Divorce can be complicated. Balancing emotions, legal proceedings, children, and finances while navigating the divorce process can be overwhelming — and create room for mistakes.
While no two divorces are exactly the same, there are common pitfalls to avoid. When getting divorced, please…
1. Don’t assume you have to litigate in court.
Litigation is not your only option to obtain a divorce, determine support, or address custody. Sometimes litigation is necessary, but for many couples, it is not. Your divorce doesn’t need to be a blood bath on the battlefield, even when situations feel contentious.
Process options such as Collaborative Law and Mediation can be effective alternatives to adversarial divorce proceedings. Use of these methods may help you:
- Save financial resources
- Save time
- Limit your children’s exposure to the Court
- Allow you a more direct role in the outcome
- Preserve family relationships
Before rushing to the Courthouse, consult with a legal professional who is a trained Collaborative Law Attorney or Mediator in order to make an informed decision as to which process option is best for you.
2. Don’t involve your children.
I often hear from clients that they are worried about how the divorce will affect their children. In times of stress, mistakes can be made, but divorce is a time to take ownership of this fear and be mindful of your actions.
Not involving your children means remaining cognizant of a whole host of potential errors. Take care to avoid:
- Taking out frustrations on your children
- Blaming your children
- Venting to your children about adult problems
- Asking your children where they want to live or pressuring them to make decisions
- Trash-talking the other parent or other family members
- Discouraging your child from wishing to spending time with the other parent
- Withholding your children from the other parent (unless there is a legitimate safety issue)
- Arguing or fighting in front of your children
- Discussing the divorce or Court action either in front of or to your children
If you have a custody case in Court, such conduct is viewed harshly and could result in a loss of custody time.
3. Don’t remove your spouse from your insurance or retirement accounts.
Many who find themselves about to divorce experience a gut reaction to self-preserve and remove the spouse from as many things as possible. When it comes to medical insurance, life insurance, and retirement accounts, the Court will most likely order you to maintain the “status quo” pending the divorce action. This means that, if you covered your spouse’s medical insurance or had them named as a beneficiary on a life insurance policy or other investment accounts, the Court can make you put your spouse back onto those policies through the duration of the divorce litigation.
Removing them prematurely will only serve to increase your attorney fees, and could have other dire financial consequences in the event of a medical emergency or death during the divorce. Discussing such matters with your attorney is crucial before making any changes.
4. Don’t drain or dissipate your assets.
Now is not the time to buy that new Ford F-150 or book that expensive getaway. You will want to preserve whatever cash flow you can during your divorce, as you will face additional expenses: in order to both support your new reality of two households and to pay your legal fees.
You may have child support and/or spousal support obligations, which will impact monthly income. You should expect that your divorce will cause a change in your lifestyle — at least temporarily — and you should plan accordingly.
Furthermore, if you should make the decision to deplete marital accounts, the Court can either require you to return the funds or deem the withdraws as advances to you in property distribution, which may not be beneficial to you in the long term.
5. Don’t refuse counseling or therapy.
This is an emotional time — not only for you, but for your entire family. Counseling can be an effective way to address your emotional and mental health needs in order to make good intellectual decisions moving forward.
There are skilled therapists who work with families, providing support for children as well. Co-parenting counseling can be extremely helpful for a divorcing couple, helping to navigate the challenges of raising children in separate households and providing valuable communication tools to work through conflict.
6. Don’t resort to “War of the Roses” tactics.
No one knows how to irritate your spouse like you do. Right now, you may feel ready to unleash your frustrations. Don’t do it.
Poking the bear and causing your spouse to return the favor can only escalate what is already a difficult situation. Throwing your spouse’s clothes into the front yard when it’s raining won’t to help resolve problems or suddenly incentivize your spouse to act in the manner you want them to. Tactics like these, apart from being a complete waste of time and energy, are incredibly counterproductive to actually accomplishing your goals for your divorce process.
7. Don’t post private matters to social media.
There are so many potential social media pitfalls to avoid when going through a divorce and/or custody case.
When involved in litigation, presume that everything you say and do will be scrutinized under a microscope and, most likely, in the light least favorable to you.
Whether you need to vent, want to post a damaging photo as revenge, wish to block your spouse and their friends, or simply crave the validation of some supportive likes and comments, it’s not worth it.
When posting private information on social media, even if you later delete it, you should presume that it will be available for the world to see forever. Your post can be shared and saved in a whole host of ways, and, ultimately, you can’t take it back. Supportive Facebook friends may actually make the situation worse by unknowingly disclosing other aspects of your divorce in their comments and replies.
Your divorce should not be the subject of a Facebook war. You should expect that your spouse, children, and spouse’s attorney will eventually see your posts. You will almost definitely regret the decision to post about the situation if the next time you see the posts yourself is in a Courtroom.
8. Don’t let friends, family, or a new significant other control your decisions.
Have you ever noticed that, when you or someone you know has a legal problem, everyone has an opinion? Maybe your friend has been through a divorce and wants to project their experience on you. Maybe a coworker has some suggestions for handling your custody case.
Legal “knowledge” obtained from television shows or other media makes everyone an instant expert. Remember that your divorce pertains to your life, your marriage, your kids, and your financial resources. Asking for support from a friend is one matter. It becomes a different matter entirely when a friend believes they know better than your professional legal team, financial advisor, or your own gut feelings.
No two divorces are exactly the same, which means no two outcomes are exactly the same. In the end, you are the only one who will have to live with your decisions.
9. Don’t put a ring on someone else while your divorce is still pending.
Did you know that second marriages statically have a higher divorce rate than first marriages do? Excitement to start a new chapter in life and find happiness again is reasonable and expected, but resolving a divorce becomes much more difficult once committed to another relationship.
Your ex is likely to resent the situation, which will likely affect your ability to settle your case, making the process longer than necessary. This decision can also take an emotional toll on you, your new partner, and any children you have.
One also cannot guarantee when your divorce will be finalized. Paying a non-refundable deposit for a wedding venue on a certain date, only to find that your divorce has not been finalized by that date, is only one potential catastrophe that can be avoided by taking the time needed to respect both relationships. Your second marriage will be much stronger for it.
10. Don’t let your divorce define you.
While the process can be overwhelming and stressful, your divorce will not define your life forever. Of course it isn’t something you hoped for. Of course it is a life event that will shape you in some way.
There will be difficult days. Try to maintain realistic expectations, and focus on the issues which are most important to you rather than allowing every minor issue to consume you. Keep doing the things which bring you joy, and hold tightly to the positive things in your life. There are blessings in the darkness, but you have to be willing to see them.
- Navigating Divorce in PA: Your Divorce FAQs Answered
- Resolving Custody Disputes And Co-Parenting Conflicts
- Choosing a Family Law Attorney
Pittsburgh Family Law Attorneys
Liberty J. Weyandt, Esquire is the Family Law Chair at The Lynch Law Group and a founding member of The Collaborative Law Association of Southwestern Pennsylvania (CLASP). Her practice is dedicated to assisting clients who are seeking solutions to complex family matters. In addition to extensive, traditional litigation experience, Liberty is also a trained Collaborative Law attorney and Mediator.
Please contact Liberty at (724) 776-8000 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about divorce proceedings or other family law matters.