Richard S. Lundin
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Personal injury and family law attorney licensed to practice in Maryland and the District of Columbia

1. Leaving the children behind to reside with the other party.  If you’ve been the primary caretaker of the children, you should keep them with your where you reside.  This is super important.

2. Leaving the family home abruptly without explanation.   You don’t want to give your spouse the ground to argue that you deserted the family without cause.  If your spouse has made living under the same roof intolerable, then you can move out.  Just be sure that you have evidence of the conditions that made it necessary for you to be the one to move out to preserve your health, happiness and self-respect.

3. Assuming the Court will quickly order the other party to provide alimony and child support.  Yes, the court will hold a pendente lite hearing “early” in the case to order financial assistance and child support, prior to the final divorce hearing; but, it can take several months before the Court conducts that hearing.  If you depend on your spouse’s financial support, then you need a financial plan to carry you and your children for at least 3 to 6 months from the time you separate.

4. Leaving money in joint accounts.  Your spouse can drain your joint checking, savings, investment and line of credit accounts.  Take steps to protect yourself and get at least your share of the money under your control.  Talk to a lawyer about how to protect your funds.  If in doubt, move joint funds to an individual account in your name until you and your spouse can reach an agreement.

5. Failing to close credit card accounts.  Pay off credit cards (and other debts) with funds from a joint or marital bank account.

6. Failing to make copies of financial records. It’s best to copy all financial records before you no longer have access to them or they’re destroyed.  In particular, tax returns, bank records and pay stubs provide a wealth of the kind of information that’s needed early in a case.

7. Remaining unemployed.  Unless you are retired or disabled or have independent means, the Court will expect you to seek employment to become as economically self-sufficient as you can.

8. Maintaining the same email, mailing address and cell phone.  Instead, create a new spouse-safe email account for at Gmail, Yahoo or other free email provider.  Choose a password that your spouse won’t guess (avoid family names, birthdays, etc.).  Get a Post Office box for mail and buy a pre-paid cell phone for confidential calls.

9. Spying on your spouse.  Before you access your spouse’s email, open his/her mail, or install a GPS tracking device on a cell phone or car, be sure to consult with a lawyer about any civil and criminal privacy laws.  You don’t want to go through all the effort only to find yourself in trouble or having obtained evidence that can’t be considered by the Court because it was obtained unlawfully.  Likewise, don’t secretly record your conversations with your spouse unless your lawyer says it’s okay to do so.  (Maryland requires both parties to know and consent to the recording.)

10. Using the children to deliver messages to your spouse.  This is bad for the children, as it puts them in the middle of you and your spouse, confuses them and causes them to feel like they have to pick a side.  This is detrimental to their well-being, and the Court will disapprove of you doing this as well.

11. Denying your spouse access to the children without good cause.  Each parent has the fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody and control of his or her children, guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.   Except in cases of ongoing neglect and abuse, a Court will ordinarily not terminate parental rights.  You will look immeasurably better in the eyes of the Court if from the outset you demonstrate willingness for your spouse to maintain access to the children.

12. Failing to immediately file a lawsuit for alimony and child support.  The Court cannot order child support or alimony for any time prior to the date that you file a lawsuit requesting alimony or child support.  Filing the lawsuit starts the clock, and the Court can and does order back child support and alimony from the date you file the lawsuit.

13. Posting comments about your marriage or spouse on Facebook.  What you put out there on Facebook and other social media or text can come back and be used against you in your case.  It’s best to maintain “radio silence” on social media for a time, or at least be very, very careful about what you post, assuming that it will be reviewed by your spouse to cast a negative light on you.

14. Following “legal” advice from friends and family.  Friends and family care and want to help.  But they aren’t familiar with the court system, the law, and how judges think about cases.   They are great resources for support and comfort during the stress of divorce, but they generally make for lousy legal advisors.

15. Ignoring your lawyer’s advice.  A good, honest and experienced lawyer will give you trustworthy advice.  Listen to it and follow it so that you can get through the divorce with the least expense to your emotions, finances, time and energy.

16. Delaying your call to a lawyer.  You should contact a lawyer as early in the process as possible, preferably before separating.   As the saying goes, “A stitch in time saves nine.”  Getting good advice early can save you a bundle later trying to undo the damage caused by early blunders and mistakes.

17. Agreeing to anything with your spouse before getting legal advice.  Never, ever agree to anything in divorce until you’ve had the chance to have the agreement reviewed by an experienced divorce lawyer.  Never, ever. Period.

18. Using the legal process to punish your spouse for misdeeds.  Trying to punish your spouse with the legal process usually backfires in one way or another.  It can also cost you a substantial sum in court costs and legal fees.  Moreover, it is almost always very, very harmful to your children.  Avoid the temptation to take revenge.

19. Becoming romantically involved with someone before the divorce is finalized.   As much as you may want to move on with a new relationship, it’s best for your case to wait until after the divorce to get involved with someone else.  The Court can consider adultery in deciding property and montetary awards and alimony.

20. Choosing the wrong attorney.  It’s important to select an ethical, honest, dedicated and knowledgeable attorney who will work with you, give you honest advice, and help you achieve your objectives.