Fact or Fiction: The Divorce Checklist

divorce attorney Jill Duffy

By Jill A. Duffy

Attorney, Cordell & Cordell

Note: This is Part 2 of two-part series on breaking down The List. I previously examined the seven “cardinal rules” that should be considered the law in your divorce litigation.

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.

Although the seven cardinal rules in The List provide solid and sound advice for filing and proceeding with your contested divorce or custody case, you must adapt and tailor them to your specific situation.

Every person involved in litigation must realize that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Here are four key points to keep in mind when going through a divorce.


1. Know your state’s laws.

The List advises you to collect evidence. This is sound advice.

It suggests taking photos and videos, using a trace program on a computer, and a recorder on your phone. While these methods may reveal something you otherwise would not have found, they could be illegal in your state or under federal laws.

Catching your wife with her new boyfriend is not worth the years you could spend in an orange jumpsuit if you get caught.


2. Think of the future.

The List advises you to remove your wife from your health insurance, cut her off from bank accounts, and remove her from the beneficiary designation on any policies you carry.

While these actions might satisfy you in the short term, they could have lasting and devastating long-term effects.

Removing your wife from health insurance, especially if she has an ongoing medical issue, could cause a huge medical debt. Depending on the laws of your state, that debt could be considered a marital debt and you could end up paying it.

Also, should you pass away during the pendency of your divorce and your beneficiary designations are not in order, any life insurance or survivor benefits that your heirs are entitled to could be lost or used for a purpose you did not intend.

Lastly, cutting off access to bank accounts never impresses a judge, especially if your wife fulfilled a traditional stay-at-home-mother role and has no independent source of income. Your actions could be seen as malicious and could taint the judge’s view of your from the beginning.


3. Fight fair.

Reading the suggestions in The List may leave you with the impression that a war is going on and you have to fight to survive. The List says to dig in and fight dirty; there are no rules!

Reality is, there are rules and dirty fighting should be used strategically. Do everything you can to understand the divorce and custody laws of your state, and the factors the judge will consider for each issue in your case.

When you have dirt to use, use it strategically and to gain an advantage in your case. A divorce or custody case is not about mudslinging.


4. Always consult with your attorney.

It is imperative that your attorney knows what is going on in your case. Before taking any steps that could affect the outcome of your case you should consult an attorney.

It is even wise to seek a consultation with an attorney well before you plan to file a case. The attorney can help you establish your goals and make a game plan for how to win your case.


Note: This is Part 2 of two-part series on breaking down The List. I previously examined the seven “cardinal rules” that should be considered the law in your divorce litigation.


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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