By: Janice Dantes
When clients are coming to my office to discuss their divorce, they have already made a series of mistakes which not only makes their case more contentious, but also significantly increases my bill. Here are my top 5 mistakes clients make before they come to see me:
5. Too Much Tsismis. I understand the need for people going through a divorce to confide in a trusted friend or advisor. However, know when to shut up. I often have clients telling ALL OF THEIR FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS their marital problems and their plans for divorce. The problem with this is that Filipinos like to tsismis and eventually the other spouse finds out about your plans. As a result, he/she starts making plans as well which may including spending money, hiding money, or disappearing. On the other side, some couples experiencing marital issues end up reconciling. Family gatherings and friends’ parties become incredibly awkward when everyone knows your dirty laundry.
4. Treasure Hunt. Do not file for divorce without knowing where the money is. In most lawsuits, discovery is the most expensive part of the process. If you file for divorce and want your fair share of the marital estate, make sure you have a good idea of what is in the marital estate. Know where your checking and savings accounts are, know if you and/or your ex has a pension/401K/other retirement accounts, and know what all your debts are. Not only does this make my job easier, it also makes it difficult for the other party to hide money or stop paying bills. It is incredibly expensive and time consuming to issue subpoenas.
3. Show Me the Money. In addition to knowing where your money is in the marital estate, make sure you have access to these funds. I see clients where all accounts are held under one spouse’s name. Make sure that before you decide to move forward with a divorce that you protect yourself and have money to cover yourself. Most attorneys require an initial retainer to represent you. While it is possible to request contribution from your spouse toward your living expenses and attorney’s fees, it is not guaranteed especially if you are not able to prove that he/she has the funds to support you or are able to secure a skilled attorney to draft the motion.
2. “A” for Effort. Help me, help you! There is only so much I can do to make a sinner look like a saint in the eyes of the judge. If you have children together, make sure that you are taking responsibility them and doing your share to support them. For example, make sure they are going to school and getting good grades. Also, make sure you are allowing the other parent to see them and not withholding access because they are not paying child support or you disagree with their parenting style. Don’t trash the marital home by smearing dog poop everywhere, don’t get pregnant or get someone else pregnant until your divorce is final, and don’t go to jail. The better story I can tell the judge, the better I can advocate for your position.
1. “My divorce will be easy because we agree on everything.” In my practice, I have only handled 2 truly uncontested divorces. Please don’t assume that you and your ex will have a clean break. Also, don’t assume you and your ex will set emotions aside and make rational decisions. You might be thinking, but my ex and I are both working and we have no kids. Well, one time I went to trial for two people who filed bankruptcy and we were only dividing debt. My advice is to prepare for the worst. You’re getting divorced for a reason, aren’t you?
Thank you for reading. Until we meet again, love one another.