by Jeff Landers, CDFA, Bedrock Divorce Advisors, LLC, * LTD Contributor
Divorcing Women: Don’t Make These Five Costly Mistakes
Over the past year, my blog posts here have been devoted to helping women better understand the steps they need to take so they can emerge from divorce in the best financial shape possible.
Today, I want to take a different tack and discuss various things women should AVOID doing while they’re in the process of divorce.
Taken individually, any one of these mistakes might derail the efforts of even the most skilled divorce team. Combine a few of them, and you could substantially reduce your chances of a successful divorce settlement. (Please note: Most of these have legal implications, and the laws vary from state to state, so please consult with your divorce attorney as soon as possible).
1 - Texting. Every type of electronic communication has the potential to leave a digital trail. That means your Tweets, your emails, your text messages and every type of electronic transmission in-between could possibly end up under a microscope (so to speak) being painstakingly scrutinized by your husband’s divorce team in hopes of bolstering his case.
It happens all the time!
A resounding 92 percent of the nation’s top divorce attorneys say they have seen an increase in the number of cases using evidence taken from iPhones, Droids and other smart phones during the past three years, according to a recent survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML). In addition, nearly all (94 percent) of the respondents cited an overall rise in the use of text messages as evidence during the same time period.
2 - Facebooking. In other research, the AAML also found that social media sites now play a prominent role in many divorce cases.
Overall, 81 percent of AAML members cited an increase in the use of evidence from social networking websites during the past five years. Nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of the AAML respondents reported Facebook as the primary source of this type of evidence. MySpace followed with 15 percent, Twitter at 5 percent and other choices listed by 14 percent.
What role do social media sites play in the courtroom? The answer to that is simple. Status updates, online photo albums, profile pages, comments, etc. can all be used as evidence to contradict statements previously made and to help prove infidelity, mishandling of assets, emotional instability, alcohol/drug use, etc.
3 - Dating. Divorce proceedings can be protracted and grueling. But, don’t make the mistake of turning to a boyfriend to help you cope. Depending on the state in which you are divorcing, dating before your divorce is finalized could possibly jeopardize your case. In fact, in many states, dating before your divorce is finalized can legally be considered adultery.
Even joining an online dating website can raise red flags. As I mentioned above, electronic communication is now commonly used as evidence in divorce cases.
If you feel you absolutely must date while you are in the process of divorcing, please consult with your divorce attorney as soon as possible and carefully consider the consequences.
4 - Snooping. Sometimes, it’s hard to resist the urge to snoop into your husband’s affairs –especially if you have reason to suspect he is up to no good. But beware. A few years ago, a Michigan man was up against felony charges after he accessed his wife’s Gmail account to learn about her extra-marital affair.
Granted, these laws vary from state to state, but most prohibit the intentional interception of wire, electronic or oral communication (aka, “wiretapping”). Privacy law experts continue to debate how these laws apply now that digital communication dominates our lives, but even so, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and keep yourself out of hot water. Again, I advise consulting with your divorce attorney so you better understand what laws apply where you live.
Of course, “snooping” can get very sophisticated these days, as hi-tech spying software is becoming surprisingly common. In certain instances, the law is unambiguous. For example, it’s clearly illegal to install spy ware on a computer owned by someone else. But, in other instances, the law is more opaque. Installing spy ware on a computer jointly owned by two people can lead you into murky legal territory (and can even raise questions about whether the computer under consideration is separate or marital property). Before you add significant complications to your case, be sure you understand both the federal and state laws that apply.
And here’s another word of caution: Even if you don’t intend to snoop, it still makes sense to learn about your rights and what is and isn’t allowed in your state. After all, you need to stay vigilant. Your husband could be illegally snooping on you.
5 - Shopping. Many people view shopping as a form of feel-good therapy, but please, if you’re going through a divorce (or even contemplating one), resist the urge to determine how well this “remedy” works. Now is not the time to increase your debt or to “get-back” at your spouse by spending (dissipating) marital assets.
Sure, once your divorce is final, and you have established a financial plan so you know how much money you can safely spend, you can shop to your heart’s content (provided you stay within your budget). But, until then, proceed with caution. Remember this is the time when you need to Think Financially, Not Emotionally®.
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Jeffrey A. Landers, CDFA™ is a Divorce Financial Strategist™ and the founder of Bedrock Divorce Advisors, LLC (http://www.BedrockDivorce.com), a national divorce financial strategy firm that exclusively works with women, who are going through, or might be going through, a financially complicated divorce. He also advises women business owners on what steps they can take now to "divorce-proof" their business in the event of a future divorce. He can be reached at Landers@BedrockDivorce.com.
All articles/blog posts are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice. If you require legal advice, retain a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author, who is not an attorney.
Follow Jeffrey A. Landers on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Bedrock Divorce
Jeff is also the founder of Bedrock Divorce Advisors, LLC, a divorce financial advisory firm that works exclusively with women throughout the United States, and ThinkFinancially.com, a website created to educate, empower and support women before, during and after divorce.
He writes a weekly blog for Forbes.com on the financial aspects of divorce for women called Divorce Dollars and Sense and contributes articles regularly to The Huffington Post, More.com, Lawyers.com and many others.
Jeff has also been extensively interviewed about the financial aspects of divorce by CBS and Fox Television News and such prestigious publications as The Wall Street Journal, Miami Herald, Dow Jones, Smart Money, Consumer Reports, The Christian Science Monitor and many others.
Jeff earned his BA degree in psychology from Columbia University and studied law at Pace University School of Law before becoming a divorce financial advisor.
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