10 Mistakes to Avoid When Filing for Divorce

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by Chris Torrone

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06.09.2021

Filing for divorce is a complex process, even more so when you try to make your ex’s life as miserable as possible. Rather than focusing on emotionally driven decisions, think about what is going to provide the most happiness and wellbeing for you and your children in the long run. Find a lawyer who will not only be fair but one who will absolutely fight for your needs, with the end goal of providing the best outcome for your family instead of doing the most damage they can to your former partner. Intentionally petty behavior only results in additional costs for both you and your partner. Practice patience and wisdom and choose an attorney that will help you avoid these 10 mistakes people make when filing for divorce.

Filing for Divorce Mistake #1: Dishonesty

Whether withholding information from your lawyer, or lying during an appearance in court, dishonesty will eventually surface and hurt you and your case in the long run. If you’ve engaged a lawyer, be up front when answering their questions and honest when discussing aspects of your case that your ex may use against you in court. It’s better to get the truth out during a private office meeting with your lawyer, than to have it come out in front of a judge. 

Filing for Divorce Mistake #2: Concealing Assets

Taking the subject of dishonesty a step further, some people try to hide assets or conceal them by “gifting” them to a friend or family member, in an attempt to reduce alimony or child support. This is illegal and when it is discovered by the court, you may face larger financial repercussions than you would have if you had been honest about your assets in the first place. 

If you are found guilty of concealing assets, you’ll be subject to penalties for contempt of court. If hidden assets are discovered even after the divorce is finalized, you’ll still have to split the asset and pay additional fees for any related legal proceedings. Also, if an attempt to hide assets comes out in court, it will damage your credibility and affect your case negatively. 

Filing for Divorce Mistake #3: Discussing your case on social media

Not only is this generally looked upon unfavorably, but publicizing aspects of your divorce proceedings online could end up hurting your case. Bad-mouthing a spouse, discussing topics related to your case before it has been settled, or posting about current activities can negatively affect your image in a trial, especially when there are children involved. 

It’s better to keep quiet on social media until a resolution has been found, even if it means swallowing your pride and taking the high road when your ex blasts you online. It will work out better for your case in the long run if you conduct yourself with dignity and respect for your ex, both online and in person.

Filing for Divorce Mistake #4: DIY-ing your divorce

There are many for-profit companies that offer “do-it-yourself” divorce forms for purchase. It can be tempting to turn to these in order to skip the lawyer and save money. Some people even try to get ahead by working off those legal documents before going to a lawyer. But there are many reasons DIY divorce paperwork is discouraged. 

The first is that they often use vague language that doesn’t leave room for the nuances of your particular case. A DIY document, no matter how reputable the source, will never reflect your needs with the specificity of language you need to bring your case to a satisfactory conclusion. 

Another reason not to use them is that divorce laws differ from state to state and you could inadvertently file using an out-of-state document. This will get you an instant rejection when you go to file, wasting both your time and the money you paid for your DIY documents.

Filing for Divorce Mistake #5: Not making an asset inventory

Divorce has a reputation for being time-consuming. It’s tempting to skip important steps before filing simply because the sooner the divorce proceedings begin, the sooner they can finish. 

However, doing an inventory of assets and debts is one of the most important steps you can take, whether you are the one filing for divorce or the one presented with divorce papers.

Remember that an asset is anything you own outright, and a debt is anything you owe money on (a home, car, credit card, education, etc.) Having a clear understanding of assets and debts is going to speed up the divorce process in the long run because you know exactly what you have and can then begin the discussion of how to document and split up each item appropriately. 

Items that are often overlooked include investments, pension, and other retirement accounts. So make sure to include these in your inventory. Leaving out assets or not being specific about them can cause your divorce to drag out longer because of the additional time needed to evaluate and negotiate over them.

couple filing for divorce

Filing for Divorce Mistake #6: Hiring a combative lawyer just to hurt your ex

Divorce is an emotional process and it can be tempting to find the most aggressive that they’ll get child support automatically if they file for full or more than 50-50 custody. 

There are many factors that determine long-term spousal support, primarily having to do with an unequal earning power between spouses, or a situation where one parent stayed home to care for children for many years and is now facing going into the workforce with little experience or education. 

Don’t assume that the court or judge will agree with your assessment of your financial or personal situation. It’s best to consult with a lawyer to determine what is reasonable to expect and ask for during a divorce.

Filing for Divorce Mistake #7: Outrageous spending

The legal term for this is wasteful dissipation of marital property. This is where one spouse intentionally spends unreasonable amounts of money or otherwise fails to protect joint assets. Some people do this attempting to show how much they need to maintain their lifestyle without their partner. Or as in the section above, some people do this to both financially and emotionally harm their ex by emptying joint bank accounts.

You are usually not entitled to more than 50% of your assets though, and dealing with a wasteful dissipation of money in the court is deeply complicated and requires experienced legal representation. Not only will outrageous spending slow down the divorce proceedings, you will likely be required to give back your ex’s portion of the money spent if it is, indeed, proven that you intentionally wasted joint finances.

Filing for Divorce Mistake #8: Making assumptions about how your case will resolve

It is best to go into divorce proceedings with your eyes wide open and with no preconceived notions about how the divorce will resolve. When you are managing the heavy emotions of a case and focusing on the needs of your children, it’s easy to get a one-track mind about your situation. The stress of divorce can overwhelm you and make it difficult to think logically about how a judge will handle your case. It’s also easy to fall into the assumption that a judge will see things your way, and then get blindsided when your case doesn’t resolve as you had hoped. 

There will have to be compromises made in virtually every divorce case, but if you are so tied to a particular outcome, you may end up making a mistake that costs you either financially or legally, or both.

Filing for Divorce Mistake #9: Reacting passively, or ignoring divorce proceedings

If your spouse has begun the process of divorcing you, the best thing you can do to protect yourself, your assets, and your family, is to take those proceedings seriously. If they are reviewing finances and preparing documents for a lawyer, you should be doing the same. 

Facing the divorce proceedings head-on, no matter how unpleasant or painful, will only help you get ahead in the process. Don’t assume that a spouse will work in your best interest.

Filing for Divorce Mistake #10: Signing divorce papers before you read them

It should go without saying, but never sign a document that you have not read. If you have read through the paperwork presented by your ex but are having trouble understanding a divorce document, your next step should be to hire an attorney. It can save you far more money to hire an attorney than to sign something blindly. Anything you sign will be legally binding in a court of law. 

You can quickly lose everything because you didn’t take the time to read through the paperwork, or because you trusted your ex to be fair without taking steps to protect yourself, your assets, and your children. Again, don’t assume that your ex will work with your best interest or the good of the family in mind.

Having a lawyer will help you understand your rights, protections, obligations, and options when beginning the process of divorce. At Torrone Law, we represent our clients with compassion and work toward the best solution with a family-centered approach. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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Chris Torrone

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