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June 16, 2021

Avoid these Mistakes in a High-Conflict Divorce.

 

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Seven key insights for your divorce journey:

A high-conflict divorce can feel like you are just sinking down into a dark bottomless hole.

If you have been here, it is easy to lose hope and faith. The negative energy in this space is strong and overwhelming. I have been there too. That is why it is so important to avoid these mistakes in your divorce. Take note of these seven key insights. Otherwise, you may end up extending the time in your divorce process.

Include these insights into your divorce vision, so you can take your life back.

1. Don’t hire and fire your family lawyer.

During divorce, your entire world falls apart. Everything changes from living arrangements, to custody, to finances. Many women caught in this maelstrom are so afraid of being hurt again that they lose sight of their divorce vision.

Sometimes, that can lead to firing your family lawyer when the divorce is not going the way you planned. Maybe the lawyer wasn’t paying enough attention to your case or an appeal was rejected. Perhaps you got an unfavourable custody arrangement.

When these stumbling blocks happen in divorce, the immediate reaction is to blame the lawyer. They didn’t try hard enough or didn’t care enough. They were just phoning it in while taking thousands of dollars in legal fees. When you experience these emotions, it takes a huge toll on you. You feel like everything is spiraling out of control and you are desperate to find the reason for all the pain.

The truth is, hiring and firing lawyers is emotionally draining and costly. Even worse, it creates a negative perception of you in the family court.

When you fire your lawyer, it reflects poorly on your record in court. The judge will see this action as a sign of emotional and financial instability. They may even view this as an attempt to delay court proceedings, which may result in a ruling against you.

If your fees are not paid up-to-date, the lawyer will send you a final bill of their services up to the point of termination. Not only will you have the final bill from your previous lawyer, new lawyers often require a “catch up” fee when they are brought on to an ongoing case. This is added on top of their typical retainer fee.

Your new lawyer has to get up to speed so they can prepare a plan for your case. If you fire your lawyer at the wrong time, you can inadvertently miss deadlines in important court proceedings. This can lead to unfavorable outcomes in the rulings, which brings more stress and pain on you.

2. Keep strong and clear boundaries with your family lawyer.

I always say that lawyers are experts of law, not emotions. Lawyers are not social workers. This is why it is so important to maintain boundaries with your lawyer. They, too, will encourage that clients seek out a divorce coach or a counsellor for the emotional process of a divorce. In an interview with a family lawyer, Ashish Joshi, he said that when lawyers fail to maintain personal boundaries, they become susceptible to giving emotional and parental advice. This advice can lead a client in a completely wrong direction because the lawyer is speaking from inexperience.

Expect clear boundaries with your family lawyer. You should still be in alignment with them, feel safe to communicate your needs, and trust them.

However, you should avoid depending on your family lawyer to keep all of your records for you. Although most lawyers indeed do this, I always recommend keeping your own records to ensure your information is all present. It is paramount that you have control over your records by meticulously keeping them yourself, including every statement of account. Records you must keep include but are not limited to:

>> Forms of identification
>> All correspondences
>> All statement of accounts
>> All your financial records
>> Previous affidavits and divorce forms
>> Any documentation related to income, joint accounts, and assets (cars, homes, businesses)
>> Recent bills (mortgages, utilities, and other recurring expenditures)
>> School records of your children
>> Legal documents such as power of attorney, wills, and prenuptial agreements
>> Parenting plan (if applicable)
>> Your parenting log or diary
>> Your digital evidence (preferable: use an app)

Be sure to consult your lawyer for a complete list of legal documentation that you will need for your divorce.

3. Do not expect a matrimonial advance to fund your legal fees.

Legal bills come regularly and can be extremely high. It’s important to constantly be inquiring about how much each action will cost. And don’t leave child support expenses to the very end—address getting these paid first, as these can be challenging to collect, and getting them paid first, not last, will ensure more cash flow for you to pay your legal bills.

Case law from the Supreme Court of Canada suggests that a judge is unlikely to award a matrimonial advance to either party to fund legal fees. A judge is more likely to award a matrimonial advance to assist in:

>> Finding accommodation
>> Paying for a child’s post-secondary schooling costs
>> Paying for maintenance of the matrimonial home

4. Do not breach court orders.

This is a temptation for some, but it is ill-advised and highly punishable. On that same note, avoid having any court orders drafted or signed off on until it is exactly what you require to serve the needs of your family.

If you are found breaching any court orders, family court will not hesitate to take drastic action. And if you have an ex who would welcome the chance to use that against you, extra caution is advised.

In the event of neglected child support, the individual may find that their wages are garnished and their driver’s license may not be renewed, if your order is on file with maintenance enforcement. Overall, just remember: it’s hard to collect on arrears, so try to keep everything as current as possible

Further breaches of any family court order can be filed as contempt of court which can have consequences as severe as fines or jail time. Once these are on your record, they do not go away and they will make it much more difficult to change existing court orders in the future.

If your ex is the one violating a court order, then it is important to document it. Document conversations, times and dates of the violations, and any other relevant data so you can build a case with your attorney.

5. Do not appeal to emotion in family court.

Family court is not a supportive place for emotions. They only want the facts. This is why it is imperative that you remain objective in presenting your case. If you find yourself losing your composure in court, the opposing side can use this as a means of claiming you are emotionally unstable.

I have known many women who have made this mistake and were severely punished in court—and the outcomes they were seeking didn’t happen.

Do not vent to your lawyer, as they will not be able to help you navigate through all the fear and pain you are going through. One of the most common phrases I have heard lawyers say is, “I am a lawyer, not a social worker.” After all, venting to your lawyer costs a lot of money for little to no benefit. Remember, the average lawyer fee ranges from $300 to $500 per hour.

This does not mean you cannot feel or express your emotions. Rather than express your emotions in family court, I would recommend seeking out a counselor or a divorce coach to help you work through these emotions so you can approach family court mentally prepared.

6. Do not attack the opposing lawyer.

While it may feel good—momentarily—to leave a bad Google rating or send an insulting email, the repercussions can be huge.

Remember that your ex will likely be recording and documenting your every move. They want you to trip up so they can rule you unfit and emotionally unstable. Do not throw away your future for a sucker punch at the opposing lawyer.

If you feel angry, it is best to consult your counselor or divorce coach to help you deal with the intense emotions of divorce. It is vitally important to be able to enter into family court with a level head.

7. Do not text, call, or email your ex without consulting your divorce coach.

Your ex may try to provoke you into conflict, which can subsequently be used in court against you. Remember, everything you do will be recorded by the opposing party, which is why it is so important to not give in to emotional outbursts, especially during a high-conflict divorce.

A divorce coach is equipped with the skills to help you work through any emotional challenges and provocations that your ex may attack you with. Your lawyer will manage any legal communication and unless advised by your attorney, you should not text or email your ex during the divorce process, at least not without proper documenting methodologies like apps for recording digital evidence the right way.

Text your divorce coach or book an urgent call with her if you are spiraling out of emotional control.

One simply must not self-sabotage during divorce because the stressors keep coming. Divorce is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. Your best allies beyond your coach and legal counsel will be:

  1. Self-resiliency
  2. Self-regulation of emotion
  3. Self-love

Learn to love and nourish yourself—even when you make mistakes—and, over time, you will cultivate deeper resiliency.

A dance with emotional self-mastery begins with one deep breath. When we pause to intentionally breathe, we become mindful. As we hold that space for ourselves, it becomes possible to connect to our higher self.

Begin the journey to mastering your emotional regulation with the support of a divorce coach who has training in mindfulness.

If you don’t, you may become vulnerable and end up letting your pain, exhaustion, and fear drive you to act unpredictably. If this happens, you present poorly in court, which can lead to the judge ruling against you. In a custody battle, or at any point in divorce, you need to present well, so I invite you to pause and reflect on what is best for yourself and your children.

If you’re considering a separation or divorce, reach out to a certified professional divorce coach, preferably with a trauma-informed practice. You’ll be relieved to discover how they can help you ease the financial and emotional pressures.

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