There is a period of time before a court gives divorcing parties rules to follow that I like to call the “Storm before the Calm.” This is that time of delirium that people experience when the reality that their life is about to significantly change comes into focus- albeit usually blurred by cycling emotion. It is usually precipitated by someone moving out, finding out that their spouse is engaged in an affair or any other event of a life altering proportion that affects marriage. This is the period of anarchy when people act really stupid and do and say a lot of damaging stuff. The funny thing is that the rules during this time are actually no different than before. Nevertheless, I often get questions like the following:
“Can I change the locks?”
“Can he pick up the kids from school?”
“Can I withdraw money from the home equity line of credit?”
“Can she take the kids to her mother’s in California for the weekend?”
The answer to the questions is always the same. During the period of time prior to a court order, you can do everything that you could do while living together as a married couple. I am married to my wife and the mother of my kids. Could I change the locks on my house if I wanted to? Yes, but I could also break my own window if I locked myself out. Could I pick up my kids from school without telling my wife? Yes. Get the idea? You can do anything during “the Storm” that you could do before. Now, would it be a good idea for me to pick up the kids without telling Rachel? Probably not. Should I break my own window? Maybe under pretty extreme circumstances- Get it?
Let me caution you again that just because there are no rules, it does not give you a license to do stupid stuff that you would never have done while you and your spouse were on the same page. Be respectful to your kids’ other parent. If you would not want it done to you- don’t do it! If all of your actions are thought out and everything you do is after thoughtful consideration and you truly put the best interest of your kids first and use your best judgment, you will be just fine. Things will get better and you will find your “new normal.” It just takes time.
Craig Robertson is a family law attorney practicing throughout Mississippi.