When a man and woman marry, they plan for many future events such as buying a new house and raising children. Divorce isn’t usually an event that people plan for – it just happens. Therefore, when the marriage is no longer working, a couple is suddenly confronted with countless issues and decisions – issues and decisions they are not prepared to handle.
Making educated decisions removes much of the negative emotion from the divorce process. Knowing your legal rights, current and projected financial situations, and how a divorce settlement will affect you five, ten, or twenty years from now, will help you make better decisions now and build a more secure future.
If you, or someone you care about, are going through the divorce process, knowing what NOT to do can be a big help. Throughout my years as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, I have worked with many clients. And, the least expensive and emotionally painful divorces were the ones in which both people used common sense and avoided the following seven critical mistakes.
Making legal and financial mistakes based on emotion. Sure, you definitely have a right to be in pain right now, whether you are the one who asked for the divorce or not. Consulting a therapist, counselor or pastor can help you cope with your emotional pain so you can focus on the legal and financial issues that must be negotiated. Although you have a right to be in emotional pain, it can not be allowed to influence your decisions.
Negotiating without all the important information and documents. Divorce causes every personal detail of your life to be laid bare. Everything from your monthly budget needs to your retirement account must be disclosed. When one spouse won’t cooperate, it’s usually a tactic, and a foolish one, as attorneys can force an uncooperative spouse into disclosing information through the discovery process. It is lengthy, expensive, and unpleasant but, you may receive an unfavorable settlement if there is not full disclosure.
Thinking that the divorce process must be adversarial. Divorce can be a “win-win” situation. There are settlements that were horror stories but, the true horror stories are the ones where the husband, wife, or both spent their own child’s college fund paying their attorneys. Mediators are a great resource and help couples resolve settlement issues.
Thinking that divorce has to be expensive. There is a real misconception that divorce must cost $10,000 or more per person. This doesn’t have to be the case. Divorce becomes expensive when the spouses can’t work together. When spouses cooperate, they can do much of the basic legwork themselves and use attorneys for the advice and processing the divorce documents.
Not getting professional help. There are many things in life that you can do for yourself, but divorce should not one of them. Just as you wouldn’t perform surgery on yourself, you shouldn’t attempt to learn and perform all of the functions of the divorce process. It just good common sense to seek the knowledge and experience of professionals. It isn’t expensive and can save you from making big mistakes.
Not knowing the real value of your assets. Some assets such as checking and savings accounts you can take at face value. However, when valuing assets such as government, military and teachers pensions and, rental property it is much different. Defined benefit pensions are usually worth many times more than just the contributions and earnings. It pays to dig deep and find the true values.
Not controlling the process. If you haven’t been through the divorce process before, it can be a very complicated and frightening experience. You should become educated and take action in order to help yourself and all professionals who assist you in the process. A proactive approach will help you make better decisions and negotiate a settlement agreement that is fair to all involved.
What you have learned in these few paragraphs is invaluable. Not only will this information help you to avoid potential pitfalls but should empower you and assist to lessen the emotional and financial pain of divorce. I can assure you that there is definitely life after divorce and the actions you take now will be the foundation for the future.