The end of a marriage is an emotional and volatile time. Confusion, anger, and hurt feelings are common and can often cause people to make decisions that are short sighted, counter productive, and flat out expensive. Below is a list of the most common mistakes that people make when going through a divorce, and the reasons that they should be avoided.
Mistake #1: Not Hiring an Attorney
It is incredibly important to hire an experienced family law attorney to protect your rights and help guide you through your divorce. Your decision of which lawyer you choose to represent you will be one of the most important choices you make throughout the entire process of a divorce. Friends and colleagues who have been through a divorce may have recommendations for you, but its important you do your own research- examine the attorney’s web site to ensure they have experience handling divorce matters and are keeping up to date on current developments.
It is especially important that you retain an attorney before signing any legal agreements with your spouse. It is never a good idea to commit yourself legally before having a professional review the agreement and advise you of all of your obligations.
Once you have chosen your attorney, it is important to follow his advice. During a divorce, you will likely receive advice from nearly everyone you speak to, whether asked for or not. Keep in mind that your attorney is the only one involved in the divorce approaching the situation with fresh eyes, no previous biases, and who you can know for sure is trying to protect your interests.
Mistake #2: Failing to Prioritize
At the beginning of the divorce process, it is important to decide what is truly important to you. For some, it may be retaining control over a business, for others, custody of marital children may take priority. You will need to honestly assess what you value the most and what you truly need to get out of the divorce in order to be happy. Sharing this information with your attorney will allow him to plan accordingly and assist him in future negotiations. It will also give you a valuable sense of perspective when deciding what issues to fight over and which to just let go- is it really worth fighting for something you care little about if it will jeopardize the things which you hold truly important?
As in all aspects of your divorce, try to keep emotion out of it when determining your top priorities. Having too much sentimental attachment to certain assets can result in a financially unbalanced and unfair settlement.
Mistake #3: Getting in Over Your Head Financially
Everyone knows that divorces are expensive. Child support, spousal support, alimony, and attorney’s fees can add up quickly. However, many people fail to alter their spending habits or reevaluate the budget they kept with their spouse prior to the divorce. It is a harsh reality that a couple’s income which was more than adequate to cover the expenses of a single household may come up short when stretched to cover two households. Consulting with an attorney about your legal obligations and expenses both during and after a divorce can help you adjust your budget and keep you from draining your bank account.
It is important to remember that the marital assets you receive through a divorce settlement may be taxable. Structure your budget based on the amount of assets you’ll actually end up with, not just what’s being split up.
Mistake #4: Trying to “Win” the Divorce
No one wants to come out of a divorce feeling as if they’ve been taken advantage of. However, some people take this feeling too far, and do everything in their power to make sure they walk away from a divorce a clear victor. This type of attitude can often lead to an expensive lengthening of the divorce process that leaves both you and your partner with less than you would have had approaching the divorce with a willingness to compromise. Fighting over every single asset will often result in many of those assets ending up depleted or sold. The further you can distance your emotions from the process of the divorce, the more effectively and efficiently it will be resolved. The legal process is meant to separate assets, address debts, and ensure the support of children. It is not the time to score moral victories or seek retribution for the acts of your former spouse.
Mistake #5: Dragging Your Feet
Divorce can be a painful and upsetting procedure, but you are not doing yourself any favors by ignoring the issue or putting it off. Although you want to proceed carefully in a divorce, you also want to proceed quickly. Early in the divorce process is your best chance to divide property and other assets fairly with your spouse. Getting issues handled early on will make it less likely that you and your partner will become overwhelmed later or deadlock while trying to settle too many disputes at once.
Mistake #6: Treating the Divorce Like Part of the Relationship
As stated above, it is important to keep your own emotions in check as best you can during a divorce. It is equally important to not be overly concerned with your spouse’s emotions. While you should certainly treat your spouse with respect and make an effort not to complicate the divorce with bitterness and anger, you should never exhaust your own resources trying to protect your spouse. A divorce is the beginning of a new life where your responsibilities include taking care of yourself and your children. Your spouse can do the same.
Sometimes a party who did not want the divorce will attempt to be especially kind and generous during the divorce process as a way to convince their spouse to give the relationship another try. This is a recipe for disaster. No amount of money will fix a broken marriage, and the only thing bending over backwards will accomplish is cheating yourself out of what you are rightly entitled to.
Mistake #7: Ignoring Court Orders
When divorcing parties feel like a decision or calculation made by the court is unfair, they sometimes choose to disregard them entirely. This is a big mistake that will only lead to delays and expenses and cause court officials to see you as unreasonable. Speak to your attorney about whether a decision by the court can be appealed or reconsidered- if not, the best thing you can do for yourself is to simply follow it.
One of the most important court orders you can receive as part of a divorce is an order to pay child support. It is important to make your payments on time and in full. The penalties from failing to pay child support can be a large and wholly unnecessary expense. If your financial circumstances have changed since the child support was calculated due to a lost job or other unforeseen circumstance, contact an attorney and find out what your rights are. It is possible you will be able to file a modification request to bring the support payments to a manageable level.
Mistake #8: Ignoring Mediation
Mediation is a valuable tool in a divorce. In mediation, you and your spouse will sit down with a mediator who specializes in helping people come to an amenable agreement. They are experienced in conflict resolution, familiar with the law and likely outcomes of a litigated divorce, and well versed in coming up with creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Including a neutral facilitator in your divorce proceeding can help deflate an otherwise emotionally charged affair and allow you to resolve issues more quickly and inexpensively.
An experienced Philadelphia PA family law attorney should be consulted for all questions or concerns about an ongoing or upcoming divorce. Please feel free to contact this office and meet with one of our experienced attorneys about any such questions or concerns.