If I were to make a guide about all the things that could go wrong in a divorce, it would be my recently completed a blog series on the “7 Deadly Sins of Divorce.” There, I talked about Gluttony, Envy, Greed, Sloth Wrath, Lust and Pride; the Narcissistic Divorce.
But that’s just part of the story. There are a lot of things that could go right in a divorce.
That is why I have put together this list of the “10 Commandments of Divorce.” I think of this as my wish list to clients; something that I believe that in my experience, can make a divorce go from bad to less bad. Of course, they are mostly in jest and of course only corollaries to the real 10 Commandments, but there is some of truth to many of them.
1. The judge is The Lord of your divorce proceedings
The judge is the ultimate arbiter of your case. Don’t anger him or her; (s)he will smite you.
2. Thou shalt not post anything stupid on Facebook or Twitter
Or Instagram, or Reddit, or a divorce forum, or anywhere else for that matter. This will come back to haunt you. Just see Robert Epstein’s post on the issue here.
3. Do not fight with your spouse in vain (or make your lawyer do it on your behalf)
Do yourself a favor. If it is not really important, then let it go. And by that I mean, take a step back and do a cost/benefit analysis. If it won’t matter in a day, a month, or a year – drop it. It will save you much time, money and energy in the short and long term.
4. Remember the good old days
I say this because it will help you to not fight with your spouse in vain. Sometimes gaining some perspective will cause you to reflect and gain an eye toward resolution instead of conflict.
5. Honor His or Her Honor
This goes back to the first and second Commandments. Just like you shouldn’t disparage your spouse via electronic media, don’t do it to the judge. He or she will find out and then you will be smitten. Don’t get smitten. You have enough to deal with.
6. Thou shalt not make threats to kill
Please do not get yourself embroiled in a domestic violence proceeding during your divorce. Take a deep breath and recite these 10 Commandments of Divorce. Domestic violence charges can have serious implications in terms of custody, and may even result in a criminal record. Just say no.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery (on your lawyer)
When it is time to change lawyers, you will know. But it is important that if you are keeping your lawyer, you be confident in his or her abilities to represent you. Because there are many different ways to go about getting to your desired result, talking to other lawyers who may or may not do things differently may undermine your confidence in your attorney during this already uncertain time. The moral is, pick a good lawyer that you trust and stick with them. If you no longer trust them, get a new lawyer.
8. Thou shalt not steal
Wait until the divorce is over to get Aunt Milly’s antique vase back from your spouse. If the item is in dispute, engaging in self-help is probably not the right way to go about dealing with things. You may get some instant gratification, but you may also be held in contempt of court.
9. Thou shalt not have any communications with your spouse that are not confined to email
Especially in high conflict cases, or when dealing with a narcissist, it is best to keep your communications confined to email. Email gives you a chance to reflect before you respond instead of firing back in anger. Plus, if things go south, it is much easier to get an email into evidence than a recording or just your word.
10. Thou shalt not covet your neighbor’s divorce settlement
Every divorce is different with its own set of facts and surrounding circumstances. Just because your friend, cousin or uncle received $1 million a month in alimony, does not mean you will. Find out the laws in your state, get a good attorney and the rest will just fall into place.
Eliana T. Baer is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and a member of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Eliana practices in Fox Rothschild’s Princeton, New Jersey office and focuses her state-wide practice on representing clients on issues relating to divorce, equitable distribution, support, custody, adoption, domestic violence, premarital agreements and Appellate Practice. You can reach Eliana at (609) 895-3344, or firstname.lastname@example.org.