At the end of a divorce or child custody case, there aren't any "winners" or "losers" in the traditional sense. But often one person walks away feeling as though they attained the better outcome. Many times this outcome is the product of some mistake that the other party made.
As a family law attorney, I've seen some hostile cases and I've seen people do some cruel things. Sometimes these actions are physically injurious but, more often than not, they are mentally damaging. In the end, however, they almost always come back to haunt that person. Consequently, if you are involved in a divorce case or a child custody case, don't do any of the following if you want to attain your desired result:
1) Denigrate or abuse your spouse.
Nothing makes someone look worse in a family law case than someone who is cruel to their spouse. No, it doesn't necessarily mean that you are "at fault" under the law, at least not with respect to grounds for divorce. But if there is one thing to take out of this article, it is that the law isn't the only factor in the outcome of your case. The State has an interest in protecting marriage as a promoter of family values, so if there is someone to blame for the breakdown of the marriage, this is a sure sign of who that person is.
2) Involve the children.
Who is most affected by your divorce case or your child custody case? That's right - your children. Not you and not your spouse. Keep them insulated from your litigation so as to minimize the effects of their life being turned upside down. Do NOT use them as a messenger. Do NOT share intimate details of the other parent's behavior. Do NOT let them read legal pleadings or letters from attorneys. DO not move your children far away from the other parent.
3) Be unreasonable in custody and visitation.
Unless your spouse actually causes harm to your children, you need to accept the fact that your children need both parents in their lives. There are things that a mother can provide, which a father can't provide. There are things that a father can provide, which a mother can't provide. Being unreasonable in custody and visitation or worse, denying visitation altogether, only makes you look like a bad parent.
4) Fail to provide support.
Support in this context means child support and alimony. Though mutually exclusive, the point is the same. Courts don't like it when you refuse to pay reasonable amounts of support. Child support will be awarded in nearly all cases. Courts don't like it when the non-custodial refuses to pay. Hint: they take it as a sign that you don't care about your children. Likewise, if your case is one in which alimony is warranted, don't refuse to provide for your spouse until the court orders you to do so.
5) Hide assets.
Some people get away with hiding assets. But a good divorce attorney will find them. When they do, they will let everyone know about it. Then you're in trouble not only because you now have more assets in the pot, but you also lied about what you have.
6) Let emotion guide your actions.
This is the "catch-all" provision. Put simply: don't be a jerk. While most family law cases are resolved outside the courtroom, there are many that end up in trial. Remember that the Judge who is ultimately deciding your case is a person too.