Let’s get real. Most people only go through the divorce process once or twice in their entire lives. That means it is easy to make mistakes and fall into a few divorce traps. Here are 3 common divorce traps – and how to avoid them.
1. Hiring the wrong attorney to handle your divorce
There are good divorce attorneys and bad ones out there. Even worse are attorneys who don’t primarily practice family law and just dabble in it.
The good family attorney will help you understand your options, the costs and risks and benefits of different courses of action. They will help you think practically about your new future as a two-household family, and discourage you from litigating needlessly. They will answer questions promptly and help nip trouble in the bud. They understand that when your case is over, you will still have to deal with your ex, they won’t.
The bad family attorney will either scare the crap out of you or encourage your anger toward your ex in order to talk you into spending 5,000, 10,000 or even 40,000 on your divorce. They will needlessly drag out the process over minor issues that could be resolved — until you run out of money. Then they will quickly wrap up your case often without any attention to the details that matter to you. Unless there is a legitimate wrinkle to your case, such as a complex property issue, serious custody problem like child abuse or substance abuse, or an unusual spousal maintenance issue (alimony), then chances are good that you don’t need to spend anywhere near that much to reach a fair agreement on how to end your marriage.
Bottom line: Choose an attorney that specializes in family law and doesn’t try to play up your fear, hurt or anger towards your spouse, but instead tries to help you transition to your new life smoothly.
2. Saying “Yes” to Everything Your Spouse Asks For
Sometimes you just want to be D – O – N – E done. Your spouse says they need 1000 a month for living expenses even though they work? Fine. One day a week with the kids? Sure. Whatever, its fine, just tell me where to I sign and how fast can we be divorced?
Sometimes, one spouse agrees to every demand because it’s in their negotiation style profile. Not everyone is comfortable negotiating or talking about difficult issues, and to avoid the conflict just agree.
Regardless of the reasons, saying “yes” to everything can cause major problems down the line. An overly agreeable spouse can end up with buyers remorse down the line. This spouse will feel bitter and taken advantage of. In a coparenting relationship, this can cause major problems working as a team or exacerbate other problems. Even without children, an unfair settlement can cause lingering depression after the divorce. In divorcing couples over 40, a lopsided divorce agreement can mean serious financial insecurity in senior years.
- Take your time working through the issues of your divorce. Don’t wait until the last minute to start working on details.
- Disengage from heated topics and table them for later.
- Take time to understand your options and know if you can safely agree or push back and say no.
- If you have a conflict avoidant personality, consider a collaborative divorce or other amicable divorce options instead of negotiating yourself.
3. Not Recognizing that Divorce is Both a Financial and Emotional Process
Each and every spouse going through the divorce process is on an emotional ride. Even when you are thrilled at the prospect of being finally unhitched from your spouse, you will still, at some point, grieve the end of your marriage.
Divorce is not simply about feelings though. In the era of “no-fault divorces” much of the divorce process is clinical, sterile and focused on creating a new financial reality. In other words, at some point in your divorce your marriage will be reduced to a spreadsheet.
Spouses who neglect the emotional aspects of divorce can actually delay the process because the emotions running in the background (the ones they don’t admit to having) cloud their judgment. Hostility, anger, resentment, fear, and sadness can all run deep and run a divorcing couple straight into a high-conflict and unnecessarily expensive divorce.
Similarly, a spouse who believes that divorce is relationship court or who is overly focused on processing the emotions can end up acting like an Ostrich and completely ignores the pressing financial and practical aspects of the process. This spouse can also derail the divorce train or end up with a shoddy settlement because they waited to the last minute to start thinking about the issues.
- Have a trusted, neutral advisor help you with the logistics and finances. Don’t choose family or friends, they are often just as emotional and encourage fighting your “evil ex.” Talk to a trained family lawyer or other professional, like a financial planner or accountant instead.
- Hire a divorce counselor to help you through this life transition.
- Use a checklist or planner to start mentally thinking through all of the issues you need to work on to get divorced, not just the obvious ones.