DIVORCE MISTAKES BEFORE THE WEDDING (part 1 of 4)
Divorce Mistake BW1. Not having realistic expectations before the wedding. If you can’t become an equal partner and always do your share of work, communicate, being empathetic, and compromising, then do the personal work necessary before you marry.
Divorce Mistake BW2. Not considering the advantages of a prenuptial agreement and getting one signed, especially if your net worth far exceeds your partner’s or you have separate children to protect.
Divorce Mistake BW3. Allowing an Inexperienced Family Attorney to write your prenuptial agreement. There are specific and detailed standards to follow or the prenuptial may be invalid. Hire only a family lawyer and only one that is experienced in such agreements (preferably a family attorney that has had her agreements deemed enforceable during divorces).
Divorce Mistake BW4. Failing to properly budget before and during the wedding. There are good debts (commercial real estate, businesses) and bad debts (material items, personal extravagances). Going into debt for a wedding may easily be a bad debt in more ways than one.
Divorce Mistake BW5. Mentally considering marriage a contract instead of an eternal commitment. Performance contracts rarely ever anticipate all possible future situations and events and therefore often leave one or both parties dissatisfied. A mutual and unselfish commitment to work together as a lifetime team is much more likely to last. It is amazing how much satisfaction, love, happiness, and accomplishment can come from a 50 or 60-year marriage.
DIVORCE MISTAKES DURING THE MARRIAGE (part 2 of 4)
Divorce Mistake DM1. Not having realistic expectations during the marriage. Living requires a lot of overhead and mindless duties to share equally. A divorce is supposed to divide up the assets fairly and equally. A good marriage divides up the responsibilities, chores, and duties and then a divorce should not become attractive or seemingly necessary. Did or do you and your spouse both take marital responsibilities seriously? Did you both try to be a good spouse, parent, provider, mate, citizen, and neighbor?
Divorce Mistake DM 2. Allowing your separate property to become co-mingled or titling separate property in both spouses’ names casually and without intent, understanding, or consideration.
Divorce Mistake DM 3. Failing to properly budget. There are good debts (commercial real estate, businesses) and bad debts (material items, personal extravagances). Going into debt to try to gain lifestyle, in the long run, is counterproductive, will be disastrous, and will lead to many marriage problems that often lead to divorce.
DIVORCE MISTAKES DURING THE DIVORCE (part 3 of 4)
Divorce Mistake 1. Losing control of yourself, your temper, and your legal bill. Keep your emotions in check.
Divorce Mistake 2. Hindering your case. Do whatever you can to help your cause and do not hinder your divorce attorney. Pestering her with numerous phone calls each day with trivial questions will overwhelm the one person who is trying to help you. Save up several questions or items for discussion before calling. Talking to your attorney’s paralegal may be just as helpful and cost you less. Ask your attorney what you can do to help her.
Divorce Mistake 3. Expecting or demanding unrealistic results from the divorce. You will not get everything you want just like in the marriage. It is best to make your expectations and demands reasonable. There are no winners in a divorce. The best you should expect is to be treated fairly, but that may only happen if you insist on it with the help of your divorce lawyer.
Divorce Mistake 4. Letting divorce lawyers or their paralegals gather and organize your paperwork when you should be doing it.
Divorce Mistake 5. Giving up control of the divorce to your divorce lawyer, friends, or relatives. It’s your divorce and you should be making the important decisions that affect you. Don’t let friends and relatives steer you too much – use your own judgment and get through this your own way. However, confiding in and getting moral support from family and close friends can help immensely.
Divorce Mistake 6. Staying with a divorce attorney that makes you unhappy. Hiring a different attorney can be the best decision you make.
Divorce Mistake 7. Failing to consider the tax effect or implications of your divorce and the division of assets and debts. Get help as necessary from a tax professional. Divorce lawyers and family law judges are not tax experts.
Divorce Mistake 8. Dividing up property without a thorough inventory and accurate valuations. You should make an inventory list of marital assets including description, year purchased, the purchase amount, and present value as best you can:
2. Personal property of significant value including sentimental value (art, antiques, jewelry, guns, recreational toys, appliances, etc.).
3. Real estate.
4. Investment accounts (stocks, mutual funds, etc.).
5. Cash accounts (savings, checking, money market, certificates of deposit, and bonds.
6. Ownership interests of businesses.
7. Retirement accounts.
8. Life insurance policies.
9. Taxes owed or refunds due.
10. Health savings plans.
11. Unpaid sick leave and vacation time.
12. Deferred compensation accounts.
Also, make a list of marital debts including description, year acquired, interest rate, and present amount owed as of a certain date: mortgages and liens on real and personal property, credit cards, and loans including student and personal ones.
Divorce Mistake 9. Failing to be precise when negotiating Child Custody and visitation. Get specifics on the court record to insure which parent gets to do what and when and which parent is responsible for what.
Divorce Mistake 10. Letting stress or depression cause you to give up your routines or turn you to substance abuse to cope. Regular exercise, good eating habits, sleep, and resting will help get you through major challenges. Drink plenty of water, not alcohol.
Divorce Mistake 11. Avoiding therapy or counseling when a little professional help could go a long way. Using your divorce attorney as a therapist is generally not cost-effective.
Divorce Mistake 12. Not having realistic expectations during the divorce. A divorce is costly in many ways and you will unlikely be able to predict your emotions. Read some self-help books – many people have preceded you and understanding what you are going through will help. Your divorce attorney can only do so much. You will have to work at this too.
Divorce Mistake 13. Thinking your spouse will be fair and cooperative while you are emotionally vulnerable and upset and maybe in a state of denial. Your spouse may have moved on already and is looking out for herself. You better look out for yourself and your children because as any divorce lawyer will tell you, divorce is an adversarial process.
Divorce Mistake 14. Not calling a divorce attorney soon enough. You’ll need advice from a knowledgeable impartial outsider. This is a time to protect yourself and your children. Getting educated upfront will help you plan.
Divorce Mistake 15. Listening to or responding to advice or threats from your spouse or “ex”. Do not argue. Find out the facts from a divorce attorney. If you argue and things escalate with your “ex”, you are risking the “Dreaded TPO” (Temporary Protective Order). This will cost you lots of money and agony.
Divorce Mistake 16. Not asking your divorce attorney enough questions. Divorce is complicated and asking a reasonable amount of appropriate questions may help ensure your divorce attorney stays on track. Don’t be intimidated by the legal system and the divorce attorneys, or accept things with blind faith. Especially do not sign documents without reading and understanding them. Check all facts and figures, ensure all names are correctly spelled including the children’s. Attorneys make mistakes and rely on you to correct them.
Divorce Mistake 17. Not waiting until your divorce is concluded before engaging in a new relationship. At the very least, do not flaunt any new relationship in front of your spouse or “ex”; and keep any such relationship away from your children.
Divorce Mistake 18. Ending a marriage a few months before it would have lasted 10 years. A wife is entitled to half of her husband’s social security at retirement if the marriage has lasted 10 years while her ex-husband’s social security benefits are not affected. The wife must have been divorced for two years and not be remarried to make a valid claim.
Divorce Mistake 19. Not knowing the value and liquidity of marital assets. How can assets of unknown value be split fairly? Get professional help in having marital assets valued or appraised where necessary. Get financial advice from an accountant or a financial advisor. If your settlement is fair but you end up with few of the liquid assets, your cash flow may not work for you.
Divorce Mistake 20. Not understanding the tax ramifications and potential penalties involved with retirement accounts, selling real property, and other complex tax issues.
Divorce Mistake 21. Overlooking debt and credit rating issues. Get your and your spouse’s current credit reports to understand what needs to be paid off during the settlement so bad credit won’t follow you in your after divorce life. Pay off all the marital debts as part of the marital settlement if possible. Eliminate all joint ventures, investments, and debt with your spouse – otherwise, your financial future can still be adversely affected.
Divorce Mistake 22. Being victimized financially by your spouse liquidating or retitling marital assets. You may be able to prevent this from happening by notifying the appropriate companies in writing and getting a financial restraining order from the court. Especially protect cash in joint checking, savings and brokerage accounts, and the cash value of life insurance policies. You don’t want to have to pay additional legal and forensic accounting fees and risk more court time to sort out your finances.
Divorce Mistake 23. Failing to gather all marital financial documents before they disappear or get sequestered by your spouse. Your divorce lawyer will need these, so get them soon as you or your spouse are contemplating divorce. Otherwise, you’ll pay your lawyer for requesting and collecting such documents and she may not be able to get them all or when needed. Include account statements from:
1. Savings, stockbroker, real estate partnership, checking, credit cards, money market, certificates of deposit, and bonds.
2. Mortgages and liens on real and personal property.
3. Loans including student and personal ones.
4. Corporate and personal tax returns.
5. Corporate documents.
6. Titles to vehicles, boats, trailers.
7. Real estate deeds and notes.
8. Investment accounts (stocks, mutual funds, etc.).
9. Retirement accounts.
10. Life insurance policies.
11. Records of taxes owed or refunds due.
12. Any documentation, as close to your date of marriage as possible, of separate property including investments.
Divorce Mistake 24. Failing to determine your spouse’s hidden assets especially if a business is owned. Also, there could be hidden checking, saving, brokerage accounts, and retirement pensions. Children’s custodial accounts have been used for hiding assets. If you have a lot of complicated assets, you may need help from a forensic accountant.
Divorce Mistake 25. Failing to cooperate with your spouse concerning the IRS. Working together with a financial advisor or tax accountant can save you both money in taxes.
Divorce Mistake 26. Failing to be patient. In negotiating, the impatient party typically loses ground. Budget your “time mind-set”. Consider your divorce a yearlong business deal and make deliberate and logical moves including out waiting the other side on important issues. It took a while for your marriage to go south and it will take a while to unravel it without losing advantage.
Divorce Mistake 27. Being lazy, complacent, and inattentive. The divorce process requires a lot of energy and effort to be done properly. Your job, though temporary, is to do what is right for yourself and your children (if any) when affected by the divorce. Don’t leave everything up to your divorce attorney – be an active contributing participant.
Divorce Mistake 28. Failing to properly budget money during your divorce. Your new budget needs to be based on your new life including attorney fees and the expenses of supporting separate homes.
Divorce Mistake 29. Failing to communicate with your spouse and divorce attorney thereby wasting legal fees to get the information. This compromises your divorce attorney’s effectiveness by causing her to be uninformed, especially during court hearings and trials.
Divorce Mistake 30. Not trusting your divorce attorney enough to tell her everything pertinent. Your attorney needs to know the whole truth to do the best job representing you.
Divorce Mistake 31. Not realizing that everything you say or write or do can become part of the divorce court record. During the divorce process, avoid sending mail, e-mails, chat mail, text messages, or have phone conversations concerning your divorce or lifestyle with anyone except your divorce attorney. Don’t blog on Facebook or other social networks. Such indiscriminate communications may easily be detrimental to your case.
Divorce Mistake 32. Endlessly fighting and using the courtroom for a battleground. It will wreck your emotions and finances and make your divorce attorney and your spouse’s divorce attorney wealthy. Pick only important rational fights and concentrate on them.
Divorce Mistake 33. Rushing into divorce. In the long run, you may regret not working out your differences. Consider getting help from a good therapist. Try really talking and listening to your spouse. Use a go-between family member or friend if available. If all this fails and you really need a divorce, get the best divorce lawyer in the area before she does.
Divorce Mistake 34. Expecting the legal system and courts to be fair. No matter what you and both divorce attorneys think, judges will see things from their own viewpoints, and because of procedural rules, judges often rule on limited information. Don’t expect that your viewpoint will necessarily prevail.
Divorce Mistake 35. Rushing to court. Court is costly and most cases settle with good results. If your lawyer seems too eager to litigate or has a reputation for always litigating, find a more helpful lawyer. An imperfect settlement is better than a bad court decision.
Divorce Mistake 36. Rushing into a settlement can cause you long-term financial or emotional consequences. Take enough time to do it right.
Divorce Mistake 37. Being overly generous with your spouse to try to win her back, look good, or alleviate guilt. Being passive and acquiescing to manipulative demands from your spouse or “ex”. These are forms of temporary insanity that will likely disappear and leave you resentful or in a bad legal or financial position.
DIVORCE MISTAKES AFTER THE DIVORCE (part 4 of 4)
Divorce Mistake AD1. Not having realistic expectations after the divorce. It may take some time to get your career and finances back on track not to mention your emotional health. Eat, drink, and re-marry but do be prudent and patient.
Divorce Mistake AD2. Failing to properly budget after your divorce. Your new budget needs to be based on your new life and it is easy to overspend.
Divorce Mistake AD3. Failing to promptly request to modify alimony, child support, child visitation, etc. with the court when substantial changes have taken place in your life.
Divorce Mistake AD4. Failing to keep good records and proof of paying or receiving alimony or child support payments.
Divorce Mistake AD5. Using Children to seek revenge upon your “ex” or to gain information about your “ex”. Poisoning your children’s minds against your “ex” will hurt your children. During the divorce process, the court is always considering the best interest of the children. After divorce, the children need the same consideration. Do not make children be messengers between you and your “ex”. Don’t make them responsible for negotiating issues that you and your “ex” fail at.
Divorce Mistake AD6. Failing to get emotional help for your children and yourself as needed.
Divorce Mistake AD7. Failing to understand the importance of both parents being in their children’s lives. Foster all such relationships so fractured families can make the best of it and go on.
Divorce Mistake AD8. Making sure children know their parents did not divorce them and that both parents will always love them and be in their lives.
Divorce Mistake AD9. Not letting go of bad feelings and grudges against your “ex”. Forgive, forget, and move on to a positive life. Continually talking about your divorce will eventually alienate your friends and burden other relationships. If you have common children, learn and practice good parenting cooperation with your “ex” to benefit your children.
Divorce Mistake AD10. Forgetting to update estate documents such as your Will, life insurance policies, trusts, and investment accounts. The “ex” could end up with benefits that should go elsewhere.