For many people, some of the biggest mistakes that they make in their life come during a divorce. The divorce process is unfamiliar, and often painful. You may feel that your future is at stake. And often, people settle for less than they deserve because of the stress and expense of a long, drawn-out battle. In many cases, they fail to realize how the process of divorce will affect their children. Unfortunately, they figure out too late that legal missteps made over the course of the divorce will affect them for many years to come.
You don’t have to walk the same path that many others have. Knowledge is power and you can dodge these top 10 mistakes that are commonly made during divorce proceedings.
1. Not listening to your attorney
Not all divorce advice should be treated equally. Friends and family, trying to support you, are full of ideas and advice and often not afraid to offer it. Remember, they are not lawyers and they may not know about everything in your marriage and what you’ve been dealing with. Your attorney is the best source of legal advice for the issues and circumstances affecting your divorce. Choose your attorney carefully. You want someone who understands you and your specific circumstances. This is the person whose advice actually matters. Your attorney will protect both your interests and your rights.
2. Starting your case aggressively
Remember, your goal is to divorce, not go to war. It’s probably not in your best interest to start your case by going on the attack. If you do, your spouse is likely to attack you in return. Starting aggressively can burn through money, fill your life with drama, and leave you bitter about the spouse with whom you may have to work in the future on matters concerning your children. Let your attorney take the lead and follow his/her advice.
3. Failing to understand that divorce is a marathon instead of a sprint
If someone tells you that divorce is easy or fast, take it with a grain of salt. While there are uncontested options, the process can quickly become contentious. It is rarely as smooth and amicable as you might hope. Divorce often costs more and takes longer than you might think. You and your attorney will need to work through the process and that takes time. An experienced family law attorney will guide you through each step and protect your rights.
4. Keeping your kids in the dark
Nothing is more frightening to children than not knowing what is going on. Be open with your kids. They want and need information. Keeping your children in the dark doesn’t spare their feelings, it makes them worry. Explain how the separation and divorce will impact their day-to-day lives, and if at all possible, include your spouse in this discussion. Listen to what your children have to say, their fears and concerns, and answer any and all questions honestly. Don’t assume that all is fine with the kids just because they aren’t asking questions or exhibiting problem behaviors.
5. Not understanding custody
Failing to understand custody and what will work best for your situation may be a big mistake. Physical custody will be where your children live the majority of the time. Legal custody gives you the authority to make certain decisions on their behalf about things like education, religion, and medical decisions. Visitation or access is the amount of time legally spent with your children. Make sure your attorney has all the information about you, your spouse, and your kids, and understands what you want for your children.
6. Failing to make the effort to collect complete financial information
While it’s possible to settle a case without collecting all the financial details of your spouse, it’s not something that a family law attorney would ever recommend. After all, you can’t equitably divide something if you don’t know what is there in the first place. Work with your attorney and take the time to collect and completely understand your finances and your spouse’s finances before the case is settled.
7. Using social media as a public divorce forum
Don’t post anything about your divorce on social media that you wouldn’t want to see discussed in court. No matter how frustrated you may be, don’t let your emotions get the better of you. Cyberspace is not the place to litigate your divorce. Remember that your children may also be on social media and you don’t want them to see negative or inflammatory information about their other parent. Many cases have been destroyed over Facebook, Instagram or Twitter posts. Even if the post has been deleted, anything posted online exists forever and digital forensics has become a major source of evidence in most divorce cases.
8. Choosing to fight battles instead of the war
Choosing to fight over a small stipulation in child or spousal support and paying thousands of dollars in legal fees in the process is fighting the wrong battle. In the end, it is not worth it. Listen to your attorney’s advice and focus on what really matters in the big picture.
9. Signing documents without understanding them
Even if you trust your attorney and he/she wrote your divorce documents, it’s foolish to sign something without reading and completely understanding it. If you don’t understand a document, then take the time to ask your attorney to explain it to you, and keep asking until you are satisfied.
10. Failing to plan for life after the divorce
Divorce can be expensive and money can be tight, but it’s always important to think beyond the present. Work with your accountant, and financial adviser to create a financial plan for after your divorce. This will help provide guidance and clarity with respect to your assets, income, expenses, liabilities, and tax ramifications, and help you make decisions about things like keeping or selling your home, receiving alimony and/or child support, acquiring life insurance, and taking investment assets over retirement assets. Once you understand the numbers, you can move forward and create an affordable budget for your future.
Divorce is an emotional time and it’s easy to make mistakes that may come back to haunt you in the future. Keep a level head. Consult your attorney and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Being thorough now, will make your life much easier after the divorce is final.
About Sparrow Miller PLLC
Attorneys Dusty Sparrow-Reed and William Miller practice criminal defense and family law. They bring a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and trial experience to the table. They understand that all cases are “big” to the individual at risk or experiencing the breakdown of their marriage and family. “We have the wisdom and experience that you’re looking for to ensure your interests are protected, and the legal skills to get the job done.”