What Not to Say to Your Spouse When Discussing a Divorce

For many people, it can take a long time to finally arrive at the decision to get divorced, especially when they have a lot tied to their spouse, such as a home, assets, debt, and most importantly, children. Once the decision has been made and hopefully a divorce attorney is consulted, the next step is to talk to one’s spouse about it. This does not necessarily come easy. It is not a conversation to have when you’re emotional.

When people decide to have the “divorce discussion,” it can evoke a whirlwind of emotions. Even if the spouse knows a divorce is for the best, they can still feel sad, angry, hurt, or doubt, which can be quite confusing.

Others on the other hand, are so emotionally drained from the rocky marriage, that they are “done” and 100% ready to walk away. This is especially the case when their spouse has been emotionally abusive, deceitful, a chronic liar, or had an affair or a string of affairs. Eventually, it’s about self-preservation, not about keeping an immoral spouse happy.

Divorce is Akin to a Business Negotiation

As emotional as divorce is, emotions have to be kept out of the negotiation process. The law is the law and each spouse has inalienable rights afforded to them by California’s divorce statutes. So, you do not want to make promises you can’t keep, nor do you want to make assumptions without seeking the advice of a skilled divorce attorney.

Just think, if you were mediating an issue over a business deal, you would try to negotiate a fair agreement in order to drive down the legal costs. You wouldn’t want to make any grand threats based on a lack of knowledge of the law, nor would you want to waive your rights and let the other party walk away with everything while you end up with nothing.

Divorce is no different. You must watch what you say. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t make assumptions about the value of assets, property division, or child custody. Instead, tread carefully, watch what you say, and be mindful of how you treat your spouse throughout the divorce process. If you aren’t careful, you could accidentally say or do something that could derail your divorce.

1. Don’t give your opinion about the value of your assets.
A spouse may be tempted to say something to the effect of, “We bought the house five years ago for $700,000, now it has to be worth over $900,000 if not more” or “My jewelry collection is probably worth well over $50,000.” When spouses make estimates like these to each other, they could be setting themselves up for disappointment.

Aside from child custody, one of the most contentious areas of divorce has to do with how much a couple’s marital property is worth. A couple’s marital home for example, is usually one of the most valuable assets they have, if not the most valuable due to Southern California’s real estate prices. So, if you are eager to move out, it may be impossible to move back in. Don’t change your living arrangements until you seek an attorney’s input.

Our advice is to hire an attorney before making any decisions about the marital residence. In fact, don’t make any promises to your spouse about the marital residence, who gets the tax refund, or child custody. Instead, keep these conversations between you and your divorce attorney and let your lawyer bring them up during formal negotiations.

2. Avoid discussing child custody.
This advice may sound counterintuitive, but it’s for a reason. Child custody can be a very sensitive subject and a lot of parents make irreparable mistakes in this department. Do you want 50/50 joint custody? Do you want the kids to live with you most of the time? Is your spouse abusive and are you going to seek sole physical and legal custody with supervised visitation? Do you actually know your rights under the law? Do you know your spouse’s rights, or what he or she is going to ask for?

The issue with child custody is parents don’t know what they don’t know, so they should avoid making assumptions in this area. Doing so only leads to added stress. No matter what you want to see happen, we do not recommend making any disclosures to your spouse, or promises to your children without a divorce attorney by your side.

If you do end up fighting over custody, the judge could appoint a child custody evaluator, who will investigate your family’s situation, come to a conclusion of their own, and make a recommendation to the judge. The last thing you want is to express an opinion with your spouse about custody in the beginning, have them share it with the child custody evaluator, and have those words haunt you later on.

3. Monitor your own behavior.
Every couple is different. Some couples are always calm, cool and collected, while others raise their voice, shout, throw things, and slam doors – lots of couples fall into the latter category. If you are an emotional person, don’t talk to your spouse about a divorce when you’re in the middle of a blowout.

Instead, wait to talk to your spouse when you are prepared and calm. If you scream, throw things, and make threats, your spouse can bring up your explosive behavior and claim that you’re not emotionally fit to care for your children.

One of the ways to have a smoother divorce is keep your emotions in check. We know, this can be very difficult, but if you get angry it can be detrimental to the outcome of your case, especially if you take your hard feelings to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Social media is a way for the pubic to get a glimpse of your private life, so control what’s posted by keeping it positive and avoid trashing your spouse. Nowadays, spouses can use social media posts as evidence against their husbands and wives in a divorce. But are they admissible in court? Many times digital evidence is. The family courts have changed and are accepting digital evidence, even if it’s a public post on Facebook or Twitter, or from a dating site, and it can impact child custody, spousal support, etc.

If you have questions about what you should and should not discuss with your spouse about your impending divorce, contact a Los Angeles divorce attorney at our firm for legal advice and the peace of mind that comes with it.

Next: Tips for Negotiating a Divorce Settlement