Fact or Fiction: Seven Rules of Divorce

divorce attorney Jill Duffy

By Jill A. Duffy

Attorney, Cordell & Cordell

Note: This is Part 1 of two-part series on breaking down The List. In Part 2, I addressed whether the additional advice in The List is leading you in the right direction or if it could possibly have devastating and lasting long-term effects.

The Dads Divorce Forums are extremely popular and one of the more valuable features on DadsDivorce.com. In particular, one post called “The List” has received a lot of attention since it was posted in 2005.

The List is a collaborative view on how to prepare for and win a contested divorce or custody case. As an attorney who practices solely in domestic litigation, I found that many of the suggestions in The List are helpful while others should be carefully considered and evaluated.

The List sets out seven “cardinal rules” that should be considered the law in your divorce litigation. Today, I will break down each of the posted rules and give you a family law attorney’s viewpoint on them.

Tomorrow, I will address whether the additional advice in The List is leading you in the right direction or if it could possibly have devastating and lasting long-term effects.

The List’s Cardinal Rule No. 1: Keep your mouth shut! Loose lips sink ships!

This rule is valid in nearly any contested case. Discussions with your wife should be kept to a minimum, and only regarding parenting time issues that need to be addressed for the immediate needs of the children.

You should not be discussing the status of your custody or divorce case with your wife, or how you intend to proceed. Just like the Miranda warning states, anything you say can, and will, be used against you in a court of law. Let your attorney do the talking for you.


The List’s Cardinal Rule No. 2: Never let your guard down! Watch your back!

The overarching message of this rule is to be civil with your wife even if you don’t want to be. This is a great piece of advice, which is often hard to swallow.

Watch what you say and do around your wife. Just like you are looking for ways to catch her, she is waiting for you to mess up. Put on your poker face, and deal with her in a business-like manner.


The List’s Cardinal Rule No. 3: Be the best dad you can be! Do whatever it takes!

This rule should be your number one rule whether you are contesting custody or not. Divorce proceedings are hard on the parties involved, but even harder on the children caught in the middle.

The court, and your children, will notice your extra efforts, and they will be rewarded for years to come. As The List indicates, make everything you do in the best interests of your children.


The List’s Cardinal Rule No. 4: Get connected! Stay informed!

Having knowledge of the courts, procedures, and the laws that will be applied to your case is critical. You must have an excellent working relationship with your attorney. Your attorney must know everything that you know, good or bad, and must communicate with you frequently.

The List also advises to network and connect with dads support groups. What you are going through is tough, but you are not the first to do it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.


The List’s Cardinal Rule No. 5: Hire the best father-friendly attorney you can find.

Having excellent legal representation is essential. Many attorneys are “general practitioners” who take any case that comes in their door.

These types of attorneys are missing out on the years of experience and familiarity with family courts that an attorney who specializes in domestic litigation can provide.

Family court is its own animal, and you must have an excellent attorney to navigate the system effectively.


The List’s Cardinal Rule No. 6: Never give or sign anything to your soon-to-be-ex in advance.

This rule encourages you to use everything as a bargaining chip. It is a good idea to keep track of anything you give to your wife (or that she takes). Even seemingly small things add up when the numbers are crunched.


The List’s Cardinal Rule No. 7: You file first!

Filing first for divorce does have advantages. You can choose the jurisdiction the case is filed in, you can prepare yourself ahead of time, and you can set the tone for how the case will proceed.

The List suggests filing only when you have a solid game plan, and only when you are ready. This suggestion is invaluable. Preparing for your divorce by gathering relevant documents, investigating your assets and liabilities, and protecting yourself is essential.


Note: This is Part 1 of two-part series on breaking down The List. In Part 2, I addressed whether the additional advice in The List is leading you in the right direction or if it could possibly have devastating and lasting long-term effects.


Jill A. Duffy is an Associate Attorney in the Troy, Mich., office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in the state of Michigan. Ms. Duffy received her BA in Psychology and Spanish and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Oakland University. She received her Juris Doctor from Michigan State University College of Law and graduated Magna Cum Laude.  

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12 comments on “Fact or Fiction: Seven Rules of Divorce

    My Nightmare. Abused child/wife, turned alcoholic, lies, cheats, deceives, manipulates. has fake cry that could win an Oscar. Brags she can convince anyone she’s telling the truth. . She saved for retirement. I made house payments. I talked to 3 lawyers all said the same, judges are conservatives for the woman here. Madison County, Ne. . If you can find anything she hides, your only going to get half, and you got to find it. And what you don’t find she keeps. It usually cost more to find then whats found.I parted ways with that lawyer but, We did make an agreement to both pay half of our about to grad hi / college bond son expenses. Didn’t take long I was paying for everything. I thought and told my wife, no judge would allow you a and lawyer to fraud me out of this half half deal. I will be rewarded back this money in the end. Sons graduation. She doesn’t pay her half tuition to allow him to graduate with his class. I waited till the last possible minute to pay it with the only money I had left for another attorney. I couldn’t let it happen to him I let him know I would pay last minute. Just before trial they offer a decree. I figured it was close to even, with what she probably get by with hiding. Wanting to just get out of this I told them I except their agreement. Then her lawyer calls back and says she wants $20,000 more. I said no, he says she prob settle for $10,000 more I figured that’s about what she owed me for half sons cost. I said Ok. Later I told her you will have to pay half sons costs back. She said that’s not what I was told. You just wait and see. She was absolutely right. Judge asked why I haven’t made a payment. I said because she refuses to credit me the half sons costs. He said you have to pay this decree its not stated on this, so she doesn’t to pay you those costs. I just can’t believe it. That a loop hole like that is even there. Where her lawyer told her to charge it up and the court would not make her pay.

    Proof that the list is good advise is righ here
    Just looking at what this woman blatantly admits doing to her ex husband in a post above, pretty much robbing him from his house, his hard earned money and his kids, is reason and proof enough of why every man should follow the crucial advise in The List and to definately be aggressive and relentless when divorcing his nutjob gold digger, greedy, manipulative, frivolous, no moral, monster, lying, opportunist, feminist, free loader, thief, materialistic, disrespectful, snake, vicious, disgusting, soon to be ex wife.

    In my county, NEVER file first. Everyone who files first gets hosed. I filed after my wife was arrested for beating my son. Those records were promptly sealed. Two years into the divorce she stabbed my girlfriend (literally from behind without being provoked, she stalked us in a public place and stabbed her in front of witnesses), and the DA did not pursue charges even after she admitted it. The judges see you as the person giving up on the family, and you will pay for it dearly. I live in CA, in a small but wealthy county. There is no such thing as “no fault”, and after three years I have learned the person who lies the best wins. Facts do not matter. You need to hide everything, and lie. If you don’t you will lose everything. Trust me, I believed in the legal system prior to my divorce. I was honest, hardworking, loved my kids. Came out the other end just short of being accused of molesting my kids, with my business absolutely destroyed. If I had to do it over again I would have insisted on a motion for evidentiary trial first thing. Hearings are absolutely worthless, and if you are dealing with someone willing to pull out all the stops, you are wasting your time. One final word, educate yourself and don’t waste your money on an attorney. They are dealing with 20 other cases just like yours, and will never serve you as well as you can serve yourself.

    The list is good to read at least to be aware of what can happen. The best parts of the list are covered by the lawyer’s comments in this article. Some stuff covered in the list doesn’t matter in the end and is a big waste of time and or money.

    Donna Jay
    Donna Jay obviously has poor reading comprehension skills and an ax to grind.

    Only a fool discounts The List.

    If you follow “The List”…your actions can always be used against you so tread lightly
    My only additional comments are this (ex-wife in nasty divorce case where he followed ‘The List’.
    -He changed the locks when I was up north visiting family.
    -Changed all bank accounts and cancelled all credit cards denying me access to any funds
    -He got a vicious dog that nipped at me when I picked up my kids one day
    -He took $7500 of our funds and hired a high powered attorney and told me I can borrow the money to defend the action

    Here is what happened to him;
    -I hired a locksmith to break in for me at the back door using my driver’s licence with that address and simple wording, “I lost my keys”. Then ex-husband left a spare key to the locks changed on his desk, so I had the locksmith rekey the back door deadbolt to same keys he was using, put key back and he didn’t know anything different that I was in the house
    – I put spyware on his computer when I gained access to the house and I sorted through all his mail, his notes about case he was building because he didn’t ‘hide’ this stuff because he figured he was safe since he changed locks
    -I visited regularly to read emails between he and his attorney learning their strategy (because again, he didn’t know anything different that I was in the house) so he was feeling ‘safe’ that he could communicate because it was a new computer (hee…hee)
    -Additionally…because he thought his computer was safe, I was able to see the extended amount of time he was spending on the computer on adult sites,I printed off evidence from the pandora spyware that showed the times he had the children, he was on the computer for 4 hours, sometimes 12 hours because these sites take pictures every 3 seconds, of him talking to nude women on Adult Friendfinder, arranging to meet one of them

    All this above resulted in me;

    – gaining temporary custody of my children while proving that his house was a dangerous place for my children because the dog bit me and it was a vicious dog and until the dog was no longer in the home, he couldn’t have visitation with his children in that home and he was on the computer not minding the children, while on inappropriate websites instead of spending time with his children.
    – I was able to have all of his assets frozen stating that he locked me out of all accounts in an effort to move all liquidable assets overseas (I had no idea if he was really doing that, but by him denying me, it make him look guilty of impropriaties
    – I additionally filed a motion for a court order for half of his 401K given to me immediately so I could afford an attorney and find other suitable living accommodations
    – In the end, he looked like a bitter, angry, greedy man that didn’t have his children’s best interest at heart….his only desire was to destroy me emotionally, financially, physically

    And guess what guys….I just wanted 30% of his 401K but got 50%, didn’t want the house, state mandates the child support guidelines so that was a given, I share custody with him. Because he filed the motion first for divorce proceedings and lost a good portion of what he was seeking, he had to pay 70% of my attorney’s fees.
    In the end, he paid way more than if he would have just did an uncontested divorce, it consumed his life for 18 months, and I have court documents to show his children as adults if they should ever ask (and even if they don’t ask, all info in divorce proceedings are public knowledge that they could go to courthouse and get a copy of our divorce), so they see what a huge jerk their father was when we were getting our divorce.

    Only a fool would follow “The List”

    RE: I_Hate_Dad, January 26, 2011
    You make some valid points.

    However… “Get a Vicious dog that barks at her?” Were did you find that little nugget? How many of your accusations are just that, and are not actually found on the forums in question?

    The issue regarding the list is predominantly a guide to understanding the legal preparation aspects, not how to destroy the other party… but, I have to ask, Mr. “I Hate Dad”, would you hate your mother the same way if she had pulled the same dirty tricks as your dad?

    If one reads the majority of postings in the forums the advice isn’t about how to pull dirty tricks on the other spouse, but how to reach an equitable and balance solution, without being taken advantage of by the other spouse.

    If you want to find out how to play legalistic dirty tricks, there are a myriad of mom-focused resources available for that.

    But in the end, teaching people what kind of dirty tricks can be played is the first step in seeking to avoid them, or avoid being taken advantage of by them.

    Seems you left a few “gems” out
    Your sanitized version of “The List” is nothing like the hate-filled manifesto bent on revenge, like:

    Gather all incriminating info while you can.
    Lay out a trap Perpetually work on setting her up for the fall. Bait her!
    Spring your trap in front of the camera or witnesses
    Put a trace program on her computer and a recorder on her phone. Visit your local spy shop.
    Make play dates and invite parents who will observe you as Superdad. Great sources for collateral witnesses.
    Dig in and fight dirty. THIS IS WAR! THERE ARE NO RULES!
    Keep the heat on. Never let up. Keep the pressure on your STBX continually.
    Entice her to voluntarily leave without the kids. Bribe her if necessary.
    While she’s gone, clean out the house, take the kids, and file your documents.
    The moment D-Day comes, you become THE TERMINATOR. NEVER show mercy. THIS IS WAR!!
    Get a VICIOUS dog that barks at her. Reward him to reinforce that behavior.
    Never offer your STBS her clothes or personal necessities. Make her sign a receipt and only if she has a police escort.
    Tell your employer you want your calls screened. If she calls, call the police and file a restraining order.
    Cut off her money and resources. THIS IS WAR!!
    Keep plenty of cash so there’s no paper trail. Do anything to minimize gross pay.
    Postpone raises and promisions. Get employer to hide a % of salary where it can’t be touched.


    and on and on and on….

    I hope every person that follows this advice gets the same treatment that my own father received. We learned what he did and we all quit speaking to him the day we turned 21. In fact, a few of us were adopted and changed our names to our step-father’s when we were of age – so we would never again be reminded of him.

    When he got cancer and died – he was alone.

    Alone as I hope every single person is who follows advice to destroy the other party (whether male or female) because they have to win. For you people to have this on your website speaks volumes about your ambulance chasing lack of character.

    Great advice
    I don’t know how many other sites reference “The List” it’s great to see someone with a law degree giving advice on it as well.

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