Some people are pros at getting divorced, literally. But, for most, divorce is emotionally and financially challenging and rarely brings out the best in people. Even the most even-keeled, restrained individuals act in uncharacteristic ways when navigating the emotions and practical challenges that often accompany the end of a marriage.
From an outsider’s perspective, the behaviors may seem illogical, but it is actually normal to have feelings of betrayal, anger, or sadness. Afterall, divorcing spouses are being asked to divide the most important pieces of their lives – finances, assets, businesses, time with children, etc. –and sometimes the reason for the divorce is completely out of a particular spouse’s control.
The key to success is bringing the focus toward moving forward, equitably dividing assets, and focusing on the best interests of the children. But, we know that not everyone will rise to that level, and there will be those inclined to engage in cruel or dubious conduct or who are determined to inflict financial or psychological pain on their spouse.
Regardless of the motivation, spouses should refrain from particular divorce behaviors, and such conduct by your spouse should be confronted and addressed by your family law attorney. Here are four divorce behaviors that separating spouses should never do during a divorce:
1. Manipulate or Use the Children
Most divorcing parents do a decent job of staying focused on their child’s well-being. They try to shield their children from the details, arguments, and emotions they experience as they work their way through their divorce. They work together to find a logical parenting time schedule that allows the children to continue feeling loved and cared for by spending time with both parents. After all, spouses may be divorcing, but the parent/child relationship is not.
But if one spouse doesn’t share that same commitment, it can be tempting, consciously or otherwise, to try to manipulate the children to gain an advantage in the divorce or hurt the other parent. Negative, hurtful, or false comments about the other parent, disrupting parenting time schedules, or otherwise trying to poison the parent-child relationship are all ways an angry parent can try to weaponize their children during a divorce. But, the truth is, there is no winner when this happens, and courts have consistently chastised parents that go down this dangerous path.
2. Conceal Assets
Even though Michigan law requires divorcing couples to make full, complete, and sworn disclosures to each other about their respective assets and liabilities, there are many ways to manipulate those disclosures by engaging in creative accounting and concealing assets. When successful, these attempts to deceive the other spouse – and the court – can result in financial arrangements that are inherently unfair, as they are based on a false picture of the parties’ finances. The more complex a couple’s finances are, the easier it can be to play games with the numbers and keep assets hidden – unless someone has the experience and determination to expose such fraud.
3. Cut Off Resources
The financial and logistical challenges of divorce present ample opportunities for one spouse to make life difficult for the other. Perhaps one spouse is the primary income earner for the family, and the other is financially unable to leave the marital home or support herself. Or, a vindictive spouse may fail to pay bills, cut off credit cards or run up huge balances, drain bank accounts, or terminate a cell-phone contract or other necessary services. When this happens, most judges will look at the financial status quo before the divorce filing – joint accounts vs. separate accounts, car payments, mortgage payments, utilities, etc. The court will look at who paid for what expenses. Then, the judge will expect that the same financial status quo be maintained unless there is a court order or agreement otherwise. Unilateral action by one spouse to cut off the resources of the other spouse is always frowned upon by the court.
4. Deny the Other Party Access to the Children
In Michigan, custody and parenting time are decided in accordance with the best interests of the children, and it is presumed to be in the best interest of children to have a strong relationship with both of his or her parents. Often, parents can agree to keep the status quo for the children during the pendency of the divorce, but sometimes it means coming up with a plan for each parent to have equal time with the children or finding a parenting time plan that makes sense. If the spouses cannot agree, the court will step in and create a parenting time plan instead.
Problems surface when parents decide not to follow the court’s parenting time order or the children refuse to go to parenting time. When this happens, it is important to remember that the court expects its orders to be followed no matter what, including the use of parental guidance to make a child attend. This means a child cannot say no to court-ordered parenting time. CPS cannot, on its own accord, say no to court-ordered parenting time. A parent cannot say no to court-ordered parenting time. Now, if there is a specific and credible claim of harm to the child, a family law attorney can certainly address it with the court by requesting an immediate court order. The key is that the claim be credible and not a fabricated manipulation attempt to refuse parenting time. In those instances, there is nothing is more detrimental to the child than turning the child against a parent, and there will be nothing more detrimental in front of the judge than messing with the well-being of a child.
Considering a Divorce? Kreis Enderle’s Family Law Attorneys Are Here for You
Few events in life are as impactful and challenging as a divorce. Misconduct or devious behavior by your spouse can make things even worse. The attorneys in Kreis Enderle’s Family Law Practice Group understand how to protect our clients from such tactics and ensure that they receive all that they are entitled to in their divorce. Please contact us today with your questions and concerns.