Common Mistakes in Divorce
Most of us know that almost half of marriages eventually end in divorce. Due to this high statistic, everyone knows someone who is going through or has been through a divorce recently. Despite the prevalence of divorce in the United States, very few people are familiar with the step-by-step process. Every divorce is different, but below is a non-exhaustive list of what not to do in a divorce that applies to almost every divorce.
- Do not go it alone. As a party to a divorce, you have certain rights and responsibilities. An attorney can provide sound advice regarding child custody and visitation, child support, alimony or spousal support, and protection of assets, as well as guidance regarding taxes and retirement accounts. Your attorney will prepare filings and documents that the law requires and file them as necessary. Further, your attorney will keep track of deadlines that must be heeded so that you do not lose your rights just because you filed something too late.
- Do not forget that your children are also experiencing the stress of the divorce. This is probably obvious to most parents, but it may be the most important tip regarding what not to do in a divorce, as divorce is already so traumatic for children. Children should be informed as necessary about what is going on in age appropriate terms and should be assured that although things may be changing, they will be okay. Despite any negative feelings you may harbor toward your ex-partner, you have to show your children that both parents are determined to work together in their best interests. A child should never be put in the position where he or she has to choose a side and should never be used to gather information about the other parent. Parents should be civil to one another in front of the kids and avoid speaking negatively about the other parent in front of children.
- Do not be spiteful and/or make unreasonable demands regarding assets. It may be tempting to make things difficult for your ex-partner during the divorce, but because this will only end up costing you time and money, it is on the list of what not to do in a divorce. Be rational despite the negative emotions you are feeling. You and your ex-partner need to be prepared to make reasonable compromises in order to retain what is most important to each of you. Be willing to negotiate with your ex-partner. This can save you a considerable amount of time and money. For example, you and your ex-partner can negotiate a Marital Settlement Agreement, a document that sets forth your agreements such as distribution of assets, rather than having a judge make the decisions through time consuming and costly litigation.
- Do not have unrealistic expectations regarding the financial outcome of divorce. When one household is split into two households, total living expenses will go up, while the amount of total income will remain the same in most cases. Because two households are now supported by the same amount of income that formerly only supported one household, there will probably be less to go around to each household. In terms of support, you may find that you are expected to pay more to your former spouse than you were anticipating. Or you may find that you will receive less support from your former spouse than you were anticipating. Your attorney can advise you regarding the financial aspects of your divorce and can protect your rights. No party should expect a windfall from the divorce.
- Do not continue to use joint accounts, such as joint bank accounts and joint credit card accounts, for individual expenses. While you may continue to use joint accounts for necessary joint expenses, such as the mortgage on a house that you own with your ex-partner, it is recommended that you open an account in your own name for your individual needs. And do not forget to change the direct deposit of your paycheck to your new account.
- Do not fail to pay joint expenses. By the same token, whether you are using a joint account or your individual account, failing to pay joint expenses, such as the mortgage on a house that you co-own, or the homeowners insurance on said property is a bad idea. Foreclosure or lapsed insurance will only cause more harm than good and therefore makes the list of what not to do in a divorce.
- Do not hide or transfer marital assets. As part of the divorce proceedings, you will be expected to disclose your assets, liabilities, income, and expenses. Attempting to hide an asset will very likely come back to haunt you if and when the Court finds out about the asset later. The same thing goes if the Court finds that you transferred a marital asset that your spouse was not aware of in anticipation of the divorce. Even after the divorce is final, it can be reopened to consider the hidden or transferred asset and you will be in a much worse position than you would have been if you had just disclosed the asset in the first place.
- Do not post negative comments about your ex-partner on social media. In fact, do not post anything at all about your ex-partner on social media. All communications in writing or otherwise memorialized may become part of your divorce case. It is well worth noting that being reckless with texts and voicemails also is on the list of what not to do in a divorce.
- Do not keep anything from your attorney. You should make sure that your attorney has all of the information and documentation needed to understand your financial and legal position. You must be open and honest about everything so that your attorney can properly advise you regarding your divorce. Even relatively straight forward divorces require a close look at personal property, bank accounts, retirement accounts, insurance information, tax issues, income, expenses, and other pertinent information.
- Do not feel overwhelmed. An experienced attorney can guide you through the divorce process and answer any questions you may have, including specifically what not to do in a divorce in your situation. If you have any questions about a New Jersey Divorce, you should contact the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a consultation.
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 initial consultation.