While many divorce cases begin with hotly-disputed issues, 95% of divorce cases settle. Only a small percent proceed to trial. The sooner and more completely you and your spouse can separate your feelings about the split from what you both know is a fair result, the smoother and faster your path to settlement. Here are some frequently-made mistakes that will lengthen and roughen the road you travel to that settlement.
1. Preparing secretly.
Whether you proceed with or without an attorney, you will need to gather financial records and take stock of your property. Some people will do so surreptitiously, thinking this will give them an advantage and help maintain control over the process. Instead, the secrecy will damage the trust that exists between you and your spouse, for your advance preparation steps will eventually be revealed.
2. Failing to discuss the coming divorce.
If you are the initiator of the divorce, you should be direct and honest about your plans. Instead, some people wait for their negative feelings or actions to be found out. This cowardly approach usually increases the cost of the divorce, for the non-initiator then feels the need to have all actions and documents examined by an attorney.
3. Making nasty comments.
If you have children, your relationship with your spouse will not end after your divorce. It will only take a different form, and cooperation will remain important. Avoiding the adversarial path will pay dividends later. See Tips for Minimizing Conflict for detailed advice on how to accomplish this challenging goal.
4. Confessing past sins.
Revealing prior mistakes and betrayals (like an affair) may ease your feelings of guilt and help you along the route to forgiving yourself, but will only fuel your spouse’s rage. Carefully consider whether your motivations are selfish before unburdening yourself.
5. Mishandling bank accounts and credit cards.
Some spouses take advantage by withdrawing more than their share from a joint bank account and by running up credit card expenses. The better route is to discuss in advance how to separate accounts and handle credit cards. If you think that approach is unwise in your situation, then you could withdraw half of the money from the joint account and use it to open an account in your name.
6. Not freely sharing financial information.
Lawyers can obtain financial documents using a variety of methods, but the more you rely on legal counsel to obtain and provide basic financial information the more time consuming and expensive your divorce will be.
7. Hiding income and assets.
Most income and assets leave a paper trail, or other evidence of their existence. Private investigators have many methods for uncovering this evidence, and judges will frequently punish the concealer. Don’t do it.
8. Beginning a new relationship too early.
Many spouses are surprised by the jealousy their spouses exhibit when a new relationship begins before the divorce is finalized. The surest way to increase the difficulty of your divorce is to get serious with someone else while you are still in negotiations with your spouse.
9. Making the process harder than it needs to be.
Being overly aggressive, digging in your heels, acting dishonestly, and failing to trust will delay settlement, and if attorneys are involved, make your divorce more expensive. Do your best to not let your actions be driven by your feelings. If conflict is increasing when it should be decreasing, examine your own actions. Don’t automatically figure the problem is caused by your spouse.
10. Continuing to fight.
If you have children, you or your ex can continue to take each other to court while your children are minors to modify support or parenting plans. Continuing your battle after the divorce is final can be devastating financially and emotionally. Avoid it at all costs.