5 Biggest Mistakes You Can Avoid Making During Divorce

Written by Rebecca Melone on . Posted in .

Mistake #1: Waiting Too Long to Get a Divorce.

Even as a divorce lawyer, I never want to advise people to rush into divorce; however, we see time and time again the mistakes that good people make when they try to stay in a broken relationship. If you know your marriage is over but just want to wait a little longer, a lot of bad things can happen. When emotions run high, you may find yourself in a physical altercation that could result in an arrest or protective order. Or as a parent, you may make decisions that are not in the best interest of your children. We can help you avoid most of these mistakes by starting the planning process early.

Mistake #2: Not Hiring an Attorney Soon Enough.

While hiring an attorney may not be what you want to do, it is important to start planning for the impending divorce. Frequently we will see that one party has hired an attorney, and started putting plans in place, while the other party is still trying to work on the relationship. What this means is that while your spouse is making very calculated moves towards divorce, you are missing out on the opportunity to put a plan in place. 

As an attorney, our role in working with you is to plan, plan, and keep planning. This means we sit down and take inventory of everything that is going on in your life—assets, children, homes, etc. We then discuss what your ultimate goals are going to be at the end of this process. This allows us to focus on the goals as the issues become more emotional—we make sure we keep our eyes on the prize. 

Just because you hire an attorney does not mean that you are going to end in divorce. We can talk you through a lot of the planning phase and give you advice that helps you avoid possible mistakes. This will allow you to focus on your relationship and make the ultimate decisions on how the relationship is going to go. 

One recent example of a client that waited too long is that his wife started selling all of their assets out from under him and trying to hide the money. While we were able to find the money and stop the selling of the rest of the assets, this was something that could have been avoided if he talked to us sooner. 

Mistake #3: Moving Out of the Marital Home Too Quickly. 

When you are going through a divorce, it is a stressful process and you may find yourself wanting to escape that stress by moving out of the marital home—leaving your spouse and children in the home. This is almost never advisable. 

When you move out of the marital home, you are leaving your spouse comfortable. There is a good chance if the court is involved at this time, you will be ordered to continue paying bills on the marital home while you are also trying to set up your separate life. As much as you have relieved your stress by moving, you have also relieved their stress because you are no longer at the home. This means that as this process meanders along and we are trying to negotiate a settlement, your spouse will be less likely to negotiate because he/she is very comfortable. 

Further, if you leave the children at the home and move out, it is very likely that you will not get primary physical custody—the court is very likely to just leave custody the way that you chose to leave it when you moved out. 

So, if possible, stay in the home, and when we are trying to finalize the divorce either through settlement or trial, you are on equal footing with your spouse for the children, the finances, and the stress. 

Mistake #4: Not Separating Finances. 

When you are going through a divorce you must understand your financial situation. It is very hard to do that if all your accounts are joint, So, you should start separating your accounts as soon as you can. This includes credit cards, banking accounts, etc. The goal is to be able to control the incoming and outgoing money, not to leave your partner destitute. If you do try to leave your partner destitute, the court will quickly step in to fix that.  

You also want to pull a credit report as soon as this process is getting started. This will give you a snapshot of all of your open accounts at the beginning of the divorce process. As we get closer to the end of the divorce, we will have you pull another credit report and compare the two to make sure there are no surprises—the reality is that your spouse likely has the information required to pull credit in your name. 

Mistake #5: Trying Too Hard to Avoid Litigation. 

When you are going through this process you will receive a lot of wanted and unwanted advice. Some of this advice may be to avoid litigation/court at all costs. You will hear horror stories about what can happen in court and may start believing that the worst thing you could do is to go to court. While we will want to avoid court, if possible, we do not want to give away too much to avoid court. 

You may be inclined to give your spouse too much so that you do not have to go to court. What we will do is give you an honest assessment of what will happen if you go to court and then balance that assessment against the total settlement proposals—a cost-benefit analysis. 

Generally, the first offer we get will not be very good and we will need to further negotiate. A lousy first offer does not mean that you would not be successful in court, it is just a negotiation tactic. From here, we negotiate towards a realistic outcome versus trying to negotiate to intimidate the other side. 

Knowing the reality of what will happen in court will allow you to weigh your risk of going to court and understand the totality of your situation.  

These are just a few of the mistakes that you can make during the divorce process. We will work with you to avoid these mistakes and make sure you meet your goals. If you have already made some of these very common mistakes, we help you mitigate the damage and move forward. 

Our attorneys at Melone Hatley, PC are very experienced in this process. Not only can we help you make the right decisions, but we also ensure that you get the best possible outcome in court. If you are going through this process or know anyone that is, please reach out to us so we can help you or your loved ones avoid these mistakes as well. 

Rebecca Melone

Rebecca Melone established Melone Hatley P.C. in 2014 with the goal of helping families with a range of legal services from estate and family law to traffic tickets and misdemeanor criminal matters. Over the past five years the firm has grown and expanded its services to include a wide range of estate and elder law services. Rebecca has been awarded Super Lawyers Rising Stars for 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 and has been named one of the top family and estate attorneys under 40 in Virginia.
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