Helpful New Year’s Resolutions – Family Law Litigation Edition
The beginning of each year is a great time to reflect on the past year and to look forward to the upcoming year, setting goals and starting (or resuming) new productive habits. There are lots of places to look to for help in setting helpful new year’s resolutions, but if you are involved in family law (divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, etc.) litigation, or think you might soon become involved in such litigation, this would be a good time to get some insight from seasoned family law attorneys. So, here is a (very) informal sampling of potential new year’s resolutions (presented in no specific order), family law style!
- Change your passwords. Many of us store much of our important and/or sensitive information somewhere online or on our phones. It is good practice to change these passwords over time, but especially if one is going through contested family law litigation. Changing the passwords to your phone, email, and bank/credit card accounts can save a lot of angst (and money) if someone with bad intentions was able to access this information.
- Considering Removing Spouse/Significant Other from Joint Accounts. If you are considering such a move, you should first consult a family law attorney before doing so because there certainly could be consequences, both intended and unintended, in any legal proceedings, as well as practical problems. However, if you are in contested litigation with both parties having access to a joint account, there is very little that can be done if the other spouse withdraws from the joint account. Likewise, if you and your spouse/significant other have a joint line of credit like a home equity line of credit or joint credit card, the other party could use that account to create debt that you are obligated to pay (in the eyes of the creditor). Last, if you have been divorced and just haven’t gotten around to following through on the terms of your separation agreement about closing your joint accounts, this is a great time to do so!
- Run your Credit Report. It is not uncommon for family law attorneys to have cases where one spouse/significant other is not aware of the credit accounts they are jointly liable for, or that were opened in their name. An easy step to identify old or unknown lines of credit is to run your credit report and then take the steps to close any accounts that you were unaware were open.
- Schedule your Vacations, Summer Camps, Holidays, and Other Scheduling Changes EARLY! One of the best ways to avoid conflict in family law cases is to get (way) out in front of scheduling conflicts early. In many metro areas, summer camps fill up early and so trying to schedule your children’s summer activities in January, February, or March is a smart idea. Likewise, if summer/holiday travelling is going to involve flights, drives out of state, etc., nothing throws a wrench into these plans like a scheduling conflict with your spouse/significant other because they made plans at the same time. Start Early!
- Use a 24 Hour Rule! The stresses of family law litigation can cause good people to act out-of-character and say things – especially via e-mail or text – that they ordinarily would not. Remember, in family law litigation, every communication is fair game to be shown to a judge/magistrate as an example of the communication between the parties. Keep yourself from reacting too strongly by waiting to respond to an inflammatory or frustrating message until the next day. Responding immediately with the first thought that pops into your head can get you into long-term trouble!