1. Hiding Money
The Court will look with extreme disfavor on any party who hides money in anticipation of a separation or divorce. Always play fair with the other party. You will be disclosing all your financials as a requirement under Colorado law. Hiding assets is rarely successful. Remember that upon service of a Petition for Dissolution (divorce papers) temporary injunctions go into effect and specifically prohibit this type of behavior. Violation of the temporary injunctions is a very serious offense and could result in being found in contempt of court and lead to fines and/or time in jail.
2. Denying Parenting Time
Unless there is a protection order or a very serious risk to the children always facilitate the children spending time with the other parent. Facilitate communication as well. If there is a serious risk to the children, seek the Court’s assistance. There must be imminent risk of irreparable harm, meaning the harm must be about to happen (now) and it cannot be fixed later.
3. Changing the Locks
Just as you cannot throw out a tenant without a Court order you cannot lock a spouse or significant other out of the home without a Court order. The Court looks unfavorably upon this type of behavior. Just because it might feel good does not mean it is the right way to act. Do not let a moment of bad decision-making put you in hot water. Again, if there is a serious risk to you or the children, if there is domestic violence, or if for any reason you are fearful seek assistance of the Court.
4. Nasty Communication and Trash Talking
Whether it is a letter, an e-mail, a text message, a phone message, a Facebook post, or a candy gram a nasty communication is never a good idea. Yes, emotions are high, but stifle the impulse to be vindictive or cutting and simply press “do not send.” Always strive to take the high ground.
Do not resort to name calling or saying terrible things to or about the other parent. To the extent possible do not allow others to do it either; let it be known you intend to take the high road in the best interests of your children.
It is likely that the other parent will decompress if you demonstrate that you are not interested in engaging in a battle. Remember you are only in charge of your own behavior and that you are modeling behavior for your children.
5. Keeping the Same Passwords
Change all information necessary to protect your personal privacy. Think through your email account, your Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts, and bank accounts, etc. and change whatever is necessary so that your spouse cannot access your personal accounts. Do not block access to joint accounts, do not change beneficiaries or violate the temporary injunctions.
6. Not Understanding Your Rights or the Law
Even if you choose to represent yourself be wise and obtain solid legal advice as to your rights. It’s worth a few hundred dollars to understand where you stand and what your options are before you begin the process or at the time you are served.
7. Avoiding Experts
Don’t be afraid to use an expert. A joint expert is preferable. Your attorney can advise you about the need for an expert and different options. If you are representing yourself, consider conferring with an attorney about this issue, perhaps using Unbundled Services. It’s far less expensive than coming back later to fix the problem or hiring dueling experts.
8. Being a Passive Participant
This is your matter and your life. It is essential for you to be an active and informed participant. Read the Case Management Order carefully and understand all of the deadlines. Even if you have an attorney make the effort to understand your case and what’s happening – don’t ignore emails or fail to open mail from your attorney. Be sure to fully and truthfully provide requested information and keep your attorney informed. If you are representing yourself seek help when you need it. You can obtain free assistance with forms and procedures at most courthouses by going to a Self-Help Center and talking to a Sherlock (Self-Represented Litigant Coordinator).
9. Refusing to Consider Settlement
In matters regarding children, this means actually focusing on your children and what will be best for them. Please don’t just give lip service to the “best interests of the children.” Children suffer emotional harm in contested divorces so find ways to minimize conflict and to foster contact, love and affection with the other parent. Try to work out parenting time and decision-making. In matters regarding property or money, try to think of the long term gain and not the short term strategy. Our blog post on settlement provides a more in depth exploration of the benefits of settling your matter rather than going to a contested hearing.
10. Involving Children in the Conflict
Involving the children in your adult conflict with the other parent is detrimental and frowned upon by the court and by any expert who enters the case regarding parenting issues. Do not talk about the divorce or separation to or with the children. Do not ask their opinions about parenting time. Support the love and affection the child has for the other parent. If the child says negative things about the other parent you can acknowledge the child’s feelings without discussing the divorce or your own feelings. Seek family counseling if you find this challenging. Do not use children as your primary support even if they are older teens. In fact it is not a good idea to involve adult children in your conflict.