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Top 20 Mistakes to Avoid When Getting Divorced

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Divorce is already hard enough, here’s a guide for all of the mistakes to avoid when untying the knot

As a firm that practices Family Law, a large number of our cases involve divorce and it is no wonder – the common statistic is that 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Divorce can be complex and messy. It can feel like you don’t know what the right thing to do is. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide of the top twenty divorce mistakes you must avoid when getting divorced.

Divorce Mistake #1: Believing Your Spouse Will Be Fair and Amicable

One of the most common mistakes is believing that your spouse will be fair and amicable during the divorce. Most people facing divorce are emotionally vulnerable and upset; some are in a state of denial.  You may think, initially, your spouse will treat you well throughout the process, but as the divorce goes on, chances are things will become antagonistic.  Look out for yourself and expect him – or her – to do the same.

Divorce Mistake #2: Not Hiring a Lawyer

Do not allow your spouse to convince you to NOT hire a lawyer. Get ahead of the game and hire the right attorney quickly. If your spouse has retained an attorney, you need to find one right away.  If you do not, consider yourself an amateur playing against a professional. An attorney will guide you through the whole process and advocate for you. And no, an attorney cannot represent BOTH parties – it is unethical and creates a conflict of interest. 

The divorce process is adversarial by design; if your spouse is encouraging you to forego an attorney, chances are they have something to hide or something they want, and they know if you hire a lawyer it will be more difficult to get it.

Divorce Mistake #3: Taking Legal Advice From Family & Friends

They can be your emotional rocks to lean on, but don’t even begin to think they are a substitute for an attorney.  The ONLY person who can – and should – tell you what is in your best interest during the dissolution of your marriage is your lawyer!

Divorce Mistake #4: Forcing The Kids To Take Sides

It is a painful time – you are angry and just want to hurt your spouse, but never, ever use your kids as pawns in the process.  The best thing you can do for them is to remind them that both parents love them and will be there for them, no matter what happens. Resist the urge to badmouth your soon-to-be-ex in front of your kids, no matter what they’ve done.

Divorce Mistake #5: Having Unrealistic Expectations

Too many people enter divorce proceedings expecting they will get everything they want; often, their demands are exaggerated.  Finances, property, children, etc. are now in dispute.  Make your demands reasonable and don’t expect to get everything.

Divorce Mistake #6: Withholding Information From Your Attorney

Remember your lawyer represents you, and you should trust him or her.  Don’t withhold information about finances, your actions during the marriage, or future plans.  If you want your attorney to be effective,  they need to know the truth.

Divorce Mistake #7: Allowing Your Emotions to Rule Legal Decisions

Divorce is a frazzling and distraught time; you may feel victimized, or that you are in the right 100% of the time.  Letting your emotions be in control, rather than logic and reason, will undermine your case.  Be reflective – not reactive.  Anxious people don’t often correctly hear what they are being told.

Divorce Mistake #8: Not Double Checking Everything

Don’t be intimidated by “legalese”; review ALL documents, motions, and briefs to ensure their accuracy.  Attorneys are human; mistakes can be made. Careful review can help avoid extra expense to correct any mistakes.

Divorce Mistake #9: Signing Documents Without Asking Questions

Many people are intimidated by the legal system and, instead of asking questions, accept everything on blind faith.  Be thoughtful, skeptical and analytical; ask your attorney for an honest evaluation of your chances to obtain assets, your home and your finances.

Divorce Mistake #10: Being A Hindrance To Your Own Case

Your goal should be to do everything in your power to assist your case and support your attorney.  If you pester them, calling repeatedly with trivial questions, you are going to alienate the key person looking out for your interests.  Ask your attorney how to best assist with your case; be cooperative, not combative.

Divorce Mistake #11: Being Relaxed About Your Case

While you don’t want to be that client who calls every day for a status, you also don’t want to be that client who lies too low.  The court system does sometimes move slowly, but you’ll do yourself a favor by staying on top of your case and holding your lawyer accountable to their billing and timeline for finishing your case.  Rather than lengthy phone calls or in-person visits, ask for a weekly update via email.

Divorce Mistake #12: Using Your Lawyer As A Therapist

Your attorney is not a trained mental health professional – neither is their staff.  Remember, all that time you spend complaining to them about how horrible your ex is – you’re on the clock and it is costing you, not to mention taking their time away from handling your legal matter!  Ask for a reference to a qualified, professional counselor.  Chances are they know one.

Divorce Mistake #13: Spending $10,000 to get $1,000

Time and again, we see couples fight to the bitter end about who gets what.  By the time you pay us to duke it out for you – guess who wins?  That’s right…. the attorneys!  Don’t be short-sighted and make these mistakes; chances are, you’re not fighting about the “thing” anyway – whatever it is.  Ask yourself, “Will having this thing (television… car…. vacation home…) be worth the fight in 3 years?  5 years?”

Divorce Mistake #14: Failure to develop a parenting plan

Once your divorce is final, your relationship with your ex will change — sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.  The more specific you can be with the start and end times for your kids’ parenting time, vacations, holidays, etc., the easier it will be on them because they will have some routine when the rest of their lives have been disrupted.

Divorce Mistake #15: Refusing to mediate

The thought of sitting down and trying to hash things out civilly with your ex might make your skin crawl, but you’ll be making a mistake if you don’t give it a shot.  Some issues might need a hearing from a judge, but coming to an agreement on other issues will save you time and money.  You may be pleasantly surprised to find that you and your ex actually do agree on some things!

Divorce Mistake #16: Believing the court will be on your side

Regardless of how much you believe you are right, judges can see issues from other viewpoints – not always yours.  Judges often rule on limited information, because of procedural rules.  They don’t care if you are nice and your soon-to-be-ex is the bad guy.  They don’t entertain “he said v. she said” arguments.  Never expect YOUR viewpoint will prevail; the more reasonable and balanced you are, the better you can problem solve and obtain the most favorable outcome.

Divorce Mistake #17: Making Oral Agreements Outside of Divorce Agreements

Divorce is not the time for oral agreements. Your ex may promise you the moon, but without clarifying the details in your official settlement, those promises mean nothing in court. It may feel strange to make everything so specific and official, but in the end, your ex can’t then make a claim to your retirement, or take the lawnmower, or deny your visitation with the kids over winter break.  The proof is in the writing.

Divorce Mistake #18: Forgetting Tax Ramifications and Not Seeing A Financial Advisor

Property, estates, retirement accounts, etc. all have tax implications and divorce will impact on them.  Find a reputable financial advisor to navigate the tax consequences of your divorce.

Divorce Mistake #19: Allowing Too Much Time to Pass Before Enforcing a Court Order

Pay attention to court deadlines. Make sure documents are signed in a timely manner.  This will maintain your rights and ensure you get what you deserve. If your ex isn’t doing what he or she is supposed to do, be sure to consult your attorney.

Divorce Mistake #20: Jumping into a new relationship

Divorce is one of the most stressful and isolating experiences you can go through.  It makes sense to seek the comfort, emotional connection, and fun distraction that a new relationship offers, but please, refrain.  You are not ready to give another person what they deserve. Your kids will be confused by you bringing a new “parent” into the picture. You need time to recover and reflect before jumping into a new relationship. Avoid these mistakes and take some time to rebuild your sense of self and define yourself apart from your ex.

We hope you found these tips valuable and informative. We want you to avoid these common mistakes when getting divorced.  If you have questions about divorce or any other legal matter, give us a call!  We are here to help!

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