DO keep records and document anything that you think might be important. Make notes of dates, phone conversations and other events.
DO keep a journal for your attorney. Memory can fail you especially during trying times. If you designate it as “Notes for My Attorney,” it is protected by attorney-client privilege and generally cannot be discoverable by the other side. Record incidents and events from your daily life, especially problems that arise with your ex-spouse.
DO copy documents from the last several years such as investment, tax, mortgage, bank and income records. You might also want to copy family photos.
DO create an inventory. Making a video of your home and its contents, or at least taking pictures, can prevent items from disappearing and makes dividing the property an easier task. Make a written list of all your financial assets and debts.
DO record your phone conversations and always assume that your conversations are being recorded – especially with an adversarial ex-spouse. In North Carolina, it is legal to record a phone conversation so long as one of the parties is aware of the recording. The laws in other states differ.
DON’T leave your lists, inventories, journal or notes where you ex-spouse or children can find them.
DON’T share a lawyer with your ex-spouse or hire a lawyer who is a friend of your ex-spouse (even a shared friend) or who is connected to your ex-spouse in any other way – such as a business associate or member of his or her family. Even if you start out on good terms, there’s a strong probability the situation will not end well.
DON’T try to hide assets or anything else from your attorney. This can come back to bite you sooner or later and can result in you being held in contempt. Even years later, your divorce can be reopened for the deception.
DON’T rely on the advice of friends regarding family legal issues no matter how well-meaning they are. They do not know the law.
DON’T try to be your own attorney. Family law is complicated and novice missteps can have devastating consequences. Find an experienced attorney who specializes in family law and who keeps up with current changes to those laws. You would not want your general practitioner to do your heart surgery.
DON’T put yourself into situations with your ex-spouse that make it possible for them to falsely accuse you of violence, harassment, stalking or any other threatening behavior. If this ever happens, bring a witness to all future encounters.
DON’T put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want a judge to see. Don’t say anything over the phone or in the company of others you wouldn’t want a judge to hear.