What are some of the biggest divorce mistakes?
- HAVING LESS MONEY THAN YOUR SPOUSE
The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.Anatole France, The Red Lily, 1894, chapter 7
French novelist (1844 – 1924) .
If you are getting ready to divorce, you need to educate yourself very quickly about what is likely going to happen to you should you face a spouse with superior resources. Some lawyers can be a good source of information. Others will just say “Hire me, and I will take care of everything” and once you are out of money, move to withdraw from the case and likely leaving you no better off, but a good deal poorer.
2. NOT HAVING A CLEAR PICTURE OF THE FINANCES
Well before you file, you should copy every hard drive you can get your hands on, pull all the financial records and gather as much information as you can. People are often dismayed to find that the finances have not been handled the way they thought they were. As the saying goes “Trust in Allah, but tie your camel”. If you don’t have the information from the start, don’t count on getting it once things become contested.
3. RELYING ON THE PROCESS TO BE FAIR
Out of all the things people are shocked by in family law, the number one thing that they find unbelievable is the way smoking gun evidence gets presented to Judges of all kinds of sordid behavior and nothing happens to the litigant. Bad behavior is often rewarded, and it is completely untrue to say otherwise. Family law judges are the most overworked and understaffed judges in our court system, with little time to review the information provided to them. The system sets them up for failure in that regard, but you the litigant are the one that gets punished.
4. FAILING TO CORRECTLY PREDICT THE REACTIONS OF YOUR EX
If you are a person who trusts their spouse to go through the divorce process and treat you with fairness, I applaud you and hope that is true. I can only say that it is a very bad feeling coming to the table and realizing you have been had. You need not be underhanded yourself. But you also need not fool yourself into trusting someone who has so much a stake.
5. FAILING TO APPROACH THE PROCESS IN A NON-ADVERSARIAL WAY
The inherent flaws in are system are many, but one of them is the way in which mediation comes AFTER a frontal assault on the other party. Once the angry, confrontational and adversarial declarations get filed, the parties are supposed to go to mediation. People then wonder why it doesn’t work.
6. FALLING INTO THE TRAP OF BELIEVING THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM
If someone is telling you mediation is always the way to handle a family law matter, they aren’t totally wrong. But in a certain number of cases, you should do no more than pay lip service to that ideal because that is exactly what will transpire on the other side of the table. If your spouse has a diagnosed personality disorder, such as narcissistic personality disorder, the mediation will be used to run up your bill, waste your time, evade disclosure, and wage a war of attrition against you. Do not hire a lawyer or firm, no matter how prestigious and recommended, if they continue to insist on continuing mediation when the process has already shown it is not going to help.
The same is true in child custody matters. If there are issues of parental alienation, do not remain silent when your child is being alienated and do not tolerate it. If your child stops coming home, don’t believe that “some day” they will come around. There isn’t any evidence at all that this is true but it is exactly the kind of harmful conventional wisdom that hurts kids and parents.
7. PUTTING THE KIDS IN THE MIDDLE OF IT
There may be a tendency among less skillful parents to use the children as messengers, to have discussions with them about the divorce, to get them to choose sides. This, first of all, hurts the kids, and second of all may draw the courts ire. Even though courts can often get it wrong, they can also get it right and some judges have no patience for this kind of immature and harmful activity.A parent who would teach a child to hate or fear the other parent represents a grave and persistent danger to the mental and emotional health of that child.
8. NOT LISTENING TO YOUR LAWYER
Although like any professional, a lawyer needs to be approached with a clear eye and healthy skepticism, they are still the trained professional familiar with the field and you are not. Although Americans are not allowed to go into a pharmacy and pick out whatever medicine they think they might need, they are allowed to go to court and represent themselves, and frankly, some of them can be quite capable of it with some education. The vast majority of people cannot and will not understand the process and unfortunately need to trust their professional. You can make a mess of your case and your life by thinking you know things you do not know and proceeding accordingly. Lawyers do it all the time. What do you think your odds are?
9. NOT BEING INVOLVED IN YOUR CASE
Your attorney is not the guy or gal sent down to the boiler room to make sure the heater is working. He’s or she is more like a coach trying to create a winning strategy with the star player being you. If your lawyer tells you to respond to “discovery” by a certain deadline and provide information, don’t act like it is an inconvenience to you. That is frankly a stupid and immature attitude toward something that should be important to you and has real consequences.
10. DON’T LET THE CASE GO AGAINST YOU AND IF IT DOES BE CAREFUL OF SETTLING OUT OF FEAR
This is a lot like number one; you won’t have much control over this, but if the case goes against you, you should realize it is likely going to continue to go against you. Judges look at past decisions they have made and base future decisions off past decisions. Good judges are careful about that, but even good judges will make bad decisions based upon prior bad judicial decisions. I call this being the “caboose on the bad decision train”. Once the case starts to go that direction, it’s very difficult to turn it around, and this is exacerbated by a party settling the case in the aftermath (usually with a total waiver of all rights, known as a “1542” waiver). If you accused your ex and said he or she lied, cheated, and stole, and you settle the case, and then want to come back into court, the court isn’t going to like that. Courts like things moving forward. It is the job of the judge to move cases forward, so if the judge thinks you have already had your day in court (even though you never really did) that can be tough to turn around.