Divorce is basically a real-life version of Minesweeper; there are bombs everywhere, no one really understands the rules, and you’re somehow expected to get through it unscathed. Fortunately, family law attorneys exist to guide players through the hardest part of “the game” and avoid detonation, but ultimately you’re in control of what squares you click on. Although there are certainly things that are worth fighting for during the divorce process, not every bump in the road calls for court action (detonation). Picking your battles isn’t always easy, particularly when tensions are high, but keep in mind that these battles are costly. So, when is it appropriate to put your foot down and when is it better to let it roll off your back? Here’s our advice, take it or leave it (we suggest you take it).
No one likes to get verbally slapped, but if your ex is a potty mouth, reporting every foul word to your attorney can get pretty expensive. Yes, you could ask your attorney to intervene, but any formal “cease and desist” letter is going to cost you. As long as their words aren’t being overheard by your kids, try to let their immaturity roll off your back and into the gutter where it belongs.
Showing Up Late
Does your co-parent CONSISTENTLY show up 5-10 minutes late for every custody exchange? This is a VERY common passive-aggressive move intended to drive you crazy, but instead of filing a court action, make a note of it in your journal. Having a record of your ex being consistently late can only help you later on in court.
Small Amounts Owed
No one likes to lose money, particularly to a
full bag of crazy your ex, but is the amount owed worth going to war over? There have been times when clients have paid thousands of dollars in legal fees over $500 owed to them because “it’s the principle of the thing,” but revenge isn’t worth draining your bank account.
Unannounced Day Trips
So, your ex took your kids to the beach for a day without consulting you first. What needs to be done, if anything? Assuming that the trip didn’t break the rules as stated in your separation agreement, it might be worth having a discussion in lieu of taking it up with your attorney. Provided that your relationship is amicable, ask your ex to provide contact numbers, route maps, and itineraries with you before any trip (and be willing to extend that same courtesy).
As ridiculous as it sounds, fighting over your kids’ clothing is pretty common when you’re sharing custody. If your child is always in mismatched socks or ill-fitting pants, discuss this with your co-parent. If your co-parent can’t be relied upon to provide adequate clothing for your child, consider buying a separate wardrobe for them to wear during their visits with you.Yes, it’s an added expense, but it’s bound to be cheaper than sending letters back and forth between your attorneys.
Wants Vs. Needs
It’s completely appropriate to fight over what you need (temporary spousal support to make ends meet, for example), but do you REALLY need that Vitamix or Big Green Egg? It’s more than okay to advocate for what you and your dependents need, but don’t get that confused with what you want. Yes, you might have it in your head that your ex “owes you big time,” particularly if they’re a lying liar who lies, but try to see this objectively. If it costs more to fight for it than what it’s worth (either monetarily or emotionally), let it go.
Having the best possible relationship with your ex can be tricky, particularly if they’re a brick wall. Before going through your attorney when you don’t get a response, be sure to try all available communication tools. Share events on Google Calendar to keep track of important dates instead of texting constant reminders that they’ll likely ignore. Utilize an online parenting program to help you manage all aspects of your divorce from a distance (Our Family Wizard, for example). Try to exhaust all methods of communication before throwing in the towel and sending a formal letter through your attorney (which will cost you).
Did your trashcan of an ex decide to bring their new bf/gf with them to your custody exchange, just to get under your skin? Did they buy your child a birthday gift that you specifically asked them NOT to buy? These things happen, particularly when the divorce isn’t amicable, but how you respond to it is up to you. As long as their attempt at petty revenge doesn’t go against your separation agreement or impact their ability to co-parent, it’s usually not worth the additional stress on you and your kids, the potential prolonging of your divorce, or the thousands of dollars in legal fees. Even if you “win,” is it really worth the cost? Think about it.
When You SHOULD Get Your Attorney Involved
There are plenty of instances in which you should unapologetically get your attorney involved! If you suspect that physical or emotional abuse is taking place during visitations, legal action is required. Never allow your ex to cohabitate with someone who exposes your children to drugs or alcohol or unsafe conditions. Any situation that violates your separation agreement is worth fighting over (denied visitation, denied phone access, parental alienation, missing child support payments, etc).
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