As a family lawyer for the past 20 years, I’ve seen the same mistakes made time and time again by people going through divorce.
And what many lawyers unfortunately don’t tell you (nor necessarily intentionally) is that these mistakes are costly and can be avoided.
Therefore, I’ve compiled this list of 11 costliest mistakes in divorce if you’re separated or considering divorce and how to avoid them.
- Hiring the wrong lawyer.
Many people believe they can keep their legal fees low in their divorce by shopping around for lawyers with the lowest hourly rates or offer “free” consultations.
Lawyers with the lowest hourly rates, however, generally have less experience in family law. This translates to more time and more fees.
In “free” consultations, free information is typically limited and often designed to get your business. Any experienced family lawyer will tell you that you can barely scratch the surface of a legal problem and devise the best strategy in the typical 30 minute free consultation. Unfortunately, there are those who take the bait and end up with a lawyer who runs up fees unnecessarily.
Others go ahead and hire the lawyer on the spot just because the lawyer was referred by a friend or family member. Again, if you don’t ask the right questions or you don’t feel completely comfortable with that lawyer, you can end up spending far more in legal fees than you need to.
- Relying on “advice” from others and online.
Getting divorce advice from your friends, family, or anyone is never a good idea, even if they’ve been divorced themselves.
Each and every situation is unique with respect the nature of income and assets and complexity of the issues involved, for instance.
That’s why it’s best for your lawyer to advise you on the course of action that’s best for your particular circumstances. Listening to others can cause you to make bad financial decisions or to ignore your lawyer’s advice.
In either instance, it will likely cost far more for your lawyer to come in and fix things after the fact.
- Disregarding your emotions.
Unless and until you can effectively process your emotions, you are not going to be able to make good decisions in your divorce.
Divorce can be a traumatic emotional experience. You might need a competent professional to help you process your emotions so you can make those decisions that are in your best interests.
You should be free to consider the kind of a role model you want to be for your kids and what you need and want financially after the divorce.
Don’t let negative emotions consume you during and even after the divorce. You deserve much better, and so do your children.
- Trying to go it alone.
I encourage clients to talk and negotiate directly with their spouses to save time and money in the divorce. Yet it’s important not to overlook important issues that can land you in court after the divorce is finalized.
These issues can include provisions for your children, accurate child support, both present and future, and college expenses.
By the same token, divorce and family agreements can be reached more quickly and fairly by looking to New Jersey law on how to determine alimony and distribution of certain types of assets.
In any event, not knowing the tax consequences of your divorce can cost you thousands. Trying to do everything yourself, just to save money, will cost you more money in the long run.
- Not knowing all marital income, assets and debts.
It’s important to have at least a basic working knowledge of the incomes for you and your spouse, and the assets and debts acquired during the marriage by either or both of you. Therefore, for anything you don’t know, obtain copies of all financial documents as soon as possible.
If the divorce becomes hostile, financial documents tend to go missing. It can cost more in legal fees to obtain this information through your attorney – and even then, there might be assets or debts that you don’t know about.
That’s also why you should obtain a copy of your credit report. It will list the outstanding debts to be addressed in the divorce.
- Not knowing what you want to end up with after the divorce.
It can be a good idea to meet with your financial advisor to find out how much money you’ll need to meet your expenses after the divorce and save enough for retirement.
Such knowledge can help your lawyer obtain the best settlement outcome that enables you to meet your needs and goals.
- Giving up way too much just to be done.
Adjust your expectations from the very start of the divorce. Understand that divorce is going to take longer and cost more than what you think.
If you expect it to be fast and cheap, you’re likely to lose much in the long run. For instance, the longer the divorce takes, the more anxious you become to get it done and the more willing you become to give your spouse anything and everything just to be done.
Other people are tempted to give away the farm out of guilt, for example, from cheating on their spouse during the marriage, and agree to whatever their spouse wants.
Once the divorce is entered, the likelihood of fixing your divorce agreement after the fact is minimal. And the ramifications are experienced for years to come.
- Making decisions by trying to control what your spouse might or might not do.
Some clients resist a particular course of action advised by their lawyers out of fear of how their spouse might react. It’s important that you share those concerns with your lawyer so your lawyer can advise the best course of action.
Regardless, control is an illusion. You can’t control your spouse. Trying to do so is only likely to increase your legal fees going back and forth with your lawyer instead of leaving it to your lawyer’s role to determine the best course of action.
- Making decisions too quickly.
It’s important to take the time you need to make the best decisions in your divorce, even if your spouse is pressuring you. There can be significant ramifications for you now and well into the future. To make the best decisions, you need to think logically and rationally.
- Not letting your lawyer do his or her job.
Your lawyer’s job is to determine the best course of action because that’s his or her expertise. Your lawyer is also charged with negotiating and advocating on your behalf and guiding you with legal advice to help you make the decisions that are best for you and your family.
Therefore, the best way to minimize legal fees in divorce and obtain the best outcome is to listen to your lawyer as to the advised course of action.
- Insisting on your “day in court.”
Some divorcing spouses falsely believe they will somehow be vindicated if a judge hears their “side.”
In reality, there is no emotional justice in family court. By the same token, it takes a lot before a judge will decide your case in New Jersey Family Court – a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of emotional wear and tear.
The whole process can cost anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars into the six digits in legal fees. Even after the judge makes a final decision, either party can appeal if not satisfied with the outcome.
This can lead to delay in final outcome anywhere from several months to years. Ultimately, neither spouse “wins” after spending more time, money, and emotional energy than you could ever imagine.
By avoiding these costly mistakes, you can streamline your divorce process, saving time, money, and emotional turmoil.
By focusing on what lies ahead, you can begin to create worthy of you and your children.
Thank you for reading and please share with others who could find this post helpful.