Lenora, opened the door to find her friend Mike. Mike was visibly upset. After letting him in, the two began to talk.
Lenora: Oh my gosh, what happened now?
Mike: Michelle finally hit the jack pot. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired and I can't take her nonsense anymore.
Lenora: Well I'm glad you finally came to your senses. Where are your kids?
Mike: I knew I was going to confront her about her mess and I didn't want our kids to witness what could happen, so I took them to my parents.
Lenora: So what happened?
Mike: Talking to Michelle is like walking through a mine field. After I told her I was filing for divorce, our conversation got pretty heated. When I saw she began throwing knifes and pots, I left.
Lenora: Wow, that chic there. Did she hit you again?
Mike: No, I dodged them this time.
Lenora: I have heard this before. Are you sure you are ready for a divorce?
Mike: Oh I'm sure. I'm going to tell the judge she is a bad mom who doesn't cook or clean and all around bad wife.
Lenora: I think you are going to have show a little more than that. Let the judge know she sent you to the hospital with a concussion because she threw a cast iron skillet at your head. Tell the judge about the nights she did not come home for weeks at a time with neery a call or explanation to you or the kids. Oh, remember when you had the kids at the local Walmart, your shopping cart full with groceries and your debit card was declined during check-out because Michelle decided to take all the money out of your joint account to spend “quality time” with her boyfriend. The kids and you lived on rice and beans for two weeks because Michelle put her boyfriend ahead of her family. Don't forget to mention that little tidbit to the judge.
Mike: Well I brought that up with the attorney my brother used in his divorce and he said expect she is going to insinuate you and I are a couple and I am a bad influence on our kids because I don't work and get my income as a result of disability pay from the military.
Lenora: Are you kidding me? She would be out her mind to try that defense before a court. Wait a second, Mike tell me you are not using your brother's attorney for the divorce.
Mike: Well, he's cheap.
Lenora: Cheap is not going to cut it. Are you forgettting, the times your brother called and could not reach his attorney? Don't forget the times your brother told you his attorney did not show up for scheduled court for hearings. Your brother barely gets to see his daughter now because his so called attorney was not there for him during his divorce. Mike you need better than this.
Mike: Money is tight.
Lenora: Look, you're about to go to battle for your family and finances. Michelle and her money bags family are going to hit you with everything they have. You need someone who is going to fight hard for you. Let's see if we can find you another solution.
Preparing For Battle in Your Texas Divorce
Going through a contentious divorce is unlike any other life experience. Spouses who previously shared life experiences and had shared dreams now face a new life experience where plans and goals will split. Now the partner who no doubt knows the ins and outs of your life is your sworn adversary. The experience is not only emotionally draining but the upcoming changes to life as it was previously known can be daunting. In the fictional conversation above, Lenora is correct to warn Mike to treat his impending divorce as a battle. Knowing a battle is coming and preparing your mind for battle will go a long way in your fight to protect yourself, family and finances. Below are some key points to consider when preparing for battle in your Texas divorce.
Know Your Case
When presenting a case before the family court, details matter. As Lenora pointed out to Mike, generalizations and opinions about your partner's parenting abilities or what kind of spouse they were during the marriage won't be enough. Rather, point out the details regarding your spouse's past behavior. Be prepared to detail how that behavior impacted your family, the damage caused and/or any future negative impact to demonstrate why you should be granted the relief requested in your divorce. Be sure to let your counsel know the facts, no matter how sordid you think they may be. Equipping yourself and your counsel with all the facts allows you and your attorney to develop a game plan on how best to present those facts in a meaningful and impactful way.
Gather Your Evidence
Once you know the facts of your case, be prepared to demonstrate those facts in a court of law. The judge in your case has heard multiple cases. They've seen and heard multiple versions of the cheating husband, the two-timing wife, the busy dad, inept mom and vice versa in the cases presented before them. The judge does not know you and may not simply believe your word over your spouse just because you say so. Thus, the more evidence you have to prove your point the better it will be for you. For example, if you are alleging your spouse has used monies belonging to the marital estate to support their girlfriend or boyfriend, then you want to gather financial statements and records to show this. Alternatively, if you are trying to show you have had care and custody of your child in child support or custody issue before the court, then school records demonstrating the child's residence may be a useful demonstrative tool to get your point across. Likewise, where there are allegations of abuse, criminal records, medical records and pictures can put these allegations in a clearer perspective for the judge considering the evidence.
Dirt Will Be Thrown, Prepare Your Defense
So you recalled your facts. You have physical evidence to support the facts you are making before the court. Your case appears to be a slam dunk. However, neglecting to address the potential negatives your ex-could point out to the court could lead to disastrous results. Look, no general goes to battle and expects victory without a fight and no boxer enters a boxing match and expects to win without their opponent throwing a punch. It is no different in a contentious divorce case. Your soon to be ex wants their bite of the family finances, property and/or an upper hand with child custody as well. Thus, it's reasonable to expect when facing a contentious divorce, your spouse is going to try to sway the courts with negative facts about you. It's best in this situation to lay out any negatives you are aware might be brought up with your counsel and address them before hand.
Get Your Money Together
When a person goes to a mechanic and repairs are needed to fix their car, they know money must be spent to fix the car. When a person is ill and they go to their doctor to get relief, they know money will be paid to a physician for their services. Likewise, when you are preparing to go after every last dime that rightfully belongs to you from your no good ex, or leave no stone unturned in demonstrating you are the better parent, be prepared to pay the person who will be your legal crusader and warrior in a three piece suit. Yes, there are deals to be made when obtaining a legal counsel, but remember you also get what you pay for. Being penny wise and pound foolish when obtaining a divorce lawyer can be costly in the long run. Counsels offering free or next to nothing cost in obtaining them are also likely to dole out service valued $0 or next to nothing. Affordability is important when hiring counsel but also consider you want your counsel to excel over the opposing forces that will come after your case. You don't want an underpaid counsel battling your lying ex, their well paid pit bull lawyer who has their investigators and counselors who are also willing to tear you to shreds before a judge because they were highly paid. Rather, you want a highly motivated greater force speaking on your behalf and fighting for your interests and rights in the court room. Thus, if you envision a divorce is likely, start saving up for good counsel. If the divorce has taken you by surprise, then try to find counsel who will offer you payment plans or accept credit cards. Alternatively, seek the assistance of trusted family members and friends in gathering the funds you will need for a retainer.
If you are in a similar situation as Mike, contact our firm for a consultation to discuss how to proceed in protecting your rights and interests during divorce.
Author's Information: Attorney Tracey A. Beecher is a family law practitioner. She represents clients with divorce, child support, child custody, property division in relation to divorce proceedings, and child protective services cases. She appears in courts within Brazoria, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, and Waller counties.
Legal Disclaimer: Each person's situation and circumstances are unique. As such, this article is given to provide general information only. It is not legal advice nor is it intended as a substitute for legal counsel. Should the reader need legal advice or counsel, it is appropriate to seek the assistance of a licensed attorney.