As divorce attorneys in California, we know that some people know when a spouse is going to file for divorce, but for many other people, being served with divorce papers is abrupt, unexpected, and quite a surprise. The spouse on the receiving end may have no idea why the partner has filed for a divorce and may, in fact, be offered no explanation. Receiving dissolution papers can open the door to some very powerful emotions.

Divorce is difficult enough without adding needlessly to the difficulty. No matter how strongly someone feels wronged, a person who has received dissolution papers must not do anything that could be perceived as negative or detrimental during a California divorce proceeding. In fact, here is a list of seven things that a person should not do after being served with dissolution papers in the state of California.

1. Do not confront a spouse or do anything that could be construed as domestic violence.

Any kind of confrontational attitude, unwelcome contact, raising of voices, and certainly any kind of physical assault will be considered domestic violence. When emotions run high, a spouse might end up under arrest and targeted for criminal prosecution or become the subject of a restraining order. Both of those alternatives will compromise a parent’s ability to win custody or child support or any spouse’s ability to win spousal support when the dissolution becomes final. A divorcing spouse must resist any impulse to be mean, rude, or otherwise inappropriate.

2. Do not start moving or trying to hide assets.

Except for the resources someone needs to retain the services of an experienced California divorce attorney, all assets should be left where they are when the other spouse files for dissolution . If either spouse tries to empty the bank accounts and hide the money, it will not work. Every California dissolution petition includes automatic temporary restraining orders (“ATROS”) which stop the parties in a divorce from transferring and encumbering assets. The ATROS also prevents either spouse divorcing in California from cutting off the other spouse from health insurance or other ongoing insurance coverage until the dissolution is finalized.

3. Do not move away with your child or children.

Obviously, when children are involved, a divorce is more complicated. If a child has been a resident of California, the courts in this state retain jurisdiction over the child even if a parent flees the state with the child after receiving dissolution papers. When a parent flees in that circumstance, the other parent can request an order from the court to have the child returned to California and can probably at that time obtain sole custody. The parent who flees puts his or her future parental rights in genuine jeopardy.

4. Don’t use a child as a go-between.

Divorce is always tough on kids, and some children even blame themselves for a divorce. Parents should take the responsibility not to make divorce even tougher. Younger children especially should be directly involved as little as possible in a divorce. Parents should not use children as messengers or as go-betweens to send messages or to spy on the other parent. Parents should also avoid disparaging remarks about the other parent in front of the child or children. It simply is not helpful.

5. Do not “troll” a spouse or ex-spouse on social media.

When spouses no longer communicate, one spouse may become curious about the details of the other’s new life. That kind of curiosity should probably be avoided. Stalking or trolling a spouse or an ex-spouse on Facebook or anywhere else online is a very bad idea. During the divorce proceeding, anything in writing will be seen be seen by opposing attorneys and the judge. Hacking someone’s computer or email is a crime, and any trolling or hacking could be construed as stalking under California’s domestic violence laws. Accepting the dissolution and moving ahead positively is a much wiser choice.

6. Do not do anything foolish – like quitting your job.

Quitting a job will not get someone out of an obligation to make child support or spousal support payments. If a spouse quits working to avoid those responsibilities, a sharp California divorce attorney can ask the court to “impute” income on that person or can ask the court to compel a vocational evaluation to determine the spouse’s earning capacity. At any rate, the moment an ex-spouse returns to work, the other ex-spouse can have the child and spousal support orders modified to reflect the new income.

7. Do not fail to retain experienced legal counsel at once.

When you divorce in California, you need a lawyer who’s handled plenty of similar divorces in the past. There are a number of good reasons why anyone divorcing in this state must have a skilled divorce attorney. An experienced divorce lawyer knows all of the pertinent laws and legal procedures, so he or she is able to explain all of a spouse’s legal rights and options. The person who attempts to act as his or her own divorce lawyer could delay or severely prejudice his or her own case. Even a simple mistake in the paperwork could be costly.

Furthermore, anyone who has been served with divorce papers and thinks that he or she cannot afford legal counsel should think again. The truth is, divorcing spouses can’t afford to be without legal counsel. It is only after a divorce is final that many ex-spouses understand that they needlessly gave up their rights – and their property and assets – because they tried to divorce on the cheap. A failure to retain skilled divorce attorneys inevitably costs a divorcing spouse more in the long run.

For a large number of people, a divorce is almost unbearably painful. Others are stirred to anger, to acrimony, and sometimes even to violence. When someone is served with divorce papers in the state of California, it is absolutely imperative to avoid making any of the seven mistakes listed here. The failure to avoid these mistakes can put someone at a genuine disadvantage in divorce proceedings. Instead, someone who receives divorce papers must ignore negative emotions and do what it takes to be treated fairly and to obtain justice in a California divorce.