Top Ten Divorce Mistakes
Common Mistakes in Divorce

Mistake 1:

Expecting the judicial system to be fair and agree with your position.

Most people think that their position on a certain matter is the “right” one. Unfortunately, no matter how right you think you are, often the judge may see the opponent’s view as being more “right” than yours. When decisions do not break your way, do not take it as a personal slight. The court is interpreting the law not rewarding you for being a “nice” or a “good” person. Oftentimes, simple courtroom procedure will limit you and your attorney from painting the picture you would like painted in a world in which you were the judge and rule maker. Sometimes your views may not have the effect for which you had wished or may not be able to be presented completely to the court.

Mistake 2:

Having wholly unrealistic expectations or demands of what you will gain from your divorce.

Most people entering divorce proceeding expect that they will get everything that they want, but this is not always true. Remember that everything is likely to be disputed: money, property, retirement accounts, and even custody of your children. Advice? You need to make reasonable demands and not expect that you will receive everything you want.

Mistake 3:

Withholding critical information from your attorney.

Some people withhold information about their financial assets or future plans in an attempt to maintain control and/or sometimes because they are trying to hide assets from their spouse, the court, and even from their own attorney. Being less than completely honest, especially to your own attorney who is there to help you, can backfire and get you into trouble. Better to present the full truth and facts to your attorney upfront and timely so that he or she can do the best job for you.

Mistake 4:

Do you really believe that your spouse will be fair and agreeable?

Most people facing a divorce are in emotional turmoil but believe that their spouse will treat them well during the divorce process; after all, he or she was once “in love” with you. Be careful. Ninety percent of the time your spouse will be looking out “for number one,” (that is himself or herself) and you need to do the same by looking out for yourself. Once you are in front of a judge, you are part of an adversarial system, and you need to advocate for yourself.

Mistake 5:

Failure to ask appropriate questions and signing legal documents without understanding them.

Most parties in a divorce find themselves intimidated by what is truly a complicated, intimidating, and often confusing legal system. Being tossed into this new and demanding environment causes even the most astute people to lose focus and not pay close attention to myriad details. Instead of asking questions, they will often accept everything handed to them on blind faith. Make it a point to ask as many questions about your settlement as you would if you were buying a house, choosing a university, or a new job. Moreover, think through your settlement agreement carefully: Envision yourself legally divorced a year later as you study the documents. Or, pretend your best friend were asking you to review his or her settlement and wanted your advice about the settlement as a detached third party. Again, as always in a divorce, be ready to compromise. A good place to start is by asking your attorney for an honest evaluation regarding all issues including property, the marital home, retirement accounts, child custody, spousal support, and attorney fees.

Mistake 6:

Not checking facts or documents your attorney produces on your behalf.

You are responsible for your own divorce and the best possible outcome of your divorce case; so, it is strongly recommended that all divorce litigants carefully read all documents, briefs, and motions to ensure that they are completely accurate. Problems can arise once documents are entered into the court records, and any damage caused by inaccurate date, statements, facts or amounts can be difficult to reverse or cause judges to be suspicious of you when, in reality, it was nothing more than an oversight.

Mistake 7:

Allowing petty grievances, revenge and emotions to rule your decision making instead of common sense.

Many people going through a divorce are emotionally drained, angry, hurt, or they feel that they are victims and want to “get even.” Unfortunately, if you make decisions because of pure emotion rather than using reason and logic, you will likely undermine your case to your own detriment. Find a way to control or set aside your anger for your own benefit and the best possible outcome of your case.

Mistake 8:

Forgetting the potential tax ramifications of asset sales & divisions – failure to hire a financial adviser.

Divorce proceedings and settlements revolve around dividing assets, and selling the family home, if there is one. All of these financial transactions have potential tax implications. As your divorce proceeds and you begin to have a clear picture of the potential settlement, you should retain a financial adviser, CPA, or tax attorney to advise you of any potential tax consequences. For instance – will you owe income tax on any capital gains? Is potential spousal support taxable? It won’t cost a great deal to review your tax situation and get the valuable advice you should have.

Mistake 9:

Giving more weight to the advice of friends and family than your attorney.

You hired an experienced family law attorney for a reason, so why set the attorney’s advice on the rear burner and take the advice of well-meaning friends or family? Friends and family don’t spend time in court, nor typically do they know how to orchestrate a winning strategy for getting the best possible outcome that you originally hired your lawyer to help you obtain. Thank your friends and family for caring about you – give them hugs and appreciate them for standing by you – but listen to your professional attorney.

Mistake 10:

Getting into an endless legal battle over every little detail.

You need to adopt a reasonable attitude to get through your divorce proceeding. You should make it a point, up front, that you should plan on some compromise! In fact, you will likely have to compromise over many small things as your case progresses. By doing so, you will be well-served and can then fight for the larger, more important issues: those that really need to be negotiated or battled.

Mistake 11:

Discussing money matters, especially child support, with your children.

You are the parent. Do not pull your children into adult issues, especially litigation. It is important to keep grown-up discussions concerning money and finances between the parents. It is not wise nor appropriate to question children as to how child support money is being spent by the parent receiving the support or complain to your children about such issues.


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