By Graeme Kluge
Going through a divorce can be a difficult and emotional time. It can cause stress and doubt, potentially affecting your mental and physical well-being. It can also colour your judgment. That is why you need a sound plan that helps you avoid the common and sometimes costly mistakes that can only add to your anxiety.
In a contentious breakup, you could be guided by feelings of anger, hurt or frustration that may lead to a desire to punish your partner. You may not be thinking clearly because you are overcome with emotion. That is when mistakes are most likely to occur. But it is just as possible to take missteps in an amicable divorce. That is why you need sound advice from an experienced legal team. At Demas Schaefer Family Lawyers, you can depend on us to stand by you in this challenging time. We can provide practical, cost-effective solutions to minimize the financial and emotional turmoil associated with the breakdown of a relationship.
Common mistakes people make when deciding to get a divorce
Relying on family and friends for legal advice
The people in your life may only want what is best for you and they might mean well but that doesn’t mean the advice they have to offer will fit your circumstance. People are different and so are divorces. Beware of relying too heavily on the advice of those in your close circle, no matter how intelligent or experienced they may be. The information they provide could be inaccurate, which can lead to unrealistic expectations. Remember, unless your friend or family member is a family lawyer, they are not legal professionals.
Failing to consult with a lawyer
Family law is complex and it is not uncommon for the average person to miss details or anticipate challenges that could have significant implications as you move forward. You will be dealing with financial matters that may be confusing and family access issues that are complicated. Making the wrong move could jeopardize your future and add additional steps your lawyer may have to take to unwind incorrect steps that have been taken. Divorce can be physically and emotionally draining so why take on the extra burden of navigating through the legal minefields that lay ahead? Practically, it is best to engage a lawyer as early as possible – even before separation – so that the plan that best fits your circumstance can be implemented before any steps are taken.
Failing to keep detailed records
It is often said that the devil is in the details. When you decide to end your relationship, you should immediately start taking notes and gathering documentation that will support and protect your interests. Keep a journal and detail any interactions pertaining to your divorce, particularly with regard to parenting time if it is anticipated that will be an issue. Don’t rely on your memory. Your records will be an immense help to your lawyer.
Decision-making mistakes that should be avoided
Rushing through the process
There is no practical reason for prolonging a divorce. However, you should not rush through it either. If your breakup is amicable, you may be inclined to want to end the divorce proceeding quickly. But it can be difficult to revoke any deal you have agreed to voluntarily. It is important to take the time to ensure you haven’t overlooked details that could conceivably cost you more money in the end. Never assume that because your divorce is amicable, your former partner is being completely open and honest. A lawyer can defend you against one-sided settlement agreements and protect you against mistakes made in haste.
Acting out of spite
When faced with the end of their relationship, some people feel betrayed and angry. It can cloud their judgment. Divorce is not intended to be used as an act of vengeance and judges recognize when people are attempting to use the courts to punish their ex-spouse. Ultimately, you could end up on the losing end.
Making decisions if you are depressed
Just like acting out of spite, making a decision when you are emotionally vulnerable can have long-term consequences. Ideally, you want to deal with the intricacies of divorce when you are at your best. If you are feeling overwhelmed, seek help. There are resources available to you that your lawyer can direct you to that can help you manage the emotion associated with the end of a relationship.
Agreeing with your ex to keep the peace
Your former spouse may be stubborn and refuse to compromise. When that happens, you may be tempted to settle for something far less than you are entitled to just so you can move on. However, while that decision may seem like the right move today, how will it look down the road? An experienced lawyer can lay out all your options when dealing with a stubborn spouse.
Texting and posting on social media
Threatening or insult-laced texts to your former spouse may allow you to blow off steam but serve no real purpose. In fact, it can be used against you in your divorce settlement. Worse still, threats can land you in trouble with the law. You should also avoid posting unflattering information about your ex on social media, even if you have a private account. A post you believe to be perfectly innocent could end up being misinterpreted. Anything you post about yourself also has the potential to be used as evidence in your case. It is better to stay off social media until your divorce is settled.
Failing to be honest is a serious mistake
Avoid making false allegations
Courts take a dim view of false allegations dealing with neglect, cruelty or abuse. Any false claim you make will surely be refuted by your ex so you must be prepared to show evidence. If you are unable to prove the allegation, it could significantly damage your case and lead to reprisals from the court. As well, if you are caught in a lie, a judge will be less inclined to believe the rest of your claims.
Do not lie about financial matters
Under our legal system, both parties in a divorce deserve to be treated fairly and equitably. It might be tempting to hide some assets believing you are entitled to them, but you do so at your own peril. You and your ex have an obligation to disclose all relevant information about your financial positions, which typically includes such things as income, expenses, assets and debts. You are responsible for preparing a financial statement that must be sworn or affirmed. This means it is against the law to provide information you know is untruthful or omit details relevant to your financial situation. A fair settlement depends on an honest exchange of all financial information.
Avoid hiding information from your lawyer
Your lawyer is fighting on your behalf and needs whatever information is relevant. A lack of complete and accurate disclosure could jeopardize your case. It is in your best interest to be open and honest. Your lawyer is not there to judge you, so hold nothing back.
Other common mistakes can be costly
Disobeying a court order
There are a number of reasons a court can issue an order during a divorce. They can be protection orders or orders for monetary support. What is important to remember is that if you are subject to a court order, failing to comply can result in fines and even jail time. If you have a question about a court order, talk it over with your lawyer. Do not ignore it.
Putting your children in the middle of your dispute
Children can be devasted by divorce. Exposing your child to conflict only makes things worse. Avoid using children as an intermediary between you and your ex. Also, you shouldn’t bad mouth your spouse to your child because it can negatively affect their emotional health. They could also end up resenting you.
Not knowing when to give and take
When it comes to dividing your assets, some things will be more important to you than they are to your former spouse. Big items such as your house or automobile might be worth fighting for. However, it may be necessary to put sentimentality aside when it comes to some property. For example, is it worth spending an extra several thousand dollars in legal fees for an item that is worth much less just because of the memories it holds?
Assuming court is your only option
Litigation should be the lender of last resort unless you are dealing with an urgent issue that requires adjudication. Court is time consuming and expensive so it makes sense to put any animosity aside and consider a reasonable compromise. Mediation can help you do that by discussing your issues with a neutral third party to find an acceptable agreement. At Demas Schaefer, we offer trained mediators to assist you with a quick and cost-effective mediated solution. As well, if you have already retained another mediator, we can represent you as legal counsel to guide you through the process. It is important to note that a mediator does not act like a judge and you are free to reject their suggestions.
Turn to us for help
When your marriage or relationship ends you will be faced with some tough decisions and it can be difficult to know if you are on the correct path. The team at Demas Schaefer is ready to guide you. We offer a free 15-minute telephone or video consultation where we can discuss your case and explain your options. Contact us today for an appointment.