12 Things not to do When Getting a Divorce

Going through a divorce can take you on an emotional roller coaster ride. You often lose control over aspects of your life for at least some period. Finances can be tough to manage, and your skills as a parent are put to the test. There are a variety of actions you may need to take from compiling financial documents and school records to opening new bank accounts, establishing separate credit and inventorying property. Equally important are the things you should not do.

Don't Assume Settling Matters by Trial is the Best Option

The divorce process can be costly and time-consuming. Most divorces are eventually finalized without a trial. Consider mediation to settle disputed issues. Mediation allows both sides to give and take guided by a disinterested third party. The end result, often a compromise, is generally accepted more positively by the parties because they collaborated to achieve it. At the very least, the process may reduce the number of contentious issues to a minimum reducing the time and cost of later court proceedings.

Don't Rush Into a Settlement

While you may want to get through this process as quickly as possible to move on with your life, you should not jeopardize your financial security. Be sure you are aware of every asset, financial account and debt so that the ultimate distribution can be fair and well informed. Provide your attorney with all relevant documents.

Don't Go it Alone

While many states provide pattern forms designed to help people file and pursue divorce on their own, at the very least you should seek legal advice if not full representation. Particularly where debt and property distribution will be contested or where spousal and child support or custody is at issue, legal assistance is often critical to protect your rights and interests. An attorney also acts as a buffer and your voice in court during hearings. You will be stressed enough without having to make your own case in front of a judge.

Don't Become a Bad Parent

Regardless of your feelings toward your spouse, your kids love both parents. Do not interfere with that parental bond. Don't badmouth your spouse or use a child to gather information. Pay support as ordered and on time, and don't interfere with any visitation or temporary custody orders. Don't ever use kids as a bargaining chip in settlement negotiations. Don't ask children to choose with whom they want to live or discourage them from seeing the other parent. Avoid discussing financial issues with your kids. Don't argue with your spouse or vent frustrations in front of the kids.

Putting children in the middle of parental disputes can cause feelings of guilt and anxiety and possibly create a lasting, negative relationship between you and your child. If your spouse fails to follow these rules, that doesn't mean you should do so. Take the high road, and you will benefit in the long run.

Don't Shutout Friends and Family

There will be times you need to vent your frustration or anger to someone. Find a friend, a therapist, a trusted family member or a support group to whom you can let off steam or seek encouragement. Don't rely on your lawyer as a personal counselor. The lawyer is there is to provide legal advice and guidance. While friends and family may all have opinions on what you should do, remember that you are in charge. This is your life, and you must decide what is best for your future.

Don't Discuss Issues on Social Media

Avoid discussing any aspects of your divorce or feelings about your spouse on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or by e-mail and text. These postings can be used against you later in court. Keep written communication and voicemail directed to your spouse businesslike. Assume everything you say or do will be examined in close detail.

Don't Disobey Court Orders or Mislead the Court

It is likely a court will enter temporary orders early in the proceeding. Even if you disagree with the order, follow it. Failure to follow orders related to use of property, child support or visitation will only create more problems such as loss of time with your children, fines for contempt and payment of your spouse's legal fees for seeking enforcement of the order in court. Similarly, don't lie or mislead the court in any written or verbal statements. Don't conceal assets or income. These actions will create a negative image of you with the judge, something you do not want in the person who may ultimately determine important aspects of your life.

Don't Incur Substantial New Debt

You are going to have legal fees and will likely be responsible to pay a portion of the family bills while waiting for the divorce to become final. Both spouses generally experience a lifestyle change with reduced finances following divorce. This is not the time to rack up new expenses on a trip, a new car or expensive household goods. Spend conservatively and set a goal to put some money aside.

Don't let Your Emotions Control Your Actions

You are bound to experience strong negative emotions at some point. Strive to remain in control. You will make better decisions if you do so. Wanting to take your spouse to the cleaners because you're angry will likely only result in higher legal bills for you. Avoid making threats or harassing your spouse. Don't waste time, money and emotion fighting over household goods worth far less than your attorney's hourly rate. Choose your battles wisely.

Don't Rush Into a New Romantic Relationship

Starting a new relationship while a divorce is pending can be problematic. It can be confusing for your children. It can aggravate negotiations with your soon to be ex-spouse if you bring your new partner to hearings. Don't ever send a new romantic partner to pick up the kids for visitation. There is nothing wrong with relying on a friend to seek strength, companionship, and encouragement. Just don't let a relationship interfere with the goal to resolve the divorce in a way most beneficial to your interests.

Don't Forget About Health Insurance

Before the final decree is entered, determine how health insurance will be provided for you and your children. If not through your own employer, you may be able to extend coverage on your spouse's policy temporarily. Consider a legal separation rather than divorce. The result, in practice, is like a divorce, but you can legally remain on your spouse's insurance. The separation can usually be converted to a divorce with minimal cost and effort at a later date.

Don't Forget to Change Your Will and Insurance

When the divorce is final remember to update your will. Divorce does not automatically revoke or change provisions in your will. Don't eliminate your spouse from insurance policies or as a beneficiary on retirement and financial accounts while a divorce is pending without first discussing changes with your attorney. Courts generally prefer to maintain the status quo until all issues have been resolved. Once the divorce is final, then you can make the necessary changes.

While bad days and frustrations can be expected in the process, if you stay focused on your goals and maintain realistic expectations, you will ultimately achieve the opportunity to move on and put this behind you. In the meantime, don't give up hope and don't stop doing things you enjoy or seeing friends who provide comfort and happiness. One chapter of your life may be ending, but a new one full of possibilities is about to begin. Peter Van Aulen has been practicing divorce law for over twenty-five years and is certified by the NJ Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Attorney. If you have any issues concerning a divorce phone the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a free in office consultation.

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