Are you going through a divorce? You should avoid these very common divorce mistakes which can have long-term effects on your family and financial future.
1. Getting legal advice from friends and family members
2. Interpreting what your divorce attorney tells you as a guarantee
3. Making threats to your spouse
4. Moving or hiding marital funds without the knowledge of your spouse
5. Speaking too soon or too openly to minor children about the separation and divorce
Mistake #1 Getting legal advice from friends and family members.
Although they may mean well and want the best for you, advice from friends or family is almost always wrong. They can sometimes unintentionally lead you down the wrong path by offering you advice that is uninformed or does not apply to your particular situation. Is the person you are talking to a practicing divorce lawyer or someone that is already on your side? You will often hear things like: “My friend got full custody of her children so you can too,” or “my cousin had a great attorney who got her 90% of the assets and alimony for the rest of her life, so you should be able to get the same thing.” Although this advice may sound good to you at first, you need to understand that there are no two divorce cases that are the same, so they cannot possibly be treated the same way by a court. There are many many factors that go into a court-ordered divorce settlement, such as:
1) The state law that applies to your particular set of facts;
2) The local court customs and practice in your particular county;
3) The effectiveness of your attorney, and:
4) Since judges are human, the mindset of the particular judge or even the mood they are in on a given day.
In actuality, going to court is often a “roll of the dice” in which you might spend a lot of money in legal fees, only to get an end result that is radically different than what you were expecting. Therefore, when approaching your divorce, you should seek out the advice of an experienced and competent attorney first who will help you to sort out all your rights and options while helping you to develop some realistic expectations up front.
Mistake #2 Interpreting what your divorce attorney tells you as a guarantee.
Getting the advice of a good experienced attorney you can trust and get along with is always a wise choice and a good place to start. A divorce attorney will attempt to gather all the relevant facts as well as financial and other important information about your marriage. The attorney will usually give you a general assessment of the type of settlement you can expect, with a general idea of the outcome. However, do not rely on an attorney’s preliminary impressions as a guarantee of the exact outcome you can expect in your case. Remember, an attorney’s advice will always be limited to what information you alone give them. That’s it. The attorney will not be aware of financial or other information your spouse may have in which you do not know. And that could drastically change the attorney’s analysis of your case. Moreover, because you may come to an attorney’s office feeling upset and angry at your spouse or otherwise emotionally distressed, you might have the tendency to hear only what you want to hear. This can cause you to firmly dig in your heels without any compromise going forward. This can be the most costly mistake you make which can both deplete your finances and harm your family emotionally for years to come. This is true, especially if your spouse is already in a position to discuss a compromise in order to avoid costly and emotionally draining litigation. Wait for a full analysis of all of the information that is relevant to your case and only then discuss what a realistic outcome may be.
Mistake #3 Making threats to your spouse.
Spouses commonly make empty threats and other nasty comments to one another.“I’ll get the meanest lawyer in town and destroy you,” or “After cheating on me, there is no way you will ever see your kids again, or “My lawyer said you’ll have to leave the home and pay me alimony for the rest of your life.” Such threats, although understandably borne out of anger, are really meaningless in the long run and have no effect either way on the outcome of your case. Remember that the way you act towards your spouse early on will not only set the tone for your entire divorce case, but also for years to come after it is all over. This, of course, becomes especially important if you have children to co-parent which you will be difficult to do in a way that is healthy for them if you carry hatred and resentment towards your spouse into your post-divorce lives. Believe me, no matter how old your children are they will feel the hatred you have for one another even if you don’t argue in front of them. Your children will greatly benefit if they see you and your spouse trying to “get along.”
Always take the high road in approaching your divorce. You don’t necessarily have to be best friends with your spouse through all this, just be willing to make an effort to communicate, cooperate and compromise with him or her as best you can, especially when children are involved. Assure your spouse that you are not out to hurt him/her or the kids (if kids are involved), and that you have good faith intentions of reaching an amicable settlement as soon as is possible. Just because your spouse may act like a jerk does not mean you are not a jerk if you respond in the same way. Bad behavior does not justify bad behavior.
Your goal should be to achieve the best overall outcome you can. Trying to “get even” with your spouse and arguing at every opportunity rarely ends up with your spouse giving in to your demands or suddenly admitting that they are wrong and you are right. Keep in mind, the court doesn’t care who is the “bad” person or who is at fault. There are no winners here and the court never declares to the world that it is all your spouses’ fault and you are the victim. You should not argue over petty things simply because you are hurt or angry. Is arguing over your old furniture or fighting to get an extra hour with your kids worth it? Often this only leads to your spouse reacting by being just as stubborn. You have to choose what is important and let go of what is not. There is a middle ground between being a push-over and demanding that you get everything you want. Compromise, you will feel better about yourself and hopefully your spouse will respond positively.
Mistake #4 Moving or hiding marital funds without the knowledge of your spouse.
Trying to hide assets so that they are not part of your divorce is a big mistake. One big way to break any trust that exists is for one or both spouses to act underhandedly, especially with the marital finances. When a spouse decides they want a divorce, they will sometimes try to secretly transfer funds from a joint account into their own account or into someone a friend or family member’s account or even make significant withdrawals of cash from a joint account. When clients are asked why they do this, they typically say they feel threatened and need to act quickly in order to protect what is theirs or make up some other excuse. Although it is understandable that such activity could occur in the heat of the moment when a spouse may perceive a sense of urgency and desperation for it, if these are marital funds that are being moved in and out of accounts, this activity will immediately be uncovered through the initial steps of the discovery process. This means generally that if marital monies were withdrawn from marital accounts, this will eventually come to light and they will have to be returned to the marital estate. If a spouse has since spent the funds away, they will be ultimately accountable for them as part of the divorce settlement. Therefore, if you and your spouse are contemplating a divorce, and you feel the need to move any funds from an existing marital account or redirect marital funds away from a marital account, discuss your intentions with your attorney and/or spouse first and make sure there is a good reason for doing this, and one that also makes sense to your spouse. This open disclosure early on help save you money in attorney’s fees in the long run and avoid the judge thinking that you are cheating or lying.
Pitfall #5 Speaking Too Soon or Too Openly to Minor Children about the Separation and Divorce.
Discussing your separation or divorce plans with your children is a very sensitive subject which must be approached very delicately. Without realizing it, many times people who decide to separate or divorce will use their children to vent all the frustration and confusion they are feeling at the moment. This is the worst thing you can do to your children during this time and can have very bad long-term effects on their emotional well-being. If you need to vent, find a friend, family member or therapist. Although your own feelings and emotional well-being are important in a divorce, a healthy divorce means considering what’s best for your children first. Therefore, if you are getting a separation or divorce, try to make every effort to go about your business as quietly as possible without involving your children in any particular facts or even worse, trying to get them to pick sides. This is not to say that children should be completely left in the dark either. Sooner or later, you will have to face these issues with them directly so that they can begin to emotionally prepare for what will be a very different life involving two separate households. Figuring out the ideal time and also the appropriate things to say to children is key. Planning with your spouse in advance how to approach this, and also approaching the children together is the best way. Family therapy with a licensed family therapist can also be very effective when working through these issues together as a family. Believe it or not, a large majority of divorcing parents can amicably work out a compromise regarding child custody issues without legal assistance and only 6- 20% of all divorce cases involving children actually need the courts to intervene. Therefore, the odds are in your favor that your custody matter can be resolved amicably without court involvement if both parents are willing to work together and do what’s best for the children.