Planning for Divorce Part 2: 5 Things NOT to do Before Divorce
Although Wisconsin is a no-fault divorce state, your behavior and actions in the days leading up to, and during, the divorce process may be scrutinized and could impact the result. Avoid doing these five things without first speaking to an attorney.
1. Retitle Assets or Accounts
While it may be tempting to get a jump start on how you think the property division will be handled in the divorce, be careful. Retitling or prematurely removing your spouse’s name from accounts or assets without their consent can be held against you in the divorce. If you have concerns about your spouse’s wasteful or excessive spending, contact an attorney who can assist you in getting a temporary order that can impose some restrictions or conditions upon their spending and can limit their access to cash or credit. Be prepared to articulate your concerns in detail. Courts will not treat spouses differently or impose restrictions on just one spouse without compelling evidence that there is a problem and that it is necessary to preserve the marital estate.
2. Transfer, Dispose of or Conceal Assets
Any assets over $500 that are wasted, gifted, concealed, transferred or sold for less than fair value, or otherwise unaccounted for within the year leading up to a divorce can be factored into the property division. Courts do not tolerate spouses who deliberately attempt to get rid of assets prior to the divorce to the detriment of their spouse. This deceptive behavior tends to affect your credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of the court and can have much larger implications on the property division. Don’t do it.
3. Send Nasty Messages to Spouse
Although no one expects you to feel warm and fuzzy about your spouse during a divorce, the law punishes spouses who harass, disparage, threaten, or intimidate each other. Additionally, the court is empowered to award sole legal custody of the children to one spouse if it’s clear that the spouses cannot communicate or cooperate respectfully with one another. Plus, it just makes you look bad – plain and simple. Do not send your spouse any message that you would not want shared with the court.
4. Involve the Children in Arguments or Complaints
Some of the worst (and most common) things parents do during a divorce include badmouthing the other parent in front of the children and telling the children too much about the divorce process. Children should be isolated from your disputes with your spouse as much as possible. Involving the children, even older children, in the divorce process may negatively impact a parent’s custody and placement rights. More importantly, it can traumatize the children or affect their relationship with the other parent. Ideally, both parents should agree on how, and when, to communicate the divorce to their children and should present the information in a unified way.
5. Unilaterally Move With or Conceal the Children
Unless you have a reasonable fear that you or the children are in imminent harm or that your safety is in jeopardy, you should not relocate with the children without first discussing it with your spouse. Parents who intentionally conceal a child from the other parent may even be charged with a felony. Furthermore, one of the factors the court must consider when determining custody and placement is whether each parent can support the other parent’s relationship with the children, including encouraging and facilitating frequent and continuing contact with the children, or whether one parent is likely to unreasonably interfere with the children’s continuing relationship with the other parent. It may seem counter-intuitive, but if you want to strengthen your argument for having custody or placement, do not unreasonably take the children away from the other parent.