Oftentimes, whether by necessity, anger or retaliation, couples who are about to go through a divorce, or are in the middle of one, make certain unilateral decisions that could bring about serious consequences, not to mention anger the judge. The best advice I could give anyone who is about to go through, or is in the middle of a divorce, is to maintain the status quo.
The term “status quo” is Latin for “the way things were before.” This phrase has many contemporary uses and application in certain aeas of law, including family or matrimonial law. Family judges prefer, even demand, that the parties “maintain the status quo,” which is another way of saying “don’t make unilateral decisions that could affect or change any of the things that are being litigated in the divorce or family proceeding, until the judge decides.” From marital property and assets, to decisions concerning the children, to child support, family judges expect for parties going through a divorce to behave and not do anything that could affect “the way things were before” the divorce was filed.
Some examples of how a parent or spouse going through a divorce could affect or change the status quo are:
- selling furniture or other assets that were part of the marital estate;
- withdrawing most or all of the funds from a joint bank account;
- moving to another city (even state) and, as a result, causing the child(ren) to be further away from the other parent or to have to change school;
- applying for a passport for the child(ren) without the other parent’s consent;
- traveling with the child(ren) outside of the state or country without first informing the other parent and providing an itinerary;
- not allowing the other parent to spend time with the child(ren);
- not allowing the other parent to speak with the child(ren) when it is not the other parent’s time with the child(ren); etc.
All these are decisions that many parents make unilaterally for one reason or another. However, these types of decisions are not only likely to get you in trouble with the judge, but they are also likely to cost you financially, including being sanctioned.
The same is true with child support. Eventhough child support may not have yet been determined because it is too early in the case, it behooves the parent who moves out of the house to pay the other parent some type of monthly child support. This is part of maintaining the status quo because, after all, both parents still have the obligation to financially support their children.
In the end, common sense is the best policy. If you are tempted to do something that you would not like the other spouse to do to you, or that you think could upset the judge, DON’T DO IT!! But, if you must make a decision that could affect the status quo, you’re best served, and protected, by having your attorney negotiate with your spouse’s lawyer, and obtain their approval, or by filing a motion and asking the judge for permission.