We family lawyers get it: dealing with your ex when you are in the middle of a divorce can be incredibly frustrating. You may be experiencing the loss of the things that are most important to you: your time with your kids, your savings, your circle of friends, and your old life. When lawyers and judges get involved, it can seem like very important life decisions (like whether to sell your house, what job to take, where you can live, what time you have with your children) gets taken out of your hands and placed in the hands of a total stranger. And it can seem as though your ex’s new purpose in life is to make you miserable. They know exactly how to push your buttons and now any attempt at keeping the relationship intact has given way to an adversarial court process.
I have seen the combination of loss, stress, and anger cause people to lash out at their ex-spouses in ways that they otherwise wouldn’t, and then later regret, because what people forget is that anything that put in writing can end up attached as an exhibit to an affidavit in the divorce proceedings, for a judge who decides your case to see. It is never a good strategy to put your worst behaviour on display for the person in charge of deciding your case. Keeping that in mind, these are the things family lawyers wish their clients would not say to their spouse while going through divorce litigation:
1. “I’ll drag this out and it will be expensive”
Judges tend to dislike it when litigants are using the court process as a weapon against their ex-spouse. If this one gets into the court record, it could come back to haunt you when it comes to
the costs award at the end of the case.
2. Telling your ex that the children know what a low-life (s)he is
It’s pretty well accepted that talking to your children about the litigation or disparaging your ex to your children is a terrible idea. Children shouldn’t be put in the middle of a divorce. Let them be kids and keep them out of it.
3. Anything you wouldn’t want your trial judge reading
Written statements in emails, text messages, Facebook posts etc. end up attached as exhibits to affidavits all the time in family law. It is amazing what people have put in writing, knowing that their statements can be submitted into evidence.
This is a tough one because in some ways it can be empowering for litigants to learn and use the language that they see their lawyers using in correspondence. However, it can come off as litigious or aggressive. Generally, it’s better to use language that comes naturally so that your reasonableness and composure shine through.
This is unnecessary and looks immature. Don’t do it.
6. Concessions on your position without consulting a lawyer
If you want to compromise, that’s great, but check in with your lawyer first so that you can properly consider your legal position. Why spend all that money on a good lawyer only to interfere with strategy by making concessions without full legal advice? Lawyers are trained to foresee problems that other people can’t.
These are some of the things that we see as family lawyers that we would rather not. Remember, when you are involved in a divorce, every text and email could possibly be used in evidence, and with the advent of smartphone technology, we are starting to see more and more video and audio recordings too (that’s a whole other topic). So think twice – press send once (better yet, not at all).
Virginia Richards is a family lawyer practicing at Henderson Heinrichs LLP in Vancouver, British Columbia. She has been advising and representing clients at all levels of courts in British Columbia since 2010.
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