As any Charleston divorce attorney will tell you, divorce rates are high in the Lowcountry. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the U.S. divorce rate for first marriages is 43%. Unfortunately, that means that approximately one in three married persons will experience a divorce. If you must go through a divorce, then this article may help you avoid ten common mistakes:
Mistake # 10: Failing to Consult with an Attorney
Some people consider it a waste of time or money to retain a lawyer for their divorce and so they try to work matters out for themselves. Divorces can be very complicated and oftentimes have long-term consequences for both parties that are not always obvious. You should consider consulting with an attorney before deciding whether it is wise to handle matters for yourself
Mistake # 9: Using Your Attorney as a Therapist
Many times, clients use their divorce lawyer as a therapist. Although your lawyer may try his or her best to lend a sympathetic ear, your lawyer will typically charge fees for such time, and oftentimes does not have advice to offer on the matter. Instead of having such discussions with your lawyer, talk things over with your spiritual advisor, a licensed therapist, or someone else qualified to render personal advice.
Mistake # 8: Having Unclear Objectives
Sometimes, parties go through a divorce without clearly defining their goals. Instead of taking a proactive, planned approach to the matter, they have a “knee-jerk” reaction to issues as they arise. You should set goals in the divorce process. You should determine which issues matter most and define your objectives regarding such issues as division of debts and equities, child custody and visitation, and alimony.
Mistake # 7: Failing to Consider Tax Consequences
Parties to a divorce often fail to consider the tax impact of a settlement or an award by the court. Issues such as capital gains tax, dependency exemptions, taxable basis of properties, and the tax consequences of alimony versus child support are often overlooked. You should hire a tax consultant to work with you and your attorney regarding potential tax consequences related to the divorce.
Mistake # 6: Failing to Make a Complete Inventory
Many clients do not have a complete grasp of what they own and what they owe. During a divorce, the failure to have or make a compete inventory of assets and liabilities may have devastating consequences. For example, if a client mistakenly fails to disclose an asset to the court, the court may believe that the client is purposefully trying to hide assets. So, to assist you and your lawyer, you should make a complete inventory of all assets and liabilities, whether in your name, in the name of your spouse, or jointly in the parties’ names.
Mistake # 5: Getting Advice from Your Family and Friends
As one might expect, friends and family want to help when someone is going through a divorce. These persons will often have anecdotal advice based on their own experiences or based upon second-hand information. Regardless of the source of their information, friends and family are typically not objective in their views. Additionally, they may not have the professional background necessary to render such advice. Take the advice of friends and family with a “grain of salt” and do not rely on their observations and advice without seeking the counsel of a licensed attorney.
Mistake # 4: Trying to Win Your Spouse Back by Being Too Generous
Sometimes, a person who is “left behind” is not ready for the marriage to end and believes that he or she can win the other party back by giving generously to the other party in excess of what the court would award or what is fair. If the party gives away everything by agreement, then it may be too late to reverse it later in court. Similarly, if the person is too generous during the divorce, then that person may be setting a precedent that the court may follow later in making its award. You should separate your emotions from your finances and resist the temptation to “buy” your spouse back. This approach seldom works. Stick with the advice of legal counsel and take an approach of fairness. If you desire to save the marriage, you should do so by suggesting you and your spouse attend couples therapy of some sort.
Mistake # 3 Being Too Anxious to “Get It Over With”
Some people believe that the sooner they get the divorce over with, the sooner they can heal emotionally and financially and get on with their lives. Thus, these people are willing to make too many concessions to avoid the cost and time associated with their divorce. Such short-sightedness can lead to dire future consequences. You should have patience during the divorce process. Barring an appeal, there may only be one opportunity to properly handle the financial and familial issues that are important to you. Your decisions should be carefully made and should give consideration to their long-term consequences.
Mistake # 2 Trying to Punish Your Spouse through the Legal System
Too often, parties allow their emotions to get the best of them, including feelings of anger. These parties may attempt to use their lawyer and the legal system to “punish” their spouse. Ultimately, they may find themselves spending more money fighting about the case than the case is truly worth. When all is said and done, and the divorce has long since been finalized, too often parties realize that the thousands of dollars they spent on their attorney to punish their spouse did not buy them satisfaction. Although it may be difficult in the heat of the moment, you should try to be realistic about your goals and needs and consider the cost when you choose to fight over certain issues.
Mistake # 1: Putting the Children in the Middle
It is all too easy for children to become caught in the middle of their parents’ divorce. Oftentimes, children are made to feel that they are, in part, to blame for the divorce or made to feel that they must choose sides between their parents. Children are also used as messengers between parents or are pumped for information about the other party. The divorce, in and of itself, puts a significant emotional strain on most children. Placing children in the middle only causes further emotional damage and, ultimately, may permanently hurt your relationship with your children. You should do everything to assure your children that the divorce is not their fault. You should not make any disparaging remarks about the other parent, and you should not act in such a manner as to put their children in the middle of the divorce.