Divorce is a very stressful and emotional experience. Living in this state of distress can lead to making mistakes. It may be easier to just go along or ignore an issue, but doing so may create bigger problems down the road. It’s okay to want to “go along to get along,” but that doesn’t mean that you don’t assert your rights and hold your spouse to his or her obligations.
To help you prepare, here are eight pitfalls that people frequently make when entering into a divorce. As you’ll see there are a lot of “failures”… Failing to do this and failing to do that.
Many times these failures are a result of speeding through the process and not taking the time to work with your attorney, review documents, and consider your options.
1. Failing to Consider Mediation
If you’re on speaking terms with your spouse and want to try to have an amicable divorce, consider mediation. Mediation allows you and your spouse to discuss the distribution of marital assets, child custody, and alimony. This process is much more informal that court proceedings and parties have much greater control of the negotiations.
2. Not Adequately Reviewing Settlement Proposals
Another pitfall is to be so concerned with a particular issue that you fail to see the big picture. Emotions run high, and it’s hard to concede anything when we’re angry and stressed. Instead, try to find common ground in the settlement proposals.
Review every settlement proposal with your attorney and look at the proposal in terms of its effect on your finances, property, and taxes. Think about your post-divorce life and the impact the agreement will have in the future. Make sure you ask your attorney about any questions you any have so you’re clear on the terms and their repercussions on you and your children.
3. Taking Too Much Advice From Family and Friends
It’s important to have family and friends to support us during difficult times, and these people want to help you. The key here is to not allow your family and friends dictate your thinking or steer you into decisions that are best left to you and your family law attorney.
It’s a very common pitfall to use the experience of another family member as a guide in your situation. But that person’s circumstances may be completely different than yours. Get your strategy and advice from someone who’s handled hundreds of cases and can objectively provide you with the assistance you need.
4. Forgetting Taxes
Taxes are easily forgotten in the midst of the many issues contemplated during divorce negotiations.
Prior to the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), alimony payments could be deducted by the paying spouse on his or her federal income taxes, and alimony recipients were required to report the payments as taxable income.
However, payments required under divorce or separation agreements that are in effect after December 31, 2018, can’t be claimed as a tax deduction. And alimony recipients will no longer have to report the money as taxable income. This new development in the federal tax law could have an impact on your divorce settlement. Talk to your attorney about what in means in your specific situation.
5. Making Side Agreements with Your Spouse
Agreeing to conditions that aren’t a part of the divorce settlement is a major mistake.
All agreements you make should be done within the proper divorce procedures and with the counsel of your attorney. While it’s great to be able to have positive discussions with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, time will pass and memories will fade… or perhaps your ex won’t be inclined to honor your side agreement when he or she remarries.
Remember that any agreements you make outside of your settlement won’t be enforceable since they weren’t documented and approved by the court.
6. Failing to Keep Your Emotions in Check
This is perhaps the biggest mistake that’s made in divorce. Anger, resentment, and pain can easily cloud your judgment and get in the way of progress.
As hard as it may be, try to keep your emotions in check and look at your divorce rationally and with sense of fairness. If you have children, remember that you’ll need to work with your ex until they’re adults. It’s best to have a decent working relationship now that will serve you well in the future.
7. Failing to Compromise
This is directly related to Number 6. Compromise is critical in divorce, and you’ll need to give a bit (may even a lot). Of course, with the stress and emotions, it’s easy to dig in your heels and not give an inch.
You’re not going to get everything, so accept that going in. Your job, with the help of your family law attorney, is to try to strike a fair settlement.
8. Not Leveraging Your Attorney’s Expertise
It’s a mistake not to “team” with your attorney. This means being prepared and following his or her instructions and advice. Make copies of all important financial documents related to your marriage and keep track of expenses and communications during the divorce process.
These are just a few of the mistakes and pitfalls that are commonly made in divorce. There are many more, and that’s why it’s so critical to hire an experienced family law specialist who has the experience to handle your case efficiently and competently. Your attorney will guide you through the divorce process and help you reach a fair and equitable resolution.
Remember, above all, to try to keep a level head and not let your emotions drive your negotiations. Consider mediation, be ready to compromise, and heed to advice of your attorney.
Kurt R. Mattson is the President of Union Legal Research. He is the former Director of Library Services and Continuing Education at Lionel Sawyer & Collins in Las Vegas. Prior to this, he worked at BNA and other legal publishers, spending a substantial portion of his career working for Thomson Reuters. He serves as a consultant for several businesses, law firms, and marketing companies.
Kurt received his JD from William Mitchell College of Law and his Masters of Law (LLM) from George Washington University. He received his Masters of Library Information Science (MLIS) from Wayne State University.
Kurt is the editor of Lexis’ BSA/AML Update, co-author of A.S. Pratt’s Mortgage Procedure Guide to Federal and State Compliance, and author of Fair Debt Collection Practices: Federal and State Law and Regulation. He is also a contributing author of Brady on Bank Checks. Kurt is also a contributor to other business and legal publications.