Family Law Articles

18 Mistakes Spouses Make When Divorcing

MISTAKE #1:  Failing to understand the legal process.  It is essential that you hire an experienced lawyer who can guide you quickly and inexpensively through your Divorce. Making the correct process choice is key to a successful Divorce.

MISTAKE #2:  Forgetting to weigh the cost vs. the benefit of each contested decision.  Some things are worth fighting for; others aren’t.  Always weigh the cost of the fight against the benefit you will derive to see if the issue is worth the expense.

MISTAKE #3:  Putting emotional value on winning the final contest with your spouse or, even worse, hurting your spouse – rather than on assuring yourself a good situation when your Divorce is completed.  You’re wrong to view this as a contest.  You’re wrong to try to hurt your spouse.  After the Divorce has ended, you want a good, positive environment in which both you and your former spouse can raise your children, if you want your children to have any chance at future success and good relationships in their lives.

MISTAKE #4: Hiding assets, cheating and lying.  If your spouse suspects you are being dishonest, your spouse will tell his/her lawyer, who may figure out at great expense how to prove your deceit or at least try to prove it. Even the attempt to prove deceit, will prolong your Divorce and substantially increase your costs.

MISTAKE #5:  Believing that to win the children, the children must lose the other parent.  With this belief, the greater the win, the greater your children’s injury and loss.

MISTAKE #6:  Deciding to fight everything.  The greater the fight, the greater the cost. Fighting over every asset can assure the assets will be sold to pay for the fight.

MISTAKE #7:  Believing you will get revenge for all the pain your spouse has caused you.  Every attack results in a defense that injures the attacker.  As a result, revenge becomes a form of self injury.

MISTAKE #8:  Believing you don’t need help to protect yourself from further injury.  If you believe your spouse will take care of you in your Divorce, your spouse will, but not in the way that you want.  You need to take control of and make each business decision involved in your separation and Divorce.  These decisions form your foundation for the initial success or difficulty of your separate life.

MISTAKE #9:  Not moving quickly to divide assets and separate fairly when it sounds as though your spouse might.  Often, early on, people can recognize the fair division and divide their property.  Fear of further pain, confusion, and your not knowing what you want for yourself can cause conflict over items of small value.  Avoid a final contest of wills.  Be willing to settle once you have the information to make an informed decision. If your spouse feels a victory in accomplishing what is for you a quick and painless decision, good.  If your spouse feels a win in a decision in which you win too, good.  Make decisions that matter for you – and leave your spouse’s feelings about winning or losing to your spouse.

MISTAKE #10:  Not taking the time necessary to assure yourself that everything is fair.  You need to review each decision with your own internal sense of fairness.  Also, you need to review the fairness of each decision with your lawyer – separate from your injured feelings.

MISTAKE #11:  Trying to be sure every detail is fair and in place.  Separate the business decisions in Divorce from the emotional choices, pain and recovery.  If you are concerned with every detail, you may be forgetting the resulting expense in lawyer’s fees.  You may be acting with the fear that unless you nail down every detail, you might be hurt again by your soon-to-be ex.  But in reality, you must make the business decision about when enough is enough.

MISTAKE #12:  Believing “supportive” comments of friends about not “getting taken” and what a jerk your spouse is.  Deal with your pain separately from your spouse and the business decisions of ending the Divorce.  Each attempt to “get” your spouse will boomerang and further injure you.  When Divorce is at hand, you need to end the injury.  That means ending all efforts aimed at your spouse other than communications of sorrow, mutual loss, and supporting your spouse’s relationship with the children.

MISTAKE #13:  Failing to start with a realistic vision or goal of what you want to have when your Divorce is over.  Know what you need emotionally and in the form of money or property to succeed in your separate life.  Aim each decision at accomplishing those goals.

MISTAKE #14:  Choosing the wrong lawyer.  Hiring a lawyer is a decision that deserves a great deal of research and attention.  It’s easy to choose the lawyer with the flashiest web site or closest office to your home.  But what you really want is the lawyer who has the knowledge, skill, judgment and experience to get you through the Divorce process with the least negative impact on your children, your finances and your emotions.  Make sure the lawyer is someone you trust, someone you like, and someone you can depend on for competent advice.

MISTAKE #15:  Not following your lawyer’s advice.  During a Divorce, you’ll get advice from nearly everyone you know, and perhaps even people you don’t know.  Remember:  Divorce is a legal process and the person best trained and experienced to handle the legal process is your lawyer.  When selecting a lawyer, make sure you choose an lawyer you trust.  And, make sure you hire not any lawyer; hire an experienced family law lawyer that’s knowledgeable and competent to assist in each process option (i.e., collaborative family law, lawyer-led negotiations, mediation, litigation and arbitration).  For example, you don’t want a litigation focused family lawyer to help you with a collaborative Divorce and vice versa; you also don’t want a family lawyer that isn’t comfortable in Family Court to help you in lawyer-led negotiations. Then, when your chosen family law lawyer gives you advice, follow it.  Certainly, as the client, you should ask questions if your lawyer suggests something you don’t understand or something with which you don’t agree.  Add to this the emotional roller-coaster ride of Divorce, and you’ll probably find times you’re confused or not thinking clearly.  This is natural and normal.  Also, that’s another reason to trust your lawyer to help you make clear decisions based on his or her experience.  You may want to take more risks than your lawyer recommends.  That’s okay.  But be sure your lawyer explains – and you understand – the possible consequences of those risks.  Obviously, the more experience your lawyer has, the more likely that your lawyer can help you make good decisions.

MISTAKE #16:  Failing to write out a plan to help you with your emotional pain and recovery.  Your Divorce is the legal process of dividing your assets and debts and creating a plan to care for your children in the form of a parenting plan.  Your Divorce does not include setting up a recovery plan to work with your emotions.  Make sure you take specific steps to deal with your emotions.  A knowledgeable family law lawyer can make helpful suggestions in these areas.

MISTAKE #17:  Making decisions that don’t make sense when you evaluate them based on their costs and benefits.  It does not make good business sense to “win” your battle and then bankrupt yourself with huge lawyer’s fees.  Nor does it make sense to fight over assets you will later have to sell to pay your lawyer.  Look at all decisions from the standpoint of their cost and benefit.  If you aren’t sure what to do in a particular situation, ask your lawyer for his or her input.

MISTAKE #18:  Being overly concerned about your spouse’s feelings.  It’s natural that you are concerned about your spouse because going through a Divorce is difficult for both of you.  But if you spend your energy trying to look out for your spouse, you’ll end up shortchanging yourself and your children.  Your spouse should assemble a support system that includes a therapist, a financial advisor and a lawyer.  They will do what they can to make your spouse’s life easier.  You make sure that you take care of yourself and your children and leave your spouse’s needs to others.

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