As Chicago divorce attorneys, we often get the question from spouses contemplating divorce is “Are there mistakes they could possibly make before they even file for divorce? The answer to their question is ABSOLUTELY! Many people don’t realize that you can hurt your case before it even starts. Here are 4 things you should NOT do before you file for divorce in Chicago.
4 Mistakes to Avoid Before You File For Divorce in Chicago
1. Forgetting to Organize and Collect Important Documents.
Filing for divorce without having financial and ownership documents in your position can make the process that much more painful. Often there is only one copy of important documents kept in the marital residence, like the title/deed to the house, the titles for the cars, tax returns for past years, pay stubs, retirement statements, bank and credit card statements, and so much more. Not getting these things together first could result in your spouse taking the copies instead, resulting in extra efforts in the divorce case to get copies. Also, getting these things together ahead will save you time and attorney fees in the long run.
2. Trying to Turn the Children Against the Other Parent
Sometimes when one spouse knows they are going to file for divorce, they try to get an upper hand on the parenting issues by making one parent seem like the bad guy because they are looking to get the majority of parenting time no matter what. However, this can be a huge mistake that ends up having the reverse effect. In many cases, an attorney called a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) or a Child’s Representative will get appointed for your children to help figure out what is in their best interest regarding the parenting time schedule and who should make decisions for the child or children’s medical, school, extracurricular activities, and religion. If one parent’s sole goal is to make the other parent seem like an unfit, bad parent to get what they want, the GAL or Child’s Representative will most certainly find out the truth. These attorneys are trained to find out if there is any manipulation going on between one parent and the child/children. When they find out that one spouse is manipulating and alienating the children, it is very likely the other spouse will get the majority of parenting time and decision-making as a result of your behavior. On top of that, manipulation and games will cause mental and emotional harm to your children.
3. Hiding Liquid Assets
Often, when talking to a potential client who is planning to file for divorce, the spouse will ask me what they can do to try to hide assets or money from their spouse. This is a red flag for a potential client, and attorneys will not help you do this, nor can they recommend that you do it. Trying to hide money or other assets during a divorce case always backfires, can cause you to have serious credibility issues with the court, and might even result in sanctions against you when the Court finds out what you did with the marital assets. It may be tempting to try to hide money because you believe you earned it so it is rightfully yours, or you just don’t think your spouse should get any of it, but the law in Illinois says it should be an equitable division of assets in a divorce. If you believe you have a claim or right to certain assets that your spouse does not, make sure to talk to your attorney about how to advance this argument in court rather than trying to hide money.
4. Forgetting about Taxes and Other Expenses After the Divorce
Sometimes before the divorce is even filed, one spouse knows that they want the house. Or they want the new Honda minivan. Or they want the vacation house in Michigan. They know what they want to get out of the divorce before it even starts, but they haven’t considered what will happen if they actually get that property. Before deciding what you think you want at the end of the case, consider the cost to maintain that property or item, and what, if any taxes, you will need to pay. You will likely be on your own after the divorce, which means your income, and possibly any spousal maintenance or child support your receive, will be the only funds you have to make mortgage payments, car loan payments, real estate tax payments, vehicle and house repairs, and the list goes on! Make sure you talk to your divorce attorney about the tax consequences you will be dealing with after the divorce and also consider making a post-divorce budget spreadsheet to determine if you will be able to maintain the property you want after the divorce without breaking the bank.