiding/selling/moving of marital assets are all behaviors that are frowned upon by the court. The Court has the discretion to consider the behavior of the spouses when determining the fairest division of the properties and assets. This is especially true when cases involve alimony and/or the custody of minor children. The Georgia divorce laws concerning alimony and custody list several factors a judge should assess when making their determination and the bulk of these factors are related to the behavior of the parties.
- DO NOT post intimate details of your case on your social media page. As you prepare for a divorce, it is inevitable in today’s society that your spouse and/or spouse’s attorney will look to your social media accounts for insight into your work history, spending habits, friends, political/religious ideology, etc. A post that may seem harmless can come back to hurt you in the middle of a court hearing. Do not assume that because your profile is “private” or “locked” that your information cannot be retrieved. Countless times a party has come to court with screenshots of posts from a party’s page and the party has been shocked because they believed the spouse no longer had access to their social media page. There is no need to delete your social media account altogether, but be mindful of the things you are posting and how they can directly or indirectly affect your divorce.
- Do communicate with a lawyer. Whether you and your spouse have no property and no children or five houses, three kids, and a pet snake, it is very important that you seek the advice of an attorney. An initial consultation with a respected attorney can help you determine whether you will need a lawyer for the duration of the case, just an initial consultation, or just a pair of eyes to review divorce documents. The minimal investment of a consultation fee can save you from making irreversible mistakes and from doing damage to your case.