Don’t Make These Divorce Mistakes!
Divorce is fraught with emotional and financial roller coasters. You will feel a full range of emotions from anger to resentment to joy to loneliness to guilt and beyond.
Experiencing these feelings is difficult enough without having the adding stress of dealing with costly mistakes that can typically be made if you are not committed to the process. In divorce, there are no simple mistakes. Mistakes of any kind can have a lasting emotional and financial impact. The number one mistake is to go through divorce without a lawyer! In addition to that however, these other common mistakes are noteworthy and you should familiarize yourself with them so you don’t fall prey to them:
Giving up control of the divorce – usually to your lawyer. Your lawyer is a professional; he or she is trained to represent your interests in court, and you need to listen carefully to the advice your lawyer gives you. But this is not your lawyer’s divorce. It’s yours, and you’re the one who’s going to have to live with the results.
Dividing up property without a thorough inventory. I see it nearly every day. Before you begin negotiating, you must build a thorough inventory of what you own and what you owe.
Spending too much time and money letting lawyers gather information. The legal term for this is “discovery,” and it includes interrogatories, requests for the production of documents, requests for admissions and depositions. Lawyers love discovery. It turns little cases into big cases and keeps the lawyers thoroughly in control of your divorce. Better to gather the information some other way if you can. You and your spouse might be able to simply exchange the information you need. You could use mediation to help you share the information with each other. Before you even go to see the attorneys or mediators, you might consider using a financial preparation kit to help you calculate the after-tax value of your house and other real estate as well your vehicles, household belongings, stocks, bonds, IRAs, retirement plans, and other financial assets.
Letting your family or friends tell you what you need, and even sometimes what you should be feeling. Remember, this is your divorce. No one, and I mean no one, should tell you how you should get through it, what you should be saying, what you should be doing or what you should be feeling. Don’t be afraid to rely on your own judgment.
Not paying enough attention to taxes. People negotiate, reach agreement, and get divorced without thinking through the tax impact of the concessions they’re making. It’s not at all unusual for one of the spouses to get a nasty surprise several months – or years – after the divorce, when they realize for the first time that they’re facing a big tax bill they didn’t know about, such as capital gains on the sale of property or income tax on alimony payments received. Consult a tax professional during your divorce to fully know the impact of your decision making during negotiations.
Trying to win back your spouse by being generous. Guilt can be a very expensive proposition. In many cases, a spouse agrees to all sorts of outrageous financial commitments in order to allay his or her feelings of guilt for “wrecking” the marriage. The bottom line is that the marriage failed because of the actions of both parties and some relationships are just not meant to be. Don’t make the mistake of using money as a means of therapy. The fact is that you will cause yourself more emotional harm by making financial commitments that you either can’t live up to or will create resentment and ruin any chance of an amicable post-divorce relationship, especially with young children involved. Your attorney will be able to help you make decisions that are reasonable and equitable for both parties. Trust your attorney and follow his or her advice.