The Most Common Mistakes in the Divorce Process
Updated: Mar 23, 2021
You don't know what you don't know...
I began my divorce process eleven years ago. I was buried in fear, guilt and confusion. I agonized for months over the possible negative consequences of a divorce, but finally realized that "jumping off a cliff’ was the better option for myself and my two year old daughter.
I assumed going into divorce, that it would be easy. I mean, my ex and I hardly fought (in fact, we hardly communicated at all) and had very little assets to struggle over. Boy, was I ever wrong. I also assumed that because I was a trained psychotherapist, that I would know how to ‘do divorce right’. It was not until I started that I realized that I did not know one thing -about how to navigate the divorce system -- emotionally nor legally.
I made many mistakes that ended up costing thousands upon thousands in legal fees. The very first mistake that I made was underestimating the depths that my ex would allow his attorney(s) to sink to in order to character assassinate and ensure that I paid emotionally and financially.
So, my dear readers: Here is a list for you of the most common mistakes made in the divorce process. If all you do is read these and incorporate them into your uncoupling, you are already ahead of most.
1. THROWING IN THE TOWEL - Please realize that your divorce is a marathon and not a sprint. It takes awhile -- especially now, in the era of COVID-19 -- where the courts are backed up. Sometimes, people get so worn down defending themselves and paying retainer after retainer that they give in to any agreement thrown their way. This quick decision to avoid the pain of negotiation can leave you with an agreement that ends up hurting you in the long run. Be sure to take time to recharge. Pick one day a week to not think about your divorce so that you have the energy reserves to keep going. Remember: No matter what, this will not last forever!
2. ABDICATING ALL DECISION-MAKING - This is when somebody gives over their power to others. It allows others to wrestle with the pros and cons of the myriad of decisions that you have to make in your divorce process. Some people grant that power to their parents, friends who have already experienced divorce, their attorneys or the judge. This takes the control out of your hands! For example, I had one client who signed off on the very first draft agreement given to him by opposing counsel. He later told me that he hoped the judge would see how “unfair it was” and change it around. That never happened. Judges hardly read the paperwork that they receive because they do not have the time; nor do they know your case or past history. Be sure to take control by using your authentic voice actively throughout your process!
3. TURNING YOUR ATTORNEY INTO YOUR THERAPIST - You are spending money every single time you contact your attorney. Some attorneys do not mind this and others will encourage you to contact a therapist and/or a Divorce Coach. Attorneys are hired to manage the legal and business aspects of a divorce. Do not call them with every provocative text that you receive from your soon-to-be-ex; unless of course, you want to fritter away your child’s college fund. The most credible clients in divorce are the ones who keep their high emotions in check and use logic and neutrality to prove their point.
4. WANTING GUARANTEES - Guess what? Your divorce agreement is in reality, based on a moment in time. I have seen clients not come to terms with this and insist on guarantees. Maybe they want their children to see Aunt Mildred at noon every year on Christmas, or the family dog to always transition to the home that the child is in, or their ex to not introduce the children to anybody until there has been six months of dating. I could go on and on. The issue with these guarantees is that people spend a lot of money to have them placed into their agreements to only find that years later, they are mostly unenforceable. Circling back to my earlier point: Life always evolves and changes. This requires a certain amount of flexibility. For example, your children may start to prefer having sleepovers at a friend's house rather than yours; or you might meet the love of your life and want to introduce your kids earlier. Consider this when you are picking your divorce battles.
5. MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY - The more that you dig your heels in and refuse to negotiate, the more likely your case will go to trial. Trial typically costs a minimum of 15k and will take (at best) a year of wait time to actually get in front of a judge. A trial is also public and involves character witness, financial paperwork, etc. Remind yourself that you still have to co-parent with this person, if you have children. Judges want to see that each of the parties have tried to negotiate an agreement prior to coming to them. If you appear one-sided and stubborn, you are forcing the professionals to have to make your decisions for you. I always tell people that in a “good” divorce neither party is happy; they both have had to give something up in order to meet in the middle.
6. GRIEF IS NOT MEANT TO BE NUMBED OUT - Whether you are the party that initiated the divorce or not, both of you will be going through the grief process. Though you and your ex-spouse may be in different places, stages such as denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance all come into play. It is a loss unlike any you have ever experienced. It is the loss of status, financial stability, retirement dreams, identity, role as parent, your house, friends, family and so on. Be generous to yourself and let all of the feelings come through you vs. numbing them. People often push difficult emotions aside to avoid dealing with them and can make mistakes such as jumping into a new love relationship too quickly, drinking or working excessively or over-medicating. It is normal to bounce around through all of the stages of grief during this process. Observe them and journal about them, but do not become them. Otherwise, your healing will never be complete and in turn, you will never be ready for a new love relationship.
7. STICKING WITH FEAR - Some people drag their feet through their divorce process. They become confused and overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. Think of F.E.A.R. as Face Everything and Rise. Now is the time to recalculate your life and make it yours. If your attorney asks for your paperwork, obtain it! If your Divorce Coach recommends some different ways to communicate with your ex, do it! If your real estate agent recommends selling the martial home, consider it! The other side of loss can bring peace and happiness, especially if you manage your transition well. Be careful not to assume your future will be negative just because your divorce process was. You now have the opportunity to take 100% responsibility for your life and find YOU! Think of the positives of that! You don’t have to just survive divorce...you can THRIVE!
I hope these tips help to guide you as you begin your journey through divorce. Looking for additional advice and inspiration? Purchase my Divorce Kit -- comprehensive 15-Page guide of expert advice. For only $12.95, you will instantly receive a downloadable guide filled with direction and recommendations on parenting, financial aspects of divorce, maintaining a budget, emotional support and more.