What are the biggest mistakes that people make when they get divorced?
In this article I discuss the biggest pitfalls that can cost you money and stress.
People are often shocked by the cost of the divorce especially hotly contested one involving custody of children or support issues. We have all heard stories or been involved in cases ourselves as lawyers where divorcing couples have spent tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars on their divorce. Sometimes this is unavoidable. The issues may be complex, or the other side may be completely unreasonable and willing to spend tons of money on using the legal system to harass their ex partner. Some things are outside your control, but there are things you can do to keep your costs down and make things go as smoothly as possible.
However, to the extent that you are able to control what happens in the divorce it is crucially important if you avoid making certain mistakes which will make the experience much harder and more expensive.
These are the five biggest mistakes that people make when they are going through a divorce:
Using the divorce to get revenge. The court system is not about revenge. As the old saying goes, if you seek revenge you should dig two graves. Using the court process to harass your ex-spouse may seem like a good idea if you have been hurt deeply and want to get back at them for what they did, but I can assure you it is a terrible plan and will not like the result. You will make yourself emotionally and spiritually miserable and cost yourself more money than ever you could have imagined.
Fighting about the little things that do not matter in the long run. I have seen people spend hours of their lawyer’s time and thousands of dollars in legal fees fighting about worthless knickknacks or literally the pots and pans. In most cases they could have replaced all those things for less than they spent on legal fees. Fighting about principle is never cost-effective.
Being a doormat. The opposite of fighting about the little things and being unreasonable is being too reasonable for your own good and avoiding conflict. Sometimes you have to stick up for yourself even if there is a cost attached because the cost of not doing so will be even greater. I have seen clients refuse to pursue legitimate claims for spousal support or division of property for fear of the legal costs involved, only to find that they had lost a lot more beginning a poor settlement than they ever would have paid on legal fees.
Getting a bad lawyer. Like doctors and other professionals, not all lawyers are equal in skill or experience or ethical standards. It is a sad fact that many lawyers do not know what they are doing, and some only see their clients as profit centres and do not care for their well-being or outcome. There are many lawyers who stir up litigation in conflict either because their personality lends itself to such behaviour or because, consciously or subconsciously, they see profit in hotly contested cases. The lawyer you choose will have a profound effect on how your case is run and the tone it will take. Choose an incompetent or unskilled lawyer and the other side will not respect your counsel and take advantage of your week negotiating position. Choose an ethical lawyer and you will be over-billed and pushed into confrontational positions where a more ethical lawyer with your best interests at heart would have advised you to settle or compromise. Make sure to shop around for the best lawyer you can afford. Check out their reputation and go with your gut.
Not getting a lawyer. Obviously, as a lawyer, I have a vested interest in saying that you should hire a lawyer, but you should. The laws and legal system are complicated and basing your legal strategy on Google or advice from friends and family who have gone through a divorce is like trying to do surgery on yourself based on a YouTube video watched. Just as choosing the wrong lawyer can lead to disaster, being your own lawyer can be just as disastrous and costly. Although you may save money by not paying a lawyer you may lose a lot more by failing to get what you are entitled to or giving up too much to the other side.
We hope you find these tips helpful. Every person’s situation is different and we invite you to contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your case and get advice on your rights.